Parsha Vayigash - Learning to Settle
“And Yehuda he had sent ahead of him to Yosef to prepare” (46:28)
Rashi offers two interpretations regarding the nature of Yehuda’s mission in going ahead to Mitzrayim. The literal interpretation is that Yehuda made the necessary preparations for creating a Jewish settlement; Yehuda was given the responsibility by his father to identify the optimal location for establishing the new Jewish community. The alternate interpretation offered by the Midrash is that Yaakov sent Yehuda to open a Yeshiva, an academy for learning. It is axiomatic that the Midrashic interpretation does not conflict with the literal interpretation, rather it offers a deeper insight into the literal interpretation.What is the relationship between the two interpretations? The Rambam teaches that amongst the brothers, Levi was the Rosh Yeshiva, the head of the academy for learning.Why then, did Yaakov send Yehuda, and not Levi to open the Yeshiva?
The term “Yeshiva” has traditionally been accepted as the name of an academy for learning.Generally, it is understood that the etymological meaning of the term stems from the word “to sit”; a Yeshiva is a place where people sit and learn. However, the Talmud teaches that prior to the passing of Raban Gamliel, one was required to stand while learning Torah.It was only when the generations grew weaker that it became permissible to sit while learning. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why the name for an academy of learning would be based upon a post-facto situation.
All too often, we perceive a Yeshiva to be an ivory tower for scholars and students, having no impact on, nor interaction with the community that surrounds it. Our Patriarch Yaakov was setting the precedent for the function of a Yeshiva. The Yeshiva should be the cornerstone of the community, from which the community draws its life-force. TheTorah studied and taught within the walls of the Yeshiva must permeate every facet of life within the entire community.
Yehuda, having been unanimously accepted as the leader over his brothers, was responsible for catering to all of the needs of the community. Therefore, Yehuda, and not the Rosh Yeshiva Levi, was saddled with the responsibility of opening a Yeshiva in Mitzrayim. Yaakov’s sending Yehuda ahead demonstrates the notion that building theYeshiva is akin to sending him to establish a Jewish settlement, for a house of study is the prerequisite for a successful Jewish community. Consequently, there is no contradiction between the literal and Midrashic interpretations.
The root of the word “Yeshiva” is not derived from the word “lashevet” - “to sitc ratherfrom the word “yishuv,” which means “a settlement.” The name reflects the importance ofa house of learning in establishing a Jewish settlement.