Torah Gemstones – V’yigash (and He approached) Genesis 44:18-47:27
This week’s portion continues the narrative of the story of Joseph. We come to the final gathering together of all twelve brothers in Egypt followed by their return to the land of Israel to bring their father, Jacob, and the rest of the family back to Egypt. Contained within this story is an interesting statement made by Jacob.
“And they told him saying, ‘Joseph is still alive’, and that he is ruler over all the land of Egypt; but his heart did not encounter this for he did not believe them. When they related to him all the words that Joseph had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, then the spirit of Jacob their father was revived. And Israel said, ‘How great! My son Joseph still lives! I shall go and see him before I die.”
One question we might ask is why Jacob’s spirit revived when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent. In order to attempt to answer that, let’s take a closer look at the word used here for wagons, which is aglah (עגלה). The root is גל (gal), which has a number of meanings. You might recognize Galilee, Gilead, Golan, Gilgal or even Golgotha, all of which have the same root. It means something round or, more importantly, for the purposes of this teaching, a second time around of an event. One variation is “galgal”, which is the wheel of a chariot that goes around. Another variation is “megillah” or scroll, like the scroll of Esther or Ruth. In addition, gal is sometimes translated heaven, as in heaven rolling up like a scroll (Isaiah 34:4). Gal can also mean a whirlwind because the wind whips around in a circle.
Now we add the letter א (aleph) to גל (gal) to form the word גאל (ga’al), which means the bringing around of someone through a buying back or, more simply, “to redeem”. It can also mean to restore to an original position. You might recognize the term go’el, the kinsman redeemer, whose role it was to redeem or deliver a family member who was in slavery. A related word geulah, is used for the redemption and points to three things: the redeeming of an individual from death, the redeeming of Israel from Egyptian bondage and the redeeming of the nation from exile.
If we substitute the letter ע (ayin) for the aleph we get עגל (agal), which also means round. However, it is generally translated calf, bullock or heifer pointing to an animal circling around in play. From this comes the word עגלה (ag’lah) for cart or wagon because the wheels of the cart go around.
There is also another interesting combination of these letters in the word ma’gal or circuit. This word is used in Psalm 23 when speaking of ma’aglei Tzedek, or “paths of righteousness”. The idea, then, is of a righteous one walking in the cycles of the Torah commandments. So we can compare how a wagon wheel follows inside the ruts of the road with how one walks in the cycle of the Torah. They both follow the same route time after time on a path that is well defined and easy to follow.
In the galut the Torah was both the anchor and the protective wall for survival, preserving unity. (Gen. R. 41:9)
All this leads to a very interesting dichotomy. The word for redemption, as we have seen, is “geulah” (גאולה), but if we remove the aleph, the word now becomes “golah” (גולה), meaning Exile. Therefore, the concept of exile and redemption are connected words whereby exile transforms into redemption through the letter aleph. Although an aleph refers to the head of an ox, the actual concept speaks of the strength and power of the head of the house. This, of course, points to the father, which in this case is Jacob. Therefore through the Father, Israel’s exile is transformed into their redemption.
This is the basis for the entire story of Joseph and the re-unification of the brothers who represented all the tribes of Israel. Joseph is a wonderful type of the Messiah who was raised up as second in command over Egypt. Egypt is a picture of the world and the place of exile for Israel. It was the same place the brothers were gathered for the first redemption at the Passover of the Exodus. In the second or final redemption, at the end of days, there will be a re-gathering in the exact same manner. If you recall, gal means the second time around for an event. So basically the redemption plan of God is a two-event process. This is clearly revealed in the two comings of Yeshua the Messiah. The progression includes the atonement for sin, the resurrection of the Messiah, the ingathering of those in the diaspora, the second coming of the Messiah and the final resurrection of the righteous dead.
Now back to the meaning of the wagon. The use and export of wagons during this time in Egypt was forbidden and was considered a limited privilege granted only by the Pharoah himself. Basically, no one was permitted to take a wagon out of the kingdom without his authority. (Talmud Berachot 4:4)
In addition, no cow was permitted to leave Egypt without her womb first being removed to ensure that she would not calve. So both cows and wagons could not be exported from Egypt without the authorization of the Pharoah. This is confirmed in the Torah portion.
What does this really mean? Here is just one interpretation for your consideration. Perhaps Jacob is a picture of our heavenly Father as represented by the sun in Joseph’s dream. Rachel is a picture of the Holy Spirit and the stars are the twelve brothers who represent the heads of the tribes of Israel. Joseph is, of course, a type of Yeshua the Messiah who will become ruler over the world, second only to the Father. The final redemption will occur at the end of days and the hallmark of that redemption is the resurrection of the righteous dead. This is what the sages call the “World to Come” (Olam Haba) that returns to the earth just as it was present in the garden before sin entered the world.
So when Jacob sees the wagons, he knows the redemption is complete and all things have been fulfilled. Therefore, the Father knew “it was finished” as the wagons returned to the land of Israel, which is a picture of heaven. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which indicated the spiritual revival of the whole nation. This was, of course, only a shadow of things to come. It is said, “When the divine presence rests on Jacob – he is referred to as Israel. His title points to spiritual nobility, grandeur and power”.
From the time of R. Akiva it became accepted belief that "in every place where Israel was exiled the Shekhinah was exiled with them". (Meg. 29a; Ta'an. 1:1)
Jacob’s spirit was revived when he saw the wagons, which represented the redemption and the resurrection. He knew for sure his son, Joseph, was alive. Jacob was now ready to return to Egypt to join Joseph with all the brothers. At this time, he would eagerly go down to Egypt and settle there in exile for as long as God willed. He took with him all his wealth and cattle for the long spiritual journey that would eventually take him and his progeny back to the land of Israel, which was a picture of heaven returning to earth.
As you continue in your studies, keep a sharp eye out for the revelation of the two-step redemption process. This plan of God is woven into virtually every passage of Scripture.