Parashat Vayigash – Erev Shabbat 31 December 2022 (5783)
Week of 25-31 December 2022.
Torah portion: Genesis 44:18-47:27 Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28
Theme: repairing the world
Central to Parashat Vayigash (“and he approached”} is the theme of tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” which Joseph learnt so powerfully. Benjamin is to remain in Egypt because he is accused of stealing the silver goblet and Judah as the eldest of the brothers offers himself as a slave, in the place of Benjamin. He cannot bear a repetition of what happened when the brothers had betrayed and sold Joseph. Judah has lived with the desolation that the loss of Joseph brought upon Jacob and he cannot bear to see that happening again if Benjamin does not return to him. va-yigash y’hudah meaning, “dah approached”. The manner in which Judah approached Joseph is all-important. A broken family is about to be healed and made whole but this does not come easily. Judah approaches courageously, and with humility, concerned most of all to protect his father Jacob from further devastating pain.
Joseph for his part recognizes the act of t’shuvah (repentance). He could exact vengeance on his brothers but instead his heart is overflowing with forgiveness. He is able to let the past go acknowledging that it has all been in God’s plan that the family be saved.
Through Joseph God is able to bring peace in the family. In the haftarah, Ezekiel preaching to the Israelites in exile in Babylon uses the figures of Judah and Joseph to foretell that all of Israel’s tribes will be united. “I will make a covenant of peace with them…” [Ez 37: 26]
How many families today remain broken, separated and in pain because the members concerned are unable to do t’shuvah, to admit mistakes and ask forgiveness. Earlier this year we witnessed a remarkable congregation in Charleston, USA, living tikkun olam. All the family members of those murdered at a bible study, who spoke in court to the man responsible for causing them the most terrible suffering, said they forgave him and prayed for his conversion to God. They surely had taken Joseph’s example to heart. Their bible study was something they lived out in their everyday lives in such a way as to bring inner peace in their acute pain through t’shuvah and give inspiration to all those who heard them.
Reflection and discussion: 1). To what extent is it possible to turn one’s back on the past? What needs to happen within me to forgive my adversary and make peace? 2). What can I do to help and support other people who are locked in enmity and the inability to forgive?
Bibliography: Plaut, The Torah, Modern Commentary (UAHC New York 1981);
www.reformjudaism.org – Kroloff, Does God have a plan for you? Doades J. The Cost of Peace;.Panken Aaron D It’s all in the approach.
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Ann Kelly fmdm, Bat Kol alumni 2007.