Parashat Vayigash: Tuning In to the Right Frequency
The Torah in Parashat Vayigash lists the names of Yaakob’s sons and grandsons who settled in Egypt to escape the harsh famine in Eretz Yisrael, thus beginning the Egyptian exile. As the Torah normally spares its words, and provides only the important details which we need to know, we may assume that there is great profundity and significance to this list of names.
Indeed, Rav Shabtai Sabato (contemporary), in his work Va’tisa’eni Ru’ah, uncovers for us the depth of meaning underlying this list. Rav Sabato observes that the Torah enumerates 32 children and grandchildren of Leah, and 14 children and grandchildren of Rahel. Thus, Yaakob’s primary wives produced a total of 46 children and grandchildren who went to Egypt. Yaakob’s other two wives, Bilha and Zilpa, produced a total of 23 children and grandchildren (Bilha – 7; Zilpa – 16).
Remarkably, Rav Sabato notes, we find these numbers – 23 and 46 – elsewhere in the Torah, as well. The Mishkan, which Beneh Yisrael constructed in the wilderness, was a structure comprised of wooden beams and cloth tapestries which were draped over the beams. The Torah describes the Mishkan’s construction in great detail in the Book of Shemot, and we read that the Mishkan consisted of 46 planks (20 to the north, 20 to the south, and six to the west), and a total of 23 cloth tapestries (10 flax curtains, covered by 11 cloths made from goatskins, and an additional two coverings). Both Am Yisrael and the Mishkan are comprised of these two units – 23 and 46 – because they both have the capacity for sanctity. The Mishkan was capable of serving as the residence of the Shechina (Divine Presence) because Am Yisrael has the capacity to serve as the residence of SHechina. The source and origin of the special sanctity of the Mishkan is the Jewish Nation, and thus the structure of the Mishkan parallels the structure of the original family that formed the nucleus of the Jewish Nation.
This correspondence sheds new light on the Midrash’s comment that when Yaakob and his family left Eretz Yisrael to settle in Egypt, they brought with them trees which they planted in Egypt. Yaakob foresaw that G-d would command his offspring to construct a Mishkan in the wilderness, and so he prepared by bringing trees to be planted in Egypt, and instructing his children to bring this wood with them when they left Egypt. The source of the Mishkan is Yaakob’ family, who had within them the potential for sanctity and greatness, and this is symbolized by the trees which Yaakob’s family brought to Egypt to be used in constructing the Mishkan.
This potential and capability, in truth, is found within each and every one of us. The human cell consists of 46 chromosomes, except for the reproductive cells, which consist of only 23 chromosomes, as they combine with the mate’s reproductive cells to create an organism with 46 chromosomes. Embedded within our DNA is the potential for Kedusha, the ability to create a Mishkan and build a close relationship with G-d.
In physics there is a concept called "resonance," which means that vibrations – such as those created by sound waves – can cause something of the same frequency to vibrate. When we tune a radio to the right frequency, it produces sound triggered by the broadcast emitted at that frequency. When we hear or learn of an idea which we feel "resonates" with us, we mean to say that our minds are tuned to the same "frequency" as this idea, and thus we emotionally respond, just like the radio responding to sound waves at the frequency to which it is set. We are created with a genetic structure that parallels the structure of Am Yisrael and the structure of the Mishkan, giving us the ability to "tune in" to the right spiritual "frequency." Each and every one of us has this capacity, to move to the same "wavelength" as the Mishkan, so that we can be moved and inspired to connect with Hashem. And the way we tune into this frequency is through the performance of Misvot. Each time we perform a Misva, we turn the "dial" of our beings to the right "frequency," so that the spiritual "waves" that abound in the world can resonate within us. Let us all do all we can to tune our mind, heart and soul to the proper frequency, so we can be instilled with holiness and spirituality to the greatest extent possible.