Torah Reflections; Lessons in the weekly Torah portion and topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition

Torah Reflections from Torah Readers

Divrai Torah, weekly Torah portion summaries, lessons and essays on topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition.

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Parashat Vayigash

For the week of Sat 31st Dec 2022 - ז׳ בְּטֵבֵת תשפ״ג
Parashat Vayigash

Perfection and Perseverance

The differences between Joseph and Judah, his brother, couldn't be starker. Joseph the prince of Egypt, running an empire for Pharaoh; confident, powerful, a prodigy and a perfectionist. Judah a shepherd, poorly dressed scruffy a realist - willing to accept things as they are. The stark differences between these two shaped Judaism to this day

Did you know that...

According to the Midrash: 

The Egyptians spent all their money on the purchase of grain. When their savings were depleted, they sold their livestock to Joseph. In the second year of the famine they came to Joseph and said, "The only thing we still possess are our bodies and our land. In exchange for grain we will become your slaves and give you our property." Joseph then acquired all their fields for Pharaoh. After this the Egyptians assumed the status of mere tenants who farmed Pharaoh's property and gave him one fifth of their produce.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they took with them all the treasures of Egypt that belonged to their neighbors. How is it that they were able to take the treasures from the Egyptians who owed them nothing and not just from Pharaoh who had enslaved them?
The answer is that in reality, the entire land of Egypt and all its inhabitants and all its wealth belonged only to Pharaoh. During the famine Joseph acquired all these possessions for Pharaoh. He leased the land back to the inhabitants and allowed them to farm it for Pharaoh. Pharaoh remained the legal owner to whom the Egyptians had to give one fifth of their produce. The children of Israel were therefore entitled to take with them the treasures of their Egyptian neighbors because they belonged in reality to Pharaoh, their employer.

Parasha Summary

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This portion continues from last week's and focuses on the reuniting of Joseph and his brothers as well as Jacob's travel to Egypt and his reuniting with his favorite son, Joseph. Towards the end of the parasha there is a focus on the previous two years and Joseph's managing of the famine.

This portion continues from last week's and focuses on the reuniting of Joseph and his brothers as well as Jacob's travel to Egypt and his reuniting with his favorite son, Joseph. Towards the end of the parasha there is a focus  on the previous two years and Joseph's managing of the famine.

At the beginning of the parasha we find Judah confronting Joseph in the aftermath of the "stolen" chalice. Judah's final plea that he should remain a slave in place of Benjamin triggers Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers.

Joseph instructs his brothers to bring their father, Jacob to Egypt.  Pharaoh hears about the reuniting of the family and confirms that Jacob and the family should move to Egypt. Jacob wishes to be reunited with his favorite son, Joseph but first asks God for instructions. God reassures Jacob that he must go to Egypt in order to become a nation. The parash counts 70 souls who descend to Egypt.

Jacob and Joseph are reunited after 22 years (note the 22 years that Jacob was separated from his father, Isaac). The brothers and Jacob come before Pharaoh who blesses them.

The family settle in Goshen. The rest of the parasha details the previous two years and Joseph's efforts to manage the famine in Egypt.

Second Opinion

Opinions, Essays, Cultural Observances

A forgiving heart

Yosef forgave. That was a first in history. Yet the Torah hints that the brothers did not fully appreciate the significance of his words. He said, ‘It was not you but G-d.’ He told them their act had resulted in a positive outcome. But all of this was theoretically compatible with holding them guilty and deserving of punishment.

The Last Word

Social Religous, Cultural and Political Commentary

A listening heart

What is it that we can learn from Judah’s speech to Joseph? Joseph was not solely responsible for breaking up the family of Jacob, yet when he was able to make it whole again, he did nothing. It is the true measure of a great leader when they have an attentive, and open heart. For Joseph, as a child this was his nature but as an adult and a leader, this didn’t come naturally - why?
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