Blog Vayigash Tevet 7 5779 בלוג וַיִּגַּשׁ, ז’ טבת תשע”ט
This portion Vayigash (And he drew near) pictures the two types of messiah in Judaism, Joseph and Judah both of whom play an important role in our own traditions. The messianic idea is not written in Torah as a doctrine rather it has been developed and passed down to us by our sages over a long period of time beginning after the last prophets and peaking at the start of the common era. The apocryphal or pseudepigraphal books such as the Wisdom of Solomon, Enoch, Baruch etc. contain many messianic themes about a King/man who would deliver Israel from their enemies. This idea gains strength whenever Israel is going through difficult times as in the world today. Anti-Semitism, once again on the rise, occurs whenever any major religion gains power and has the desire to condemn, destroy and even annihilate anyone that doesn’t convert to their ways. This can only happen if the world turns a blind eye in its responsibility toward one another.
In contrast, this parashah teaches us about reconciliation. The only way this can happen is when there is honest communication between two parties who truly want to reconcile, i.e. to come to an agreement and renew their relationship in the right way. The only way to do this is by returning to the time when the relationship began its break and to renew it by healing the cause. Many of us prefer to hear ourselves speak rather than to be truly willing to listen to the other person. There is a difference between talking AT each other and talking TO each other. When you talk at someone, you are not receiving what the other person is saying. That’s when you need to start listening!
Joseph had ordered the brothers to bring Benjamin to him (to be his slave), but Judah intervened saying “I am responsible for him.” Judah knew that this would have killed his father after what had happened to Joseph. He used an expression, “allow me to speak to your ear” which indicates paying close attention to what he had to say. In that moment Joseph listened and saw that in spite of what they did, his brothers were truly repentant, displaying true teshuvah. They all finally acknowledged that Rachel was the only beloved wife of his father while the others were concubines and that Joseph and Benjamin were truly Jacob’s two preferred sons. They never knew what had happened to Joseph who also now discovered that his father didn’t know that he was still alive. Joseph saw that Judah was willing to become his slave in place of Benjamin and this opened the door to reconciliation. He could see that there was no longer that sense of anger and pride among them; they all cared for their father and loved Benjamin and wanted to protect him in a way that they never did with Joseph. He knew he could no longer hold anything against his brothers; they had experienced a true change of heart. He then showed them who he was and told them that in spite of what they had done, God used it to “save a remnant” (Gen. 45:7)…“And God sent me before you to give you a remnant on the earth, and to save you alive for a great deliverance”. Our community is called “She’ar Yashuv, a remnant shall return. Throughout history there has always been a remnant of true believers in the Almighty. The remnant (of Jews and Gentiles) follows Torah and the Creator allowing them to be light to all those around them; it is not about religion!
Even though the brothers’ hearts had been changed, there would still be consequences for what they had done to Joseph. Later their descendants would be slaves in Egypt. All the brothers died in Egypt and their bones remain there; only Joseph had his bones returned to the Promised Land…midah keneged midah, measure for measure.
The Torah teaches us through pictures which are multifaceted. How many of you have broken relationships within your families? Have you tried to make amends? Sometimes pride holds us back as we think that it’s their fault, so they have to take the first step. If you have been injured by others, you need to allow things to fall into place; you need to forgive as like Joseph did. It doesn’t mean that you need to wait for the others to ask for forgiveness. By forgiving, you release yourself! Remember that the Creator said, Vengeance is Mine! He is the one who metes out justice, sooner or later. When we hold anger or vengeance, we become sick; it is a spiritual sickness. Joseph could have been vindictive; he could have told his father what his brothers did to him, but we know that he never did. Later we see that they still didn’t trust that he wouldn’t harm them after their father Jacob died. They needed assurance that they were truly forgiven.
Are you holding a grudge against someone and can’t let go? In spite of what they did, are you willing to let it go and allow the Creator to perform His justice in His way, in His time? When you do, you will free yourself. Lately I have seen so many who have made themselves sick because they are holding something against someone else. We are holistic beings – our spiritual being is one with our material being. These emotions eat us up from the inside; stress is a silent killer. Many things can stress us. What is the greatest medicine for stress? TRUST in the Creator always! During our lives, we go through the process of going from emunah (faith) to bitachon (trust). This is such an important lesson for us. When we are misunderstood, mistreated or abused by others, let us stand up for what is right but then “let it go” even when we don’t see immediate justice from the Creator. Wouldn’t we sometimes like to see lightning strike someone down but it’s not our place to do that; we need to leave it to the wisdom of God and His timing. Let us all learn how to “let it go.” Joseph wept with his brothers saying, “don’t blame yourself; what you meant for evil, God used for good.” Abraham had seen the day that the children of Israel would be slaves in Egypt. They needed this to happen so that they could be separated and later on truly appreciate and fight for freedom.