Torah Weekly

For the week ending 7 December 2013 / 4 Tevet 5774

Parshat Vayigash

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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With the discovery of the goblet in Binyamin's sack, the brothers are confused. Yehuda alone steps forward and eloquently but firmly petitions Yosef for Binyamin's release, offering himself instead. As a result of this act of total selflessness, Yosef finally has irrefutable proof that his brothers are different people from the ones who cast him into the pit, and so he now reveals to them that he is none other than their brother. The brothers shrink from him in shame, but Yosef consoles them, telling them that everything has been part of G-d’s plan. He sends them back to their father Yaakov with a message to come and reside in the land of Goshen. At first, Yaakov cannot accept the news, but when he recognizes hidden signs in the message which positively identify the sender as his son Yosef, his spirit is revived. Yaakov together with all his family and possessions sets out for Goshen. G-d communicates with Yaakov in a vision at night. He tells him not to fear going down to Egypt and its negative spiritual consequences, because it is there that G-d will establish the Children of Israel as a great nation even though they will be dwelling in a land steeped in immorality and corruption. The Torah lists Yaakov's offspring and hints to the birth of Yocheved, who will be the mother of Moshe Rabbeinu. Seventy souls in total descend into Egypt, where Yosef is reunited with his father after 22 years of separation. He embraces his father and weeps, overflowing with joy. Yosef secures the settlement of his family in Goshen. Yosef takes his father Yaakov and five of the least threatening of his brothers to be presented to Pharaoh, and Yaakov blesses Pharaoh. Yosef instructs that, in return for grain, all the people of Egypt must give everything to Pharaoh, including themselves as his slaves. Yosef then redistributes the population, except for the Egyptian priests who are directly supported by a stipend from Pharaoh. The Children of Israel become settled, and their numbers multiply greatly.


It’s Nothing, Really!

"I am Yosef — is my father still alive?" (45:3)

Often when you apologize to someone, you hear the person reply, "It’s nothing, really!” Sometimes they mean: “Why are you making such a business out of it? What did you do, after all? Forget it! It’s really nothing.”

Now for those people, saying, "It’s nothing" is genuine forgiveness. It really is nothing to them. However, most of the time what people really mean is, "It’s nothing really?! You must be joking! I don’t even want to hear your voice! I just want to see you squirm around in front of me! I’m not letting you off the hook for anything. Apologize away! It’s nothing really!"

A person who refuses to accept an honest apology can make himself guiltier than the "guilty party". Just as Judaism prescribes the appropriate behavior for one who needs to apologize, so too there is a correct way to behave towards someone seeking forgiveness. Indeed, someone who turns a plea for forgiveness into an opportunity for vengeance, however subtle it might be, will very probably end up committing a graver sin that the original offense.

Picture Yosef’s brothers standing in front of him, the utter humiliation and guilt of facing their young brother whom they had wronged so terribly. Now they were facing a king who had the power of life and death over them. How did Yosef react in this situation? Human nature would suggest that Yosef would, at least, have laid out in some detail all the hardship and suffering they had caused him. However, what we read in the Torah sounds more like an extended "thank-you" note than a reproach.

"And now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourselves, for it was to be a provider that G-d sent me ahead of you. Thus G-d has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival in the land and to sustain you. It is not you who sent me here but G-d."

The Torah teaches us that, as important as it is to say "Sorry", it’s equally important to know how to say "I forgive you" in a way that genuinely comforts the offender.

  • Source: Da’at Torah

Temporary Amnesia

"I am Yosef — is my father still alive?" (45:3)

Why, at this climactic moment when Yosef finally revealed his true identity to his brothers, did he ask whether his father was still alive? The brothers had already confirmed the fact several times. In fact, Yehuda had just finished an impassioned plea to free Binyamin on the grounds that Yaakov would not have survived the loss of Binyamin.

And here lies the understanding of Yosef’s question. Yosef wasn’t asking for information about his father's well-being. Rather, he was rebuking Yehuda. He was saying to him, "You’re so concerned that our father will not survive the loss of his son Binyamin? Where was that concern when you sold another of his sons into slavery? Don’t forget to whom you are talking! I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?

  • Source: Beit HaLevi

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