The New Shul

Parshat Vayigash

In this week’s parashah, Vayigash, Yaakov travels to Egypt to be reunited with his son Yosef. The Torah tells us that, when they meet, Yosef weeps on his fathers shoulder. But the Torah says nothing about Yaakov weeping with his son.

Why did Yaakov not weep as well? The ancient rabbis explained that, as Yosef wept on his father’s shoulder, Yaakov was busy with a different mitzvah. Yaakov had realized that the time had come for reciting the Sh’ma, and was busy fulfilling his obligation to God.

If prayer is so important that it justified Yaakov’s withdrawal from his son at that moment, then why did Yosef not withdraw from his father to pray as well?

The S’fat Emet explained that, for Yosef, loving another human being and loving God were not an either-or. Yosef did not need to withdraw from the human realm in order to reach up to God. In Yosef’s personality, the physical and spiritual were so deeply intertwined that honoring his father was honoring God. Weeping on his father’s shoulder was in itself an act of prayer.

Prayer, at its best, is not about leaving the world behind. It is about bringing heaven and earth together, bringing holiness into the lives that we actually live, the earthly feelings that we experience. May the prayer life that we build together help to make our lives more whole.

  • Shabbat services at The New Shul are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon.The kiddish lunch this Shabbat, January 7, is sponsored by Scott Berlant in memory of his mother Lilyan Berlant.
  • Childcare is available from 10 am to noon on Shabbat mornings. Our learning service for grades 1 to 4 is from 11 to 11:40 am.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, Monday evenings at 7 pm, Wednesday mornings at 7 am, and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.
  • On Martin Luther King Day, Monday January 16, The New Shul community will serve meals to the hungry at St. Vincent de Paul’s Jackson St. dining room. Please let us know if you can help.
  • The annual meeting of The New Shul community is on Sunday February 5 at 10:30 am. All are welcome. Our blood drive is that same afternoon. Please contact us to sign up for an appointment to donate blood.
  • Limmud AZ, our valley-wide day of Jewish learning, is on Sunday February 12 at ASU. For more information, see