Parashat Vayigash – Erev Shabbat 10 December 2021 – (5782)
Week of 5-11 December 2021
Torah portion: Gen. 44 : 18-47 : 27 Haftarah: Ezek. 37:15-28
Theme: Reconciliation in the Name of the Father
The Torah portion for this week is about reconciliation and what a blessing it is. The reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers has been considered one of the great scenes in all of literature. After hearing the deeply moving speech of Judah who used the word “father” 14 times in 17 verses (Gen. 44:18-34) to beg for the release of Benjamin, Joseph realized that keeping his brother, Benjamin, in prison would be repeating what his brothers had done to him and his father years ago.
No longer able to control himself, Joseph tells his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still well?” (Gen. 45:3). His brothers could not answer him. They were so dismayed at his presence.
To recall, Joseph was a favorite son of Jacob, making his older brothers very jealous of him. They tried to get rid of him by selling him off to slave traders who brought him to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph found favor when he was able to interpret the dream of Pharaoh. He was appointed to oversee the storage of grains to carry them through the years of famine that Joseph, a skilled dream interpreter, had predicted would occur after years of plenty. His brothers came to Egypt to get grain when famine hit Canaan.
The heart-wrenching reconciliation had Joseph weeping so loudly that the Egyptians could hear it and news of it reached the Pharaoh’s palace (45:2). It led to Joseph’s heart-tugging meeting with his father, Jacob, who brought his whole family to Egypt and settled there. (At the start of the book of Exodus, we learn that the Israelites had later become more numerous and more powerful than the Egyptians.)
The other heartening stories of forgiveness and family reconciliation include the meeting of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 33:4) and of a father and his prodigal son (Luke 15:20).
In modern times, we have the momentous meeting of Pope Saint John XXIII on October 19, 1960, with a visiting delegation of Jewish rabbis when the Pope, quoting from today’s Torah portion, introduced himself with the words: “I am Joseph, your brother.”
On October 28, 1965, Nostra Aetate (In Our Times) was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI. The Vatican II document addresses the reconciling relationship between Catholics and Jews, Muslims and believers of other world religions. It negates any claim that the Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus and says “His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” Citing the great spiritual patrimony common to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, it says there is a need to foster mutual understanding and fraternal dialogues.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Have you experienced a need to reconcile with a family member or a fellow Christian? 2. What can be done to foster religious dialogues with Jews, Muslims, or other Christians?
Bibliography: ETZ Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York, 2001); The Holy Bible NRSV Catholic Edition; Vatican Archives in https://www.vatican.va/archive/index.htm
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014