Posted on March 23, 2011
by Alex Krule, 2010-11 CRUSY Israel Affairs Vice President and 2010 Religion/Education IGB, 5771
“Way way back many centuries ago, not long after the bible began” – Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat
Andrew Lloyd Weber sure knows how to give us the perfect setting for these Torah portions on the story of Yosef! This week, we read Parashat Vayigash, the second half of the ever-famous Yosef story. We pick up directly after Yosef discovers his silver goblet in Benyamin’s (Ya’akov and Rachel’s youngest son) sack of corn.
[Very important side-note: Yosef had explained to his brothers (who, at this point, still do not know that the man they are speaking to is, in fact, their believed-dead brother) that the one found with his goblet will become his slave. Additionally, Yosef’s brothers had sworn to their father that they would return Benyamin after their trip to Egypt, otherwise Ya’akov would certainly die of heartbreak).
When the brothers discover that Benyamin had Yosef’s goblet, they plead with Yosef. Actually, Yehudah, the oldest of the brothers, says:
“Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers.” (Genesis 44:33)
This is a pivotal moment in the story of our ancestors. As you may recall, these are the same brothers who bound Yosef up, threw him in a pit, and sold him as a slave because they were jealous of his relationship with their father. These are the same brothers who lied to their father, saying that wild beasts tore their brother, Yosef, to shreds, breaking their father’s heart in the process. What we see here is a fantastic example of the ability of mankind to perform teshuvah, or repentance.
Through Yosef’s test of his brothers, we see that the brothers realize how they hurt their father, as Yehudah explains:
“Now, if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us – since his own life is so bound up with his – when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die…” (Genesis 44:30)
They realize how intertwined the lives (literally, souls) of their father and his son are, and they see the repercussions that their actions would have on others. While they may have been unhappy with their father’s favoritism, they still clearly love and care for their father.
In short, the brothers have learned their lesson and will go to the farthest extent – to carry out Benyamin’s punishment in his stead – to ensure the well being of their father. As Yosef explains,
“God has sent me ahead of you to ensure Your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance” (Genesis 45:7)
We see that God has determined that the brothers are true in their teshuvah, in their redemption.
I also think that it is so apt that we read this parasha, ending with the reuniting of Ya’akov and Yosef, in the week that we had Chanukah because, just as we celebrate the reuniting of the son and father in our parasha, so too did we celebrate the Maccabees reuniting with the Beit Hamikdash after the Syrian Greeks had defiled it!