Parshat Vayigash Summary

Parshat Vayigash is the 11th parsha in Sefer Bereshit (also known as Genesis).

This parsha is verses Genesis 44:18 – 47:27, or a total of 106 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Genesis 44:18 – 44:30, 13 verses

At the end of Parshat Mikeitz, Benjamin was set up to make it look like he had stolen Joseph’s drinking cup. Joseph told his brothers that he would keep Benjamin as a slave and the rest of them should return home.

Judah approaches Joseph to plead that Benjamin be allowed to return to his father. He recounts a bit of family history and explains that Benjamin is the only surviving son of his mother.

He tells Joseph that if they return home without Benjamin that Jacob will likely die.

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Aliyah 2: Genesis 44:31 – 45:7, 11 verses

Judah tells Joseph that he made himself responsible for Benjamin returning home safely. Judah does not want to see what will happen to Jacob if the boy is not with them.

He offers to stay in Egypt as Joseph’s slave so long as Benjamin is allowed to return to his father.

All this time Joseph had not let his brothers know his true identity. However, when he hears Judah’s plea, he can no longer restrain himself.

He orders everyone except for his brothers to leave the room.

He tells his brothers that he is Joseph. They are speechless in disbelief.

He again tells them that he is Joseph who they sold into slavery. He assures them that God has used their deed for the good. There are 5 more years of famine coming. Joseph is in a position of power and authority to sustain the family during the rest of the famine.

Aliyah 3: Genesis 45:8 – 45:18, 11 verses

Joseph assures his brothers that it is God who sent him to Egypt. God has made him a ruler throughout the land of Egypt.

He tells them to quickly go to Canaan and bring their father to Egypt. Joseph will be able to care for the family once they are all in Egypt.

Pharaoh hears the news that Joseph’s brothers have come to Egypt. He tells them to come and live in Egypt. He will give them the best of the land to live in.

Aliyah 4: Genesis 45:19 – 45:27, 9 verses

wagons for Jacob's family

Pharaoh tells them to take wagons to Canaan so that their wives and children will be able to make the journey down to Egypt. He tells them to leave all of their belongings in Canaan and he will give them everything they need to live.

Joseph, based on Pharaoh’s statements, gives them wagons and food for the journey. He gives them clothing. To his brother Benjamin he gives 300 silver coins and 5 garments.

The brothers return to Jacob and tell them all that has happened. They tell him that Joseph is still alive and that he is the ruler in Egypt. Jacob does not believe them at first.

Aliyah 5: Genesis 45:28 – 46:27, 28 verses

Jacob begins his journey to go down to Egypt. He arrives in Beer Sheva and makes an animal offering to God.

God appears to Jacob and tells him to not be afraid of the future.

Altars in Genesis

Genesis 46:1 says: “And Israel and all that was his journeyed and he came to Beer Sheva. And he slaughtered offerings to the God of his father Isaac.”

This is the first time in the book of Genesis that one of the forefathers is recorded making an animal offering in this way.

Noach, immediately after the flood (Genesis 8:20), built an altar and offered animal sacrifices on it. But he is not one of the forefathers.

Abraham built altars and called on the name of God. See verse 12:8. The only incident where it is recorded that he offered an animal sacrifice was in place of Isaac (verse 22:13).

Isaac also built an altar and called on the name of God (26:25) but there is no mention of offering animals on it.

Here in Genesis 46 there is no mention of Jacob building an altar. He offered animal sacrifices that were not a replacement for some other offering.

Jacob and all of is family and possessions travel down to Egypt. Pharaoh had told them to leave everything behind and he would give them all that they need. Jacob was not willing to discard possessions that he had earned in the past.

The Torah lists Jacob’s children and grandchildren who came with him to Egypt, a total of 70 people.

Aliyah 6: Genesis 46:28 – 47:10, 17 verses

Joseph rides in his chariot to meet his father in the region of Egypt known as Goshen. They embrace each other and weep.

Joseph advises his father and brother to tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds and that they have brought all of their flocks with them. It turns out that the Egyptians do not like shepherds.

Joseph arranges for 5 of his brothers to meet with Pharaoh. They ask permission to live in Goshen since there is no place to graze their flocks in Canaan.

Pharaoh agrees that Goshen is the best place for them to live.

Joseph introduces his father to Pharaoh. Jacob blesses him.

In answer to Pharaoh’s question, Jacobs recounts that he is 130 years old. Hence, Jacob came down to Egypt in the year 2238 since the creation of man.

Jacob again blesses Pharaoh as he leaves his presence.

Aliyah 7: Genesis 47:11 – 47:27, 17 verses

Jacob and his family live in Goshen (called here Rameses). Joseph gives the family the food they need, as he had promised them.

The Torah narrative recounts to us what happened in Egypt during the famine.

Joseph sells grain to the Egyptian people. Eventually, because of the severity of the famine, they have no money left.

They then exchange their horses, sheep, cattle, and donkeys for grain.

Finally, they have nothing left but their land and their bodies. They make the final exchange of giving their land and bodies in exchange for food.

They become sharecroppers working the land that is now owned by Pharaoh. Each year they are required to give 20% of their harvest to Pharaoh. They keep the other 80% to feed themselves and plant crops for the next year.

In this way Joseph obtained for Pharaoh all of the land and people of Egypt. Only the Egyptian priests were exempt from this property confiscation.

Haftarah Summary

Ezekiel 37:15-28

The prophet symbolically describes the future reuniting of the Jewish people. Though the Jewish people are scattered throughout the world and not always recognizable, there will come a time when God brings them together again as one people.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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