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Parshat Vayigash - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the Shabbat Table
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
1. In your opinion, why does Yosef prefer that Yaakov come down to Egypt instead of Yosef going to visit Yaakov in Eretz Canaan?
Does Yosef invite the family to 'move' to Egypt, or just to 'wait out' the remaining years of famine?
[Relate to 45:25-28, and to 46:31-47:4.]
Do any of these plans change?
If so, can you explain why? [Relate to 46:1-5.]

2. Note that Chazal include all of 44:18 - 46:7 in one 'parshia' while the classical division into chapters considers this 'parshia' as part of three different chapters.
Attempt to explain the logic for each division.
In your opinion, which division makes more sense?
Can you find significance in Chazal's consideration of these psukim as one complete unit?

3. In Parshat Pinchas, a census is taken which was to serve as the basis for the final "nachalah" [inheritance] of Eretz Canaan to the twelve tribes.
Compare the family names in that census (Bamidbar 26:2-56) to the list of the "shivim nefesh" (70 souls) which go down to Egypt (see 46:8-26). Attempt to explain the reason for the similarities between these two lists (and for the differences as well).
Can you point to a thematic connection as well?

4. How would you define the Hebrew word "chok?"
Now, read 47:20-26, noting the use of the word "chok."
Does your definition fit with its context in these psukim?
[Relate to "chok" in Yirmiyahu 33:25.]
How would this relate to your understanding of the mitzvot which are considered "chukim?"
[Based on your answer, would you say that certain "chukim" could be logical, or by definition are all "chukim" laws that don't make sense?]
Now, how would you define a "chok?"

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)
[Before you begin, be sure to answer question #1 above.]

1. When Yaakov decides to go down to Egypt to visit Yosef, for how long does he originally plan to go down to Egypt?
[Relate to 45:25-28, and to 46:31-47:4!]
Would Yaakov have any reason for staying with his family in Egypt any longer than the years of the famine?
What is Yosef's original plan? [Support your answer from psukim.]
For how long does he expect his family to stay in Egypt?

2. Read 46:1-7. Why do you think Yaakov stops specifically at Beer Sheva before his departure to Egypt?
Is there a precedent? [Relate to both 26:1-5,25 and 28:10] [See discussion concerning this at end of the Ramban on 28:10.]
Why do you think he offers korbanot specifically to the God of his father Yitzchak (and not Avraham)? [See the Parshanut section question #1.]
Why do you think that he offers specifically "zevachim?"
Is there a precedent?
When later in Chumash are "zevachim" offered?
[For the difference between an "olah" and a "zevach," see Sefer Vayikra chapters 1 and 3.]

3. What is God's response to Yaakov's korbanot (see 46:2-4)?
Does this imply that Yaakov was scared? If so, why?
Is God's response surprising?
According to God's plan, now revealed to Yaakov, for how long are Yaakov and his family supposed to stay in Egypt? Is there an explanation why? If so, what it is? Does this explanation relate to any of God's earlier promises to the Avot?
[Relate to 12:1-3, 15:13-18.]
How does God's plan relate to Yosef's perception of these events in 45:7?

4. Compare the style of 46:5-7 with 11:31, 12:5, 31:17-18.
Is this significant?
Relate this to theme of "bechira" in Sefer Breishit.

5. Compare 46:8-27 with Shmot 1:1-7.
How (and why) are they similar and/or different?
Have we had lists of names before in Sefer Breishit?
Have they been called "shmot" or "toladot?"
Can you explain why the list is now called "shmot?"

6. Note that 46:1-5 is the last "hitgalut" of Sefer Breishit.
First, verify this statement.
Then, find the first "hitgalut" in Sefer Shmot. [If you give up, scan Shmot 3:1-10.]
What is God's message in that "hitgalut?"
How does it relate to the last "hitgalut" in Breishit [both textually and thematically]?

7. Try to explain the thematic importance of this final "hitgalut" of Sefer Breishit, and its connection to the 'parshia' that follows - "eyleh shmot..." (46:8-26).

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut
1. Review again 46:1. Make sure that you understand the major problem of this pasuk (i.e. why does he offer korbanot specifically to the God of Yitzchak, and why in Beer Sheva).

See Rashi; how does Rashi answer these two questions, or does he? [Is Rashi explaining the pasuk or learning something from it?]
Now, see Ramban. What bothers Ramban in regard to Rashi's pirush? [Why is it not sufficient - "v'aineno maspik...?"]

Next, see Rashbam. How is his approach different than Rashi's?
Does Rashbam attempt to explain simple "pshat?"
Does Rashbam base his pirush on 26:1-2 or 26:25?
What assumption does Rashbam make in regard to Yitzchak's offering of "zevachim?"
Is there support for this assumption in the psukim?

Now, see Radak! In what manner is his approach similar to that of Rashbam, and in what manner is his interpretation totally different?
What psukim does Radak base his pirush on?
Which pirush (between Radak and Rashbam) is more thematic, and which is more textual?

[See also Seforno and Chizkuni.]

Finally, return once again to Ramban. Read his answer carefully. [Just the first ten lines; you don't need to read the entire section concerning "zevachim."]
How is his approach to the explanation of this pasuk different from that of Rashbam and Radak?
How does Ramban's interpretation relate to the overall theme of Sefer Breishit?
Would you consider Ramban's pirush as "pshat?"
[Explain what you mean when you refer to "pshat."]

2. Review 46:8-27, and while doing so, see if the math works out to total up to seventy.
Where specifically are the problems, i.e. who is counted and who isn't?
See Rashi; does he deal with any of these problems?
What 'new' problems does Rashi deal with?
See Rashbam; how does he solve the math problem?
Now see Chizkuni; how does he solve the math problem?
How is his approach different than Rashbam's?
Next, see Ibn Ezra.
Note his explanation of the various Midrashim.
How does he explain pshat [like Rashbam or Chizkuni?]
Review this Ibn Ezra, noting his approach. [It is a classic example of his methodology and his approach to "pshat" in contrast to "drash," and of the connection between them.]