In this week’s Torah portion, we learn how much the brothers have grown over the years. When Joseph sees his brothers, and his brother Benjamin, we read what Judah making a surety for his life by offering himself in place of his brother according to Bereshit / Genesis 44:31-33, לא וְהָיָה כִּרְאוֹתוֹ כִּי-אֵין הַנַּעַר וָמֵת וְהוֹרִידוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת-שֵֹיבַת עַבְדְּךָ אָבִינוּ בְּיָגוֹן שְׁאֹלָה: לב כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת-הַנַּעַר מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר אִם-לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל-הַיָּמִים: לג וְעַתָּה יֵשֶׁב-נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר עֶבֶד לַאדֹנִי וְהַנַּעַר יַעַל עִם-אֶחָיו: 44:31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 44:32 ‘For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’ 44:33 ‘Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. (NASB) Here Judah’s reasoning is saying, וְהוֹרִידוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת-שֵֹיבַת עַבְדְּךָ אָבִינוּ בְּיָגוֹן שְׁאֹלָה: “and your servants will be guilty of causing our aged father a sorrowful death.” This is a figurative way of accusing Joseph of causing his fathers premature death through the grief of his son. When Judah further states, כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת-הַנַּעַר מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר אִם-לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל-הַיָּמִים: he uses the word עָרַב meaning that he has made himself a surety, he has pledged his life for the boy. He goes on saying that his sin to his father will be כָּל-הַיָּמִים (all of the days = forever) which refers to both life in the terrestrial world and life in the hereafter (Rabbeinu Bahya, Bereshit 44:32, Parts 1-3). Notice how this concept is brought in context of the Shema by the words כָּל-הַיָּמִים in Devarim / Deuteronomy 6, which states, כד וַיְצַוֵּנוּ יְהֹוָה לַעֲשֹוֹת אֶת-כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְטוֹב לָנוּ כָּל-הַיָּמִים לְחַיֹּתֵנוּ כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה: saying, לְטוֹב לָנוּ כָּל-הַיָּמִים “for good for us all the days.” The Shema according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 6 speaks of our relationship with the Lord, to hear (Shema) and to listen to the Lord and His Word, to love him with all of our heart, mind, and strength. Could Judah have recognized his relationship with the Lord was at stake due to the sins of his past? All of his brothers certainly had a lot of time to think about this! Judah then offers himself on behalf of Benjamin in Bereshit / Genesis 44:33. Judah’s act of service to his father Jacob was to sacrifice his life for his brother. We note this sacrificial attitude is what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:1 from the sense of laying our lives down for others, as well as for God in heaven. In the Torah, the idea of a living sacrifice seems contradictory in terms, since the sacrifice was meant for death and the shedding of blood for atonement. The idea is that we remain living and the sacrifice takes the burden of guilt and death. Judah said, וְעַתָּה יֵשֶׁב-נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר עֶבֶד לַאדֹנִי וְהַנַּעַר יַעַל עִם-אֶחָיו that He would be עַבְדְּךָ “your servant” speaking to Joseph. Judah recognized his sin, and was willing to pay for his crime by his servitude. Our act of worship before God encompasses all of these concepts, what we say, what we look at, what we think, where we go with our feet, these things are what is meant from the Shema in Devarim / Deuteronomy 6. Our relationship with the Lord is to be sacrificial, giving up our sinful ways as Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:13-16.
