Bits of Torah Truths, פרשת ויגש, Parashat Vayigash, The Requirements of Good Leadership


In this week’s Torah portion, we read the following in Bereshit / Genesis 44:26-32, 26 וַנֹּ֕אמֶר לֹ֥א נוּכַ֖ל לָרֶ֑דֶת אִם־יֵשׁ֩ אָחִ֨ינוּ הַקָּטֹ֤ן אִתָּ֙נוּ֙ וְיָרַ֔דְנוּ כִּי־לֹ֣א נוּכַ֗ל לִרְאוֹת֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָאִ֔ישׁ וְאָחִ֥ינוּ הַקָּטֹ֖ן אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אִתָּֽנוּ׃ We answered, ‘We cannot go down; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go down, for we may not show our faces to the man unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 וַיֹּ֛אמֶר עַבְדְּךָ֥ אָבִ֖י אֵלֵ֑ינוּ אַתֶּ֣ם יְדַעְתֶּ֔ם כִּ֥י שְׁנַ֖יִם יָֽלְדָה־לִּ֥י אִשְׁתִּֽי׃ Your servant my father said to us, ‘As you know, my wife bore me two sons. 28 וַיֵּצֵ֤א הָֽאֶחָד֙ מֵֽאִתִּ֔י וָאֹמַ֕ר אַ֖ךְ טָרֹ֣ף טֹרָ֑ף וְלֹ֥א רְאִיתִ֖יו עַד־הֵֽנָּה׃ But one is gone from me, and I said: Alas, he was torn by a beast! And I have not seen him since. 29 וּלְקַחְתֶּ֧ם גַּם־אֶת־זֶ֛ה מֵעִ֥ם פָּנַ֖י וְקָרָ֣הוּ אָס֑וֹן וְהֽוֹרַדְתֶּ֧ם אֶת־שֵׂיבָתִ֛י בְּרָעָ֖ה שְׁאֹֽלָה׃ If you take this one from me, too, and he meets with disaster, you will send my white head down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30 וְעַתָּ֗ה כְּבֹאִי֙ אֶל־עַבְדְּךָ֣ אָבִ֔י וְהַנַּ֖עַר אֵינֶ֣נּוּ אִתָּ֑נוּ וְנַפְשׁ֖וֹ קְשׁוּרָ֥ה בְנַפְשֽׁוֹ׃ “Now, if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us—since his own life is so bound up with his— 31 וְהָיָ֗ה כִּרְאוֹת֛וֹ כִּי־אֵ֥ין הַנַּ֖עַר וָמֵ֑ת וְהוֹרִ֨ידוּ עֲבָדֶ֜יךָ אֶת־שֵׂיבַ֨ת עַבְדְּךָ֥ אָבִ֛ינוּ בְּיָג֖וֹן שְׁאֹֽלָה׃ when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will send the white head of your servant our father down to Sheol in grief. 32 כִּ֤י עַבְדְּךָ֙ עָרַ֣ב אֶת־הַנַּ֔עַר מֵעִ֥ם אָבִ֖י לֵאמֹ֑ר אִם־לֹ֤א אֲבִיאֶ֙נּוּ֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְחָטָ֥אתִי לְאָבִ֖י כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים׃ Now your servant has pledged himself for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I shall stand guilty before my father forever.’ 33 וְעַתָּ֗ה יֵֽשֶׁב־נָ֤א עַבְדְּךָ֙ תַּ֣חַת הַנַּ֔עַר עֶ֖בֶד לַֽאדֹנִ֑י וְהַנַּ֖עַר יַ֥עַל עִם־אֶחָֽיו׃ Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 כִּי־אֵיךְ֙ אֶֽעֱלֶ֣ה אֶל־אָבִ֔י וְהַנַּ֖עַר אֵינֶ֣נּוּ אִתִּ֑י פֶּ֚ן אֶרְאֶ֣ה בָרָ֔ע אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִמְצָ֖א אֶת־אָבִֽי׃ For how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me? Let me not be witness to the woe that would overtake my father!” The differences in the attitude and behavior of his brothers for their younger brother, the one who was loved more than they were, has significantly changed. Notice how Judah states that he has bound his life to Benjamin (בנימין = “Son of the right side”), he says that he has pledged himself for the boy to guarantee his safety. Judah functions as a savior for his brother. The commentary Rabbeinu Bahya on Bereshit / Genesis 44:32:1-3 states, “for your servant has guaranteed the safety of the lad.” I have undertaken to be surety for him in a manner which is irrevocable and not subject to any redemption by substitution. If I fail to honor the terms of my guarantee all my brothers will remain within the family circle whereas I will be condemned to remain outside.” Notice the significance of these words Judah is speaking, his claim to save Benjamin is so great, that if he fails, he would have sinned against his father and against God for all time (Bereshit / Genesis 43:9, וחטאתי לאבי כל הימים). Could Judah be trying to make up for his past sins with his Brother Benjamin? Rabbeinu Bahya says Judah included both his biological father Jacob as well as his Father in heaven in this statement. He was basically saying that if he did not offer his own life for the boy’s life, he would be guilty of committing a wrong in both worlds. These words draw into context the power of the redeemer, the one who lays his own life down on behalf of the one he loves. There is a parallel here to what Yeshua the Messiah did on our behalf. Recently I have a conversation with someone who converted to Orthodox Judaism, he stated if a Jewish commentator does not say something in the way he believes (a presupposition), it is rejected as a valid interpretation of Scripture. (i.e. Rashi vs. Radak) In this case however, Rashi agrees in his commentary on Bereshit / Genesis 44:32 Part 1. Rashi states “כי עבדך ערב את הנער FOR THY SERVANT BECAME SURETY FOR THE LAD — Should you ask why I enter into the contest (champion his cause) more strongly than my other brothers — then I tell you: I have more to lose; they all stand outside the matter (are less concerned with it than I am), but I have placed myself under a firm bond to be an outcast in both worlds.” Judah spoke of being a guarantee for another person, and of giving life for a life. This is what Yeshua did for us! Note the significance of Judah’s words, that his guarantee for Benjamin is related to both worlds (this present world and the heavenly world [Olam Haba]). His liability for his brother was to be cast out of both worlds if he did not follow through with his oath to his father. This means that his punishment included not just this world but also punishment in the World to Come. The life of Joseph demonstrates God’s sovereign hand in the lives of mankind. The words of Judah also speak of the Lord’s sovereign hand working in the lives of his brothers. Though the world seems to follow a sinful course around us, God is secretly working out His purposes in the midst of it. This is one of the most important points we learn from the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph had been kidnapped and betrayed, sold into Egypt as a slave, falsely accused of attempted adultery and imprisoned in a dungeon. His life seemed to be at and end, however, Joseph continued to remain faithful to the God of his fathers. Even though everything had tumbled down around him, He kept looking to the Lord and believing that He was working through the chaos. He never fell into depression or despondency because he always believed that he was right where God had placed him.