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וירא יעקב כי יש שבר במצרים

Yaakov perceived that there were provisions in Egypt. (42:1)

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When the Baal HaTanya, zl, was taken to prison in St. Petersburg, he asked one of his Chassidim to take a kvittel, written petition asking for a blessing, to his mechutan (father of child’s spouse) and close friend, Horav Levi Yitzchak Berdichever, zl. The Berditchever asked the messenger for Rav Shneur Zalman’s mother’s name. The chasid did not know. Rav Levi Yitzchak took out a Chumash and made a goral, lot, a means of turning pages in such a manner that the last page will have a pasuk which reveals the answer to one’s question. Obviously, only a Torah scholar of great repute is qualified to employ the goral. The pasuk which appeared to him was the pasuk above: Va’ya’ar Yaakov ki yeish shever b’Mitzrayim. Rav Levi Yitzchak said, “The word shevershin, beis, raish is an acronym for Shneur ben Rivkah. Probably, the Baal HaTanya’s mother’s name was Rivkah.” The messenger asked, “Perhaps her name was Rachel?” The Berditchever replied, “The pasuk is coming to ‘help.’ The word shever has two letters – bais and reish of the name Rivkah, while it only has one letter of the name Rachel.”

The purpose of the above is only to demonstrate the various ways in which the Torah’s verses may be interpreted. Indeed, in Chassidic literature, the word shever, which is the root of mashbir, is interpreted as “to break,” rather than “food.” In pasuk 6 it says, V’Yosefhu ha’mashbir l’chol am ha’aretz, “Now Yosef…he was the provider to all the people of the land.” Horav Avraham, zl, m’Slonim says that, through the power of Yosef HaTzaddik, with the power generated by one’s righteousness, the individual is able to break himself before Hashem. The Almighty seeks a person with a broken heart, a heart that realizes the effects of sin. A tzaddik reaches up to Hashem via his broken heart. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, was wont to say, “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” The tzaddik stands before Hashem, broken, lost, entreating His favor, yet feeling unworthy of His kindness. The attitude defines his “wholeness.”

The holy Horav Menachem Mendel, zl, m’Vitebsk once said, “When I arrived in Russia, I met people with torn garments and whole hearts. During my tenure, I saw to it that they had whole clothing, but torn hearts.”  What the Vitebsker meant was that, in order for a Jew to beseech Hashem, he has to feel broken hearted, lost without the Almighty. He realizes that his behavior leaves much to be desired and that he is unworthy of Hashem’s favor. It takes a holy man, a tzaddik, to “break” someone’s heart, by teaching him what it is that Hashem asks of him, and what his shortcomings are. A tzaddik imbues a person with humility by showing him how distant he is from achieving closeness with the Almighty. It is through the power of Yosef HaTzaddik, the power of the righteous, that a person is able to be mashbir, break the hearts of his fellow Jews, so that they can properly turn to Hashem and succeed in their entreaty.