I'm within a few weeks of turning 49. Having been raised in a non-observant Jewish environment, I only began my Jewish education a year ago and am planning to have my bar mitzvah 37 years late. What is the applicable Torah portion for my celebration?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Mazal Tov! Planning your celebration on the week of the Torah portion you were born in, and the week that you became Bar Mitzvah in 37 years ago is extremely powerful, since your Torah portion, Vayigash, is all about reunions.
Parshat Vayigash is the climax of the story of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery while he was still young. For 22 years they remained separated. During that time, the brothers felt great remorse for their actions. A famine also spread causing life to become even more bitter.
Ironically in Egypt, Joseph went from being a slave to the Egyptian prime minister. Since Joseph was a prophet, he was able to discern that a famine was coming; he therefore stored food away in Egypt to eat during the years of famine. Soon, the brothers were forced to come to Egypt to look for food. The Egyptian they solicited was none other than Joseph!
Parshat Vayigash is the story of how these brothers reunite. The brothers didn't recognize Joseph when they asked him for food, because he looked and spoke like an Egyptian. Joseph also didn't reveal his identity right away, fearing that his brothers had not changed since they had sold him into slavery.
However, when Joseph saw that the brothers had regretted selling him into slavery, "Joseph could not restrain himself... He cried so loud that all of Egypt and Pharaoh's household heard. Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?' But his brothers could not answer him because they were disconcerted before him." (Genesis 45:1-3)
The great rabbi, the Chofetz Chaim explained that when Joseph said, "I am Joseph," God's master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last 22 years fell into perspective. So too, in a future time God will reveal Himself and announce, "I am the Almighty!" The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend everything that transpired throughout history.
So you see, this Torah portion is not only a reunion between brothers, but also a reunion between each brother and God, as they recognized the truth of all that occurred while they were separated.
So too, with you. Your celebration will be a reunion to affirm your relationship with God and the Jewish people.
To learn more, read "The Stone Chumash," (artscroll.com).