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December 29, 2011 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Open Christmas Day & NrezvYear's Day!'

spirituality >> Torah portion

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This is Judah's moment! With the
weight of the future of our Biblical narra-
tive hanging on this moment, Judah steps
forward and delivers a speech that will
shape Jewish history.
The opening words of the
Torah portion tell us "Then
Judah went up [vayigash] to
him ..."The sages tell us in
the Midrash that "vayigash"
has a profound meaning, that
Judah was able to approach
Joseph on a physical and
emotional level. Torah com-
mentator Sefat Emet takes the
meaning further by saying
Judah was also able to draw
close to God.
Judah is fully attuned to himself physi-
cally, emotionally and spiritually. He is
able to face the task at hand and speak to
Joseph of the grief of their father, Jacob,
and the further pain that would ensue
if Benjamin is not returned. Judah's
plea before Joseph is of self-sacrifice —
"please let your servant remain as a slave
to my lord instead of the boy, and let the
boy go back with his brothers ... Let
me not be witness to the woe that would
overtake my father (Genesis 44:33-34)."
In the face of the maturity of his
brother Judah, Joseph is no longer able to
control himself. He breaks down in tears,
reveals himself to his brothers, and the
reconciliation of Joseph, Judah and all of
the brothers can finally begin.
Parshat Vayigash teaches us that Judah
is physically, emotionally and spiritually in
tune with himself. As we face life's difficult
decisions we each need to find our own
path to "vayigash."

Robert Gamer is the rabbi at Congregation

Beth Shalom in Oak Park.

times, referring to their father, Jacob. If you had to craft a speech for
Joseph, not knowing he was your brother, what would you try to stress?
• As Joseph sends his brothers back to their father in the land of Israel he
tells his brothers "Do not be quarrelsome on the way." What do you think
Joseph is worried about?
• When the Torah tells of the reunification of Jacob and Joseph, the word-
ing is vague and confusing. In Genesis 46:29, there are many third-person
singular verbs describing the act: "He presented himself to him and,
embracing him around the neck, he wept on his neck a good while." Do you
think this is describing Joseph or Jacob?

,

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26 December 29 2011

H

ave you ever had a moment of
decision when it seemed like
the weight of the world was on
your shoulders? Were you scared? Were
you calm? Can you describe
what those moments were
like to someone who was not
there with you?
In the Torah portion this
week, Vayigash, Judah, the
fourth-born son of Jacob and
Leah, has a moment of utter
responsibility. He has the
weight of Judaism as we know
it on his shoulders. Were he
to have chosen differently we
might not be here today.
To understand the moment,
let's think back to our previous Torah
readings. It was just a couple of weeks ago
that we read about the animosity Jacob's
sons had for their brother Joseph and
how they sold him into slavery. In Egypt,
Joseph eventually rises up as Pharaoh's
second in command. Years later, when
the brothers stand before Joseph in Egypt
they do not recognize him at all. Joseph
toys with his brothers, accusing them of
stealing gold, of spying against Egypt and
deceiving him. Joseph takes Simeon as
a prisoner and tells the brothers not to
return without Benjamin.
Jacob, hearing this demand for
Benjamin, initially resists but eventu-
ally relents because of the famine. The
brothers return to Egypt and once
again Joseph toys with them, setting up
Benjamin to be his slave.
What will Judah do at this cru-
cial moment? If the brothers flee, the
Israelites will never go down to Egypt,
never become enslaved, never be
redeemed by God and never be given the
Torah at Mount Sinai.

Conversations
• It is interesting that in Judah's speech he uses the word "father" 14

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Parshat Vayigash: Genesis 32:4-36.43;
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