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Thought for the Day: Oy Lanu mi'Yom haDin, Oy Lanu mi'Yom haTochacha

There is a particularly beautiful Beis haLeivi on the final events that culminate in the reunification of Yosef with his brothers.  Yehuda has very poignantly expressed that he cannot possibly go home with out Binyamin; the pain would be too much for his father and would surely die.  Yosef can no longer restrain himself and declares: "I am Yosef.  Is my father still alive?"  (B'reishis 45:3).  The brothers are stunned and shocked; they cannot even answer.

The Beis haLeivi notes at least three difficulties in the pasuk itself.  First, in the very next pasuk, Yosef (seemingly) again declares, "I am your brother, Yosef".  Second, the whole crux of this drama is that Yaakov is alive, after all.  Finally, no answer is given; the question is just forgotten!?  The medrash offers only more confusion by commenting: Oy Lanu mi'Yom haDin, Oy Lanu mi'Yom Tochacha!  Ummm... what?  Besides the fact that this seems to be a totally unrelated thought, why are two days mentioned: Yom haDin, Yom haTochacha.  Isn't that the same thing?

I truly suggest that you learn through this Beis haLeivi yourself, but here's the essence.  Yosef is not revealing his identity.  He is saying to Yehuda, "You are saying that your father could not survive separation from Binyamin and your entire concern is for his welfare.  However, I am Yosef, whom you sold into slavery away from my father for all these years.  Is my father still alive?"  Yehuda and his brothers are stunned into silence, not because of a confrontation with their long, lost brother; that will happen in the next pasuk.  This confrontation is something much, much worse.  Yehuda has made an impassioned plea, poured his soul out.  Yet in an instant, all that pathos, all that sincerity -- gone; they are confronted by their hypocrisy.  Their own actions testify against them.

That's what the medrash means.  Oy Lanu mi'Yom haDin -- when we are brought to judgement and try to defend ourselves; Oy Lanu mi'Yom haTochacha -- our own actions will be brought to testify against us.  We think we will have an answer when confronted with our sins.  Din asks, "Why didn't you daven with more sincerity?  Why didn't you put more effort into learning how to daven?"  We answer, "It's hard.  I don't feel I am getting anything out of it."  Tochacha retorts, "You went to the gym even though it was hard.  You went even when you didn't feel you were getting anything out of it.  You don't seem to mind when it's what you want."  Din asks, "Why didn't you have more emuna?"  We answer, "It's hard to believe in something you can't see.  There is no tangible evidence."  Tochacha retorts, "You believed in atoms. You don't seem need tangible evidence when that belief doesn't stop you from doing what you want."  Din asks, "Why didn't you learn more?"  We answer, "I don't have the head for it."  Tochacha retorts, "You figured out a computer well enough to read emails.  Seems you have the head for things you want to have the head for."

Oy Lanu mi'Yom haDin, Oy Lanu mi'Yom haTochacha.


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