Note today how often relationships in this world are in fact superficial. Most people put up a front or a mask to protect themselves, either they don’t want to be bothered, or simply don’t care. Another possibility is the projecting an image believing “I don’t really like who I am so I will pretend I am someone different.” This is something Judah and all of his brothers did for the last 15 years of their lives before their father Jacob. They watched his sorrow, and certainly believed as he said וְהוֹרִידוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת-שֵֹיבַת עַבְדְּךָ אָבִינוּ בְּיָגוֹן שְׁאֹלָה that this would bring his father’s head (grey hair, שֵֹיבַת) to the grave if his son Benjamin did not return. We consider these truths from the Torah, how do you think the Lord God Almighty feels when we sin or when going to church or synagogue projecting something that we are not? When we see governments or the media doing this we call it “spin.” In our relationships here in the terrestrial sphere, the sad reality is that typically two people do not really ever meet. This is the opposite of sincere love that Judah is demonstrating for us today and of what was going on in the early church according to Acts 4-5. We may note that if one is doing these things, projecting an image of one’s self that is not real, how often do you think this is happening in our relationship with God in heaven? When we believe upon Yeshua as the Messiah, and in what he had accomplished on our behalf, it is written that we receive the Holy Spirit of God to transform us from the inside out. It is unfortunate that at church and/or synagogue this kind of thing goes on all of the time in the lives of those who say they have God’s Holy Spirit in their hearts. What Judah is reminding us today is to seriously consider who we are and our relationship with God, and others. These scriptures are calling us to a completely new depth and authenticity in our relationships, and especially in our relationship with God! The significant point concerning these things is we are called to confess our sins before God, where putting up a false image of who we are is counter intuitive to this requirement for the forgiveness of sins!
The Scriptures we are looking at for this week are from Bereshit / Genesis 44:27-45:9.
ספר בראשית פרק מד
כז וַיֹּאמֶר עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי אֵלֵינוּ אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם כִּי שְׁנַיִם יָלְדָה-לִּי אִשְׁתִּי: כח וַיֵּצֵא הָאֶחָד מֵאִתִּי וָאֹמַר אַךְ טָרֹף טֹרָף וְלֹא רְאִיתִיו עַד-הֵנָּה: כט וּלְקַחְתֶּם גַּם-אֶת-זֶה מֵעִם פָּנַי וְקָרָהוּ אָסוֹן וְהוֹרַדְתֶּם אֶת-שֵֹיבָתִי בְּרָעָה שְׁאֹלָה: ל וְעַתָּה כְּבֹאִי אֶל-עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי וְהַנַּעַר אֵינֶנּוּ אִתָּנוּ וְנַפְשׁוֹ קְשׁוּרָה בְנַפְשׁוֹ: [שני] לא וְהָיָה כִּרְאוֹתוֹ כִּי-אֵין הַנַּעַר וָמֵת וְהוֹרִידוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת-שֵֹיבַת עַבְדְּךָ אָבִינוּ בְּיָגוֹן שְׁאֹלָה: לב כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת-הַנַּעַר מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר אִם-לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל-הַיָּמִים: לג וְעַתָּה יֵשֶׁב-נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר עֶבֶד לַאדֹנִי וְהַנַּעַר יַעַל עִם-אֶחָיו: לד כִּי-אֵיךְ אֶעֱלֶה אֶל-אָבִי וְהַנַּעַר אֵינֶנּוּ אִתִּי פֶּן אֶרְאֶה בָרָע אֲשֶׁר יִמְצָא אֶת-אָבִי:
ספר בראשית פרק מה
