Parshas Vayigash

“Hold your Horses” on Those Wagons!


“And Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and his sons carried him… in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.” (Bereishis 46:5)

In a previous parsha, Yaakov had exhibited a high level of honesty when he watched Lavan’s animals. Lavan had changed the details of Yaakov’s wages 10,000 times. Yet Yaakov continued to watch Lavan’s flocks as carefully as he could. He didn’t rationalize that if this is how my employer treated me then I don’t have to do my job carefully.

Here too, Yaakov teaches us the level of honesty that we must strive to follow. Pharaoh gave Yosef wagons to send back to the Land of Israel to transport Yaakov and his family to Egypt. Yaakov and his family travelled to Be’er Sheva. The pasuk does not mention Yaakov’s mode of transportation. Only after Yaakov left Be’er Sheva to go down to Egypt does the pasuk mention that Yaakov travelled in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent. Apparently, Yaakov did NOT use the wagons on the first part of his journey. Why didn’t he?

Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin explained this beautifully. On his way to Be’er Sheva, Yaakov was not certain that he was going to go to Egypt. He was concerned about the bad influence that the Egyptians would have on his descendants. Yaakov felt that if he would not be going to Egypt it wouldn’t be appropriate to use Pharaoh’s wagons on the first part of his journey. After all, they were sent only for the express purpose of enabling him to travel to Egypt. When Yaakov arrived in Be’er Sheva, Hashem appeared to him and told him not to worry and that he should go to Egypt. Once Hashem told Yaakov to go, he used Pharaoh’s wagons to transport his family. As soon as Yaakov was certain that he would be going to Egypt it was appropriate to use Pharaoh’s wagons.

When Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky was a student, the custom was to eat meals in other people’s homes. One Pesach, he received an invitation. The problem was that he was not certain he could rely on that person’s level of kashrus for Pesach. It was a delicate situation. He didn’t want to go yet he also didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings. He thought of a great idea. He explained to his prospective host that his custom was not to eat gebrokts whereas this host did eat gebrokts (some people have the custom on Pesach not to wet their matza. For example, they don’t put their matzah in soup or eating matzo balls). His plan succeeded, and he did not hurt his host’s feelings. However, since Rabbi Kaminetsky had declared this as his custom, he adopted the custom for the rest of his life! From that point on and no longer ate gebrokts on Pesach.

Acting with honesty is more than just a nice thing to do; it is obligatory!