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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Vayigash

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Family Reconciliation

In Judah’s eyes, Yosef is equal to Pharoah in power and stature. We should remind ourselves that — at this point in the reading — Judah has not recognized Yosef. Yet, he gathers himself, and tugs on the emotional heart-strings. He tells a story of sorrow and woe, and how the loss of Benjamin will kill his father. Finally he asks to take Benjamin’s place.

וְעַתָּה, יֵשֶׁב-נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר–עֶבֶד, לַאדֹנִי; וְהַנַּעַר, יַעַל עִם-אֶחָיו.

“Now, then. Accept your servant in place of the youth. I will be your servant, but let the youth go up to his father”.

Yosef can stand it no longer. He clears the room and breaks down. He reveals himself, and tells his brothers not to feel guilty, as everything that has happened is according to G-d’s plan. The Talmud comments on the toll that Yosef pays for being in a position of power; the price of power is that Yosef dies before his brothers.1

Yosef tells his brothers that Elohim has sent him ahead to be a “remnant” through which Israel will be saved. This develops into the rabbinic concept of sh’erit haplah — the saving remnant through which Israel is preserved even while in Exile. Yosef says: “Elohim sent me here ahead of you, to have a safe place on the earth, to keep you alive, for a great deliverance.”

וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹהִים לִפְנֵיכֶם, לָשׂוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ, וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם, לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדֹלָה.

As Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, he hugs Benjamin and weeps. He “falls on his brother’s neck” as Esav fell on his father Yakov when they met after twenty years of separation. What is Yosef feeling? Regret for time lost? Sorrow for the attitudes that caused estrangement? Gratitude for an opportunity to be reunited with his family? Once the brothers are over their shock at seeing Yosef again, what do they think?

In the Torah’s telling, this is all part of a master plan. How many of can look at our sibling and family relationships, and perceive a plan holding us all together? The Torah, in its telling of two stories, shows us first the ugly side of a family torn by jealousy and anger. In this parshah, the Torah shows us what life can be; reconciliation, re-unification; everything working as part of a plan. Which shall we choose? And how shall we know if we have chosen correctly? When like Yosef, we easily find ourselves crediting HaShem, and not ourselves, for our successes.

Shabbat Shalom


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