Vayigash: Unity and Balance
This week’s portion — Vayigash — coincides with an important astrological event: the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This last occurred in the 16th Century, so it’s a very significant, once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. You may be wondering what it represents. To understand, we must consider the qualities of these planets. When we think of Jupiter, we think of the bigger picture: Jupiter signifies all that is visionary. Saturn, in contrast, has connotations of order, rigidity, and limitations. We can think of their energies as being contrasting and contradictory, yet this conjunction somehow brings them together. Is this a confrontation? We could see it through this lens. However, with the contents of Vayigash in mind, perhaps it makes more sense to perceive this astrological event as an integration.
In the portion, we see opposite energies collide in Judah and Joseph. Spiritually, this is the meeting of two kings. Just like Jupiter and Saturn, they embody contrasting qualities. Judah represents the element of receiving, while Joseph represents the element of taking. As spiritual people, we may feel inclined to prioritize giving over receiving. We know that charity is intrinsic to living a spiritual life. We may also instinctively associate receiving with the ego. A shallow interpretation of both giving and receiving would conclude that giving is selfless whereas receiving is selfish. However, with deeper consideration, we can see that it is not such a straightforward case of opposites.
Why did the Creator make this world and bring life to it? This is a fundamental question. Given all that we enjoy in this existence, we must conclude that receiving is part of G-d’s plan for us. G-d is a giver, and He wants us to enjoy all that the world has to offer. For us to reject that gift would not be a selfless act. It would be an ungrateful one. If it pleases G-d for us to receive, then it cannot be wrong to do so. This also translates to our relationships with one another. To give is a beautiful thing; however, when you receive correctly, you also give a great gift. The person who gives to you takes joy from giving. This can be seen as a greater gift than even the gift itself.
There is an important distinction between simply receiving and receiving correctly. When Judah talks about receiving, it is receiving as giving. He wants to receive only because this is a gift to the giver. He does not want to receive because he perceives a lack in himself. As people, we should not connect to lack. We should avoid any mindset based on the idea that we live in scarcity. The Creator has given us abundance, after all! It is our duty to receive gratefully. This abundance mindset also enables us to give, and so give others the opportunity to give back to us by receiving. Both elements exist in a relationship and one cannot be extracted from the other.
The truly correct way to receive is with this philosophy: I do not want anything unless the Creator wants to give it to me. This is the level that Judah is on in this portion, and it’s the level we should aspire to. When we achieve this, we will find that what we want will be given to us. Until then, we will be frustrated. We need to move from “I want to receive because I don’t have” to “I want to receive because the Creator wants to give.” And that means accepting the timing of the Creator. Correct receiving does not demand gifts right now. Too many people think this way. In fact, selfishly demanding your gifts before the right time has a negative impact not only on you but on the world in general.
The giving and receiving elements must exist in balance. This is one of the key purposes of spirituality. There is a common misconception that when you are spiritual you receive many more gifts. Instead, what happens is that you perceive what you receive very differently. You are able to appreciate your gifts. In this portion, we see a connection between two forces. These forces can be seen as the energy and the vessel that contains or transports it. You can receive everything you want, but without the correct vessel, it will be lost and wasted on you. Spirituality doesn’t summon greater gifts — the Creator already has those for you. It simply prepares your vessel to receive them.
This portion is beautiful because we see Judah and Joseph unite. Unity should be our overall goal in everything that we do. It is G-d’s will that we come together as one. Although Judah and Joseph represented supposedly opposing forces, their union gives us a model for how we can integrate giving and taking. Receiving, when done correctly, becomes a selfless act. Giving, paradoxically, generates greater abundance; it doesn’t result in lack. With Vayigash and the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, we are encouraged to interrogate the binaries we hold in our mind to find nuance and points of connection.
Can we advance our vision (Jupiter) without disrespecting the limits of others (Saturn)? Can we find a balance between giving (Joseph) and receiving (Judah)? Do we know how to receive correctly? And, perhaps most importantly, can we unite with others — even when they seem very different from ourselves? These are the questions provoked by Vayigash, and our spiritual work will lead us to the moment where we can honestly respond “yes.”