א וְלֹא-יָכֹל יוֹסֵף לְהִתְאַפֵּק לְכֹל הַנִּצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיִּקְרָא הוֹצִיאוּ כָל-אִישׁ מֵעָלָי וְלֹא-עָמַד אִישׁ אִתּוֹ בְּהִתְוַדַּע יוֹסֵף אֶל-אֶחָיו: ב וַיִּתֵּן אֶת-קֹלוֹ בִּבְכִי וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ מִצְרַיִם וַיִּשְׁמַע בֵּית פַּרְעֹה: ג וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל-אֶחָיו אֲנִי יוֹסֵף הַעוֹד אָבִי חָי וְלֹא-יָכְלוּ אֶחָיו לַעֲנוֹת אֹתוֹ כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ מִפָּנָיו: ד וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל-אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ-נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר-מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָה: ה וְעַתָּה | אַל-תֵּעָצְבוּ וְאַל-יִחַר בְּעֵינֵיכֶם כִּי-מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי לְמִחְיָה שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹהִים לִפְנֵיכֶם: ו כִּי-זֶה שְׁנָתַיִם הָרָעָב בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ וְעוֹד חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים אֲשֶׁר אֵין-חָרִישׁ וְקָצִיר: ז וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹהִים לִפְנֵיכֶם לָשֹוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדֹלָה: [שלישי] ח וְעַתָּה לֹא-אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹהִים וַיְשִֹימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה וּלְאָדוֹן לְכָל-בֵּיתוֹ וּמשֵׁל בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: ט מַהֲרוּ וַעֲלוּ אֶל-אָבִי וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אֵלָיו כֹּה אָמַר בִּנְךָ יוֹסֵף שָֹמַנִי אֱלֹהִים לְאָדוֹן לְכָל-מִצְרָיִם רְדָה אֵלַי אַל-תַּעֲמֹד:
Bereshit / Genesis 44:27-45:9
44:27 ‘Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 44:28 and the one went out from me, and I said, ‘Surely he is torn in pieces,’ and I have not seen him since. 44:29 ‘If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 44:30 ‘Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 44:31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 44:32 ‘For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’ 44:33 ‘Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 44:34 ‘For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?’ 45:1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 45:2 He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. 45:3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. 45:4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 45:5 ‘Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 45:6 ‘For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 45:7 ‘God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 45:8 ‘Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 45:9 ‘Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. (NASB)
Following the discussion that Judah had with his brother Joseph, we read that Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. Note how Joseph too was projecting an image of himself for the purpose of disguising himself before his brothers. However, because of Joseph’s relationship with the Lord, he revealed himself to his brothers, and he did not hold a grudge against them for what they had done. In fact, we read about his great faith in the God in heaven as he says the following according to Bereshit / Genesis 45:7-8, ז וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹהִים לִפְנֵיכֶם לָשֹוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדֹלָה: ח וְעַתָּה לֹא-אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹהִים וַיְשִֹימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה וּלְאָדוֹן לְכָל-בֵּיתוֹ וּמשֵׁל בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: 45:7 ‘God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 45:8 ‘Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (NASB) The commentary Or HaChaim on Genesis 45:8 Part 1 states the following concerning these Scriptures.
Or HaChaim on Genesis 45:8 Part 1
וְעַתָּה לֹא-אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה, “Now, you did not send me here, etc.” Joseph explained why he told the brothers not to worry that he still hated them for what they had done to him and how cruelly they had treated him. He implied that it was true that at the time he certainly had not understood why they could have harboured so much resentment against him; he had had reason to hate them for that; וְעַתָּה, now, things had become clear.
