falling on his neck.

And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father… and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck (Genesis 46:29)

The sages say that when Joseph embraced him, Jacob was reading the Shema (the passage, “Listen, Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem alone…”).

“Why did Jacob choose that particular moment to read the Shema? Because he knew that never in his life would his love be aroused as it was at that moment of reunion with his most beloved son after twenty-two years of anguish and loss. So he chose to utilize this tremendous welling of emotion to serve His Creator, channeling it to fuel his love for G-d.” (The Chassidic Masters)


Let us consider a meeting between father and son described in the Torah, namely, the meeting of Yaakov and Yosef. When they met, it says, “And Yosef harnessed his chariot, and went up to meet his father, Yisrael, in Goshen, and he appeared to him and fell on his neck, and cried profusely on his neck” (Bereishis 46:29). Let us think: for how long did Yosef maintain this posture of “falling on his neck”? Chazal say that Yaakov did not fall on Yosef’s neck or kiss him, because he was reciting the Shema. For how long was Yaakov reciting the Shema? A half hour or an hour, perhaps somewhat longer. But after that reunion, even though they had not seen each other for a long time, the kind of bond described as “and he fell on his neck,” was not maintained. They did not spend the next seventeen years with this level of bonding. Yaakov remained very attached to Yosef and Yosef to Yaakov, but the strongest expression of their attachment was short-lived.

If one wants to get a sense of the nature of a son’s attachment to his Father in Heaven, he should learn from this example. However, in this case, the son can be in a state of “and he fell on his neck” at all times. In other words, he can achieve a condition in which he is always attached and bound with Hashem (there may, of course, be setbacks, but this could be his general attitude in life). One cannot constantly embrace his physical father and fall on his neck, but one can be bound with Hashem, his Father in Heaven, literally at all times. When a person attains the level of, “I will dwell in their midst” (Shemos 25:8), that is to say that he actually experiences that Hashem openly dwells in his heart, he is then bound with Hashem at all times to a degree analogous to the meeting of Yosef and Yaakov, and even more. This is the soul’s inner bond with Hashem. This is the condition of a Jew who is in touch with his true inner self.

Let us imagine that while Yosef was being reunited with his father, his cell phone would have rung. Would he answer it, or would nothing have interested him at that time? Yosef was in a foreign land, all alone for many years, and finally, the moment comes when he escapes this loneliness and meets his father. At that moment, would he have time to get involved in other things? Likewise, a true Jew lives in a state of being attached literally at all times to the Creator. Inevitably, he lives in a material world, and he must deal with it at least somewhat, but his soul is always tied to the Creator. Whether he is involved in spiritual or material pursuits, his soul will never be detached from the Creator. Even when answering the cell phone, he is attached to the Creator, and is never distracted or inwardly disconnected from Him.

This is the way a Jew must live. This is the one true bond a person has in the world. One day, he will leave his family and remain all alone. The only bond one can sustain both in this world and in the next, an unseverable bond, is the connection he has with Hashem. In Gan Eden, there is no guarantee that one will sit near his father, son, or uncle, but he will be close to Hashem. This is a bond one must develop for himself in this world and the next. Family ties are strong, but they will be severed one day. The bond with Hashem, though, is eternal, and will never break. If one desires a true friend, he should take Hashem as his friend, and He will be his friend everywhere – in this world, in Gan Eden, and in the World to Come, never abandoning him, even for a moment. (Bilvavi)


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