Parashat Vayigash – Erev Shabbat 22 December 2023 (5784)
Week of 17-23 December 2023
Torah portion : Genesis 44:18 – 47:27 Haftarah: Ezek. 37 :15-28
Theme: We are instruments of God.
This week’s parasha invites us to reflect on the true value of a spiritual life. In the book of Genesis 44:18-47:27 we see Joseph’s brothers refusing to return to Canaan without Benjamin, whom Joseph falsely accused of stealing. Joseph reveals his true identity and invites his brothers to return to look for their father, Jacob, and bring him and their families to live in Egypt. When they return, Joseph introduces his father to Pharaoh and, at Pharaoh’s suggestion, the family settles in Goshen, a particularly fertile region of Egypt.
In my reflection, I draw attention to some points: Joseph who was sold by his brothers as a slave, but who does not take revenge when he has the opportunity; on the contrary, he comforted them with kind words, he had no resentment against them, even though he had suffered for years. This shows us an example of a righteous man! If the same thing happened to us, would we have the same attitude as Joseph had? Are we capable of forgiving those who humiliate us?
Another element for our reflection, among many others, is the false accusation of robbery against Benjamin. Why did Joseph accuse Benjamin of a crime that could lead to his death? Maimonides (1138-1204), one of the most famous Sephardic Jewish Philosophers, upon rereading this passage states that having Joseph dream of 11 stars bowing before him, it became essential that Benjamin, the 11th brother, also descend to Egypt and recognize him as ruler. Furthermore, Joseph also dreamed that the sun and moon would bow down to him (presumably his parents), so Jacob would also need to go to Egypt, which is why he arrested Benjamin to lure his father to Egypt.
With this famous story of Joseph, we see the beginning of the life of the Hebrews in Egypt; the sale of Joseph as a slave is an anticipation of the slavery that centuries later the entire Hebrew people would suffer. Joseph’s divine mission was to prepare the way for his brothers, giving them the necessary tools to survive exile and maintain faith to God in a hostile environment.
God also often allows us to go through hostile situations, to test our faith, our fidelity, and our love. Do we go through this alone? No! He also gives us the necessary tools. Sometimes my neighbor is the voice of God in my life, and often I am the voice of God in my neighbor’s life. Let us remember that we are tools in God’s hands, that like Joseph, we must have unshakeable faith, be fair and know how to wait for God’s time!
For Reflection and Discussion: 1 When we are offended by someone, do we seek forgiveness or revenge? 2. How have I been an instrument of God in the lives of my neighbor, my community, family, and work? 3. Have I been giving testimony to my faith in my struggles or have I just lamented my situation?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965). Fernando Gross, O ciclo da Torah na sinagoga: judaísmo e Cristianismo. Ed. Loyola (São Paulo: 2014)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, Nds, Israel, ISPS-Ratisbonne Contributor