When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers he embraced his brother Benjamin and cried.
This is the way the Torah describes that scene:
“He fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and cried, and Benjamin cried on his neck.”
Rashi explains that they looked into the future and realized that the Sanctuaries that were destined to be built in their respective territories in the Land of Israel would eventually be destroyed. Joseph wept for the Two Temples which were destined to be in Benjamin’s territory and would ultimately be destroyed. Benjamin wept on Joseph’s neck for the Tabernacle at Shiloh, which was destined to be in Joseph’s territory, and would ultimately be destroyed.”
Three questions have been raised on Rashi’s commentary:
First, why were they crying at a time of joy? One cannot imagine a greater joy for both Joseph and Benjamin at their reunion. Why then did they divert their attention from the celebration to commiserate about an event of the distant future? Indeed, Jewish law does not permit us to engage in reflections that lead to sadness during a joyous Holiday.
Second, why did Joseph weep for the destruction of Benjamin’s Temples and Benjamin wept for the destruction of Joseph’s Temple? Why didn’t Joseph cry over the destruction of his own Temple in Shiloh and Benjamin over the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash in his own territory?
[See Likkutei Sichos (volume 10) for the Rebbe’s beautiful answer to this question:
When it comes to the destruction of one’s own Temple, crying is not warranted. Why cry when we can avert the catastrophe through our efforts. When is it acceptable to cry? When it is someone else’s Temple that is being destroyed that we are incapable of preventing, then, and only then, it is appropriate to cry to show our pain over their loss.]
Third, why did Benjamin cry over the destruction of the Sanctuary in Shiloh? The Temple in Shiloh was not a permanent dwelling for G-d. And if Shiloh was not destroyed no Bais Hamikdash, which far superseded the Temple in Shiloh, would be built.
Strengthening the Union with Senseless Love
The following resolution of all three questions is based on the Chassidic work Ma’amar Yechezkal,:
Joseph and his brother Benjamin were not trying to deflect from the joy of their reunion with thoughts about future disasters. Rather, they were trying to make their reunion a complete and unequivocal union that would reverberate throughout Jewish history, avert the catastrophic destructions of the Holy Temples and pave the way for Moshiach.
When Joseph and Benjamin started to embrace they were given a vision of the future destructions and the sin that would cause these catastrophes, which, our Sages tell us was senseless hatred. This, they took as a challenge, to sow the seeds that would avert the destructions of the Holy Temples. By their actions of crying on the other’s neck and engaging in senseless love they sought to generate the spiritual energy that would prevent the destruction.
How do we define senseless hatred and senseless love?
Hatred that is motivated by the desire to get even with others for the harm they caused us is wrong but it cannot be called senseless. It is based on a quid pro quo dynamic. If the two parties to a feud would reverse their attitudes and behaviors towards each other it would remove the hatred.
Senseless hatred, by contrast, is not based on logic. It is not revenge for being ill-treated by another. Rather, it is hatred of the other simply because the other exists and gets in the way of one’s ego. If we feel that the world is ours, we cannot countenance the mere presence of the other. As irrational as it appears, to the egotist, the other is a trespasser.
Senseless love thus means that my love for the other is not because he or she provided me with some benefit. I love the other simply because the other exists. A person imbued with senseless love will show concern and love the other even when it trumps one’s own needs and interests. That is not based on logic; it is senseless love.
How can we show that our love is absolute and unconditional? When we have reason to express our own pain and suffering, but instead we focus on the other’s pain and suffering. If our love would be ego driven we would focus on our own pain first and try to ease it before thinking of the other’s pain.
Thus, Joseph and Benjamin who were imbued with senseless love cried over the other’s pain and not their own.
This answers all three questions:
The second question as to why they cried over each other’s Temple is answered because that was their way of showing that they cared more for the other’s sorrow based on the egoless concern for the other before the concern for their own needs.
This also answers the third question as to why Benjamin cried over the destruction of Shiloh despite the fact that had Shiloh not been destroyed Benjamin’s Temple would never have been built. Indeed, this was precisely Benjamin’s intention to show that he was willing to forgo his personal interests [i.e., the building of the Bais Hamikdash in his territory] in favor of Joseph’s interests.
And now the first question as to why they were crying at a time of a joyous reunion is also answered by redefining their crying. It was not just an expression of grief. Rather, it was their attempt to sow the seeds of senseless love to avert the catastrophic destructions of the future. If they could accomplish that, their reunion would indeed prove to be an incredible source of positivity and celebration.
They Did Succeed!
One may ask a simple, perhaps, naïve question. It seemed that Joseph and Benjamin’s crying did not succeed in preventing the destruction of any of the Temples. Their display of unmitigated love did not help. It is hard for us to imagine that the love of such great and holy people should have no effect on the future. And, if it was futile, why did they engage in this mutual expression of grief at a time of joy. We are back to square one!
The truth is that when a tzadik and a holy person engages in an effort to avert a catastrophe it definitely has an effect. However, the effect can be partial or it can be delayed.
While all three Temples (the one in Shiloh, and the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem) were eventually destroyed, the Jewish people survived and their inner Sanctuaries survived with them.
Moreover, the love they displayed strengthened our own unconditional love to every Jew which prepares us for the future Redemption.
The Rebbe revealed to us that the sin of senseless hatred which caused the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash has already been corrected. The need to emphasize senseless love now is no longer about rectifying the past but about preparing us for, and paving the way to, the future.
We may suggest that the power for us to experience senseless love was bequeathed to us by Joseph and his brother Benjamin who cried for the other. They planted the seeds for ultimate unity and love that will lead us to the imminent coming of Moshiach and the future Redemption!