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Parashat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

“’Enough!’ said Israel. ‘My son Joseph is still alive!

I must go and see him before I die.’” (Genesis 45:28)

Parashat Vayigash opens with Judah begging Joseph to take him as a slave instead of Benjamin for stealing Joseph’s silver goblet. Convinced his brothers have indeed done t’shuva, repentence, for selling him into slavery, Joseph drops his pretense and reveals himself to his siblings. They return to Canaan to bring Jacob and the rest of the clan down to Egypt, and Joseph and Jacob are reunited, finally.

The name of the parasha, or portion, comes from its opening verse: “Vayigash, And Judah approached him and said…” (Gen. 44:18) Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (1730-1787; leader of Chassidism in White Russia) infers since Judah is already standing close to Joseph, the approach is in his heart. By truly loving Joseph Judah hopes to inspire Joseph’s love and compassion toward Jacob by freeing Benjamin (remember, the brothers think Joseph is an Egyptian viceroy). This interpretation is strengthened by the Vitebsk’s reading of the rest of the verse: “…Bi adoni, Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord…” Bi Adoni also can mean “God is in me.” Judah is reminding Joseph (and himself, perhaps) they each contain Godliness and therefore, despite their external differences, are bound together.

Vayigash, then, offers two lessons in human relationships. The first is a reminder about the possibility and power of t’shuva, and making different and better choices when confronted with the same situation (Judah’s willingness to sacrifice himself for Benjamin moves Joseph to tears). The second is a reminder of our shared essence; reaching out to the other is actually reaching out to ourselves, and to God.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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