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

“He then kissed all his brothers and wept upon them;
afterwards his brothers conversed with him.” (Genesis 45:15)

Parashat Vayigash brings the dramatic moment you’ve been waiting for: Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. They return to Canaan to bring Jacob and the rest of the clan down to Egypt where Joseph and Jacob are reunited.

This physical reconciliation is the result of an emotional and spiritual awakening. The opening words, “Vayigash eilav Y’hudah, and Judah approached him…,” (Gen. 42:18) describe Judah approaching Joseph to beg him to free Benjamin and let him (Judah) sit in jail instead. But Judah approaches his brother because he first approaches himself.

Judah is the brother who speaks out because he alone among them has lost two sons. He knows well the pain Jacob would feel at Benjamin’s imprisonment and this moment of empathy propels Judah to act. Judah confronts himself, and his role in Joseph’s saga, and is at peace with offering his own freedom for his brother’s. He understands the pain he and his brothers have caused Jacob and he holds no doubt of the necessity of sparing his father any more. In approaching himself, Judah becomes whole.

Judah’s emotional wholeness pierces Joseph’s heart and he drops his subterfuge prematurely and pronounces, “I am Joseph; is my father still alive?” (Gen. 45:3). So now Joseph is not conflicted either; he becomes whole, too.

The theme of inner reconciliation and wholeness echoes later, when Jacob meets Pharoah and says, “Y’mei sh’nei m’guri, the days of my sojourns have been…” (Gen. 47:9). The root of the word m’guri can also mean stranger: Jacob is saying his life has been one long disconnect. But now, he too, is “at home,” finally.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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