Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayigash
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Jacob ben Bechora

Don’t Underestimate the Religious Establishment


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

3 tevet 5769
Last year we wrote about Yosef’s attempt to turn Egypt into a monotheistic nation. Let us try to learn from what apparently went wrong.
Yosef was successful in centralizing control over the country, obtaining all of the land and moving people to the cities during the food crisis. There was one exception. He was unable to acquire the pagan priests’ lands because Paroh provided for them (Bereishit 47:26). Apparently this "religious establishment" in Egypt prevented Yosef from changing the populace’s beliefs. These people, fueled by their own and their followers’ beliefs in a perceived truth, were steadfast despite the beliefs’ negative directions. We can learn from this phenomenon in regard to our nation.
One of the biggest riddles in Jewish history is how Avshalom was able to garner support against his father, David, perhaps the most successful, loved, and revered king we have known. There are no major areas where David was lacking, including the judicial system, where "he performed justice and righteousness for all his nation" (Shmuel II, 8:15). Avshalom’s plan to improve the judicial system should have been one that any child would have seen through: "Who will place me a judge in the land, so that everyone who has a quarrel will come to me and I will justify him" (Shmuel II, 15:4). What sense does that make, as both sides of a quarrel cannot win?
The navi stresses another area in which Avshalom stood out: bringing sacrifices. He asked his father special permission to bring sacrifices in Chevron. In that context it also points out that the people were strongly behind him (ibid.: 7-12). What is the connection between these things?
Let us make the following suggestion. Jerusalem was chosen as the place to build the Beit Hamikdash. He knew that when it would begin operating, it would be eternally forbidden to sacrifice elsewhere. Therefore, even during his lifetime, he withheld governmental support for the bamot (local altars) throughout the country and forbade the royal family from taking part in such enterprises. He did this to help prepare the nation for central sacrificial service of Hashem. Opposition to this movement came from two sources. First, the local religious functionaries of the bamot, which were still permitted, did not like the idea of losing their status and occupation. Also, the local populace regretted the idea of losing the opportunity for an easy manner to draw close to Hashem. In fact, for hundreds of years the kings were unable to rid the countryside of bamot. While David resisted people who protested the matter, Avshalom told them that he would always support them in this struggle. This garnered Avshalom great initial support.
We pray that we will be able to increase sanctity in the nation so that the religious establishment will focus people’s energies in the correct direction.

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