The rabbis say that Joseph still hated his brothers even though he had understood that it was God who orchestrated all of these things. We have to understand that sometimes it may take a long time for the pain of the hurt that had happened to us to go away and for us to be able to forgive others for the wrong that they had done. With the Lord’s help, by faith, trusting in God’s promises, and God’s Spirit in our lives it is possible to forgive. We note the obvious, Joseph had reflected on all that had transpired since his brothers had sold him. Joseph realized that all of these things, coupled to his dreams, that all of this has been part of an overall design by God Himself. His brothers were merely unknowingly God’s agents. Because of this, it would not of been appropriate to continue to feel hatred towards them. We note what Joseph said, וְעַתָּה לֹא-אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם, “and now it was not you who sent me.” Joseph is basically saying, now you have seen God’s purpose a purpose that could not have been achieved without all the various stages preceding it. This is why when we look back on our lives, we should not totally regret what has happened to us due to our life choices. Little do we know God’s over all plan. Most importantly, if it were not for our past, we would not be the people we are today. As we see in Joseph’s life, God had a plan and all of the events that had occurred were part of that plan! Now we read Joseph continuing saying the following, מַהֲרוּ֮ וַעֲל֣וּ אֶל־אָבִי֒ וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֣ם אֵלָ֗יו כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ בִּנְךָ֣ יוֹסֵ֔ף שָׂמַ֧נִי אֱלֹהִ֛ים לְאָד֖וֹן לְכָל־מִצְרָ֑יִם רְדָ֥ה אֵלַ֖י אַֽל־תַּעֲמֹֽד׃ Bereshit / Genesis 45:9 “Now, hurry back to my father and say to him: Thus says your son Joseph, ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me without delay.” (NASB) Joseph basically commanded his brothers to go to their father and tell them all that has happened. Joseph’s had a revelation of God’s plan saying, וְעַתָּה לֹא-אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם, “and now it was not you who sent me,” He basically said, now you have seen God’s purpose a purpose that could not have been achieved without all the various stages preceding it. Perhaps this empowered his brothers to consider these things and face their father with the truth. Jacob would be faced with the reality that his sons had caused him to mourn the loss of Joseph all of those years. According to the text, we do note the brothers had shame when they faced their father. Note again, all of the brothers had been projecting an image to their father, they projected a lie and maintained that lie for so many years, regardless of how Jacob felt. Isn’t this kind of what is going on when people today project an image, a lie about themselves how the Lord God in heaven feels?
In this week’s Torah portion, the only argument that would reconcile Jacob and his sons with what had happened was that it had become evident that God’s plan had been executed step by step. There was no point in second-guessing why and how God had brought all this about. The sages in Midrash Rabbah on Bereshit Parashat 86, Part 1 state that Jacob had originally been meant to descend to Egypt in chains according to the very first line in the Midrash.
Midrash Rabba on Bereshit Parashat 86, Part 1
וְיוֹסֵף הוּרַד מִצְרָיְמָה (בראשית לט, א), כְּתִיב (הושע יא, ד): בְּחַבְלֵי אָדָם אֶמְשְׁכֵם, אֵלּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, (שיר השירים א, ד): מָשְׁכֵנִי אַחֲרֶיךָ נָרוּצָה. (הושע יא, ד): בַּעֲבֹתוֹת אַהֲבָה, דִכְתִיב (מלאכי א, ב): אָהַבְתִּי אֶתְכֶם אָמַר ה’. (הושע יא, ד): וָאֶהְיֶה לָהֶם כִּמְרִימֵי עֹל, שֶׁרוֹמַמְתִּי צָרֵיהֶם עֲלֵיהֶם, כָּל כָּךְ לָמָּה (הושע יא, ד): עַל לְחֵיהֶם, בִּשְׁבִיל דָּבָר שֶׁהוֹצִיאוּ מִלְּחָיֵיהֶם, שֶׁאָמְרוּ (שמות לב, ח): אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְסוֹף (הושע יא, ד): וְאַט אֵלָיו אוֹכִיל, אֲנִי מַטֶּה עֲלֵיהֶם אֲכִילוֹת הַרְבֵּה, (תהלים עב, טז): יְהִי פִסַּת בַּר בָּאָרֶץ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, בְּחַבְלֵי אָדָם אֶמְשְׁכֵם, זֶה יוֹסֵף, (בראשית לז, כח): וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִן הַבּוֹר. בַּעֲבוֹתוֹת אַהֲבָה, (בראשית לז, ג): וְיִשְׂרָאֵל אָהַב אֶת יוֹסֵף מִכָּל בָּנָיו. וְאֶהְיֶה כִּמְרִימֵי עֹל, שֶׁרוֹמַמְתִּי צָרָיו עָלָיו, וְאֵיזוֹ זוֹ, זוֹ אֵשֶׁת פּוֹטִיפַר, כָּל כָּךְ לָמָּה עַל לְחֵיהֶם, בִּשְׁבִיל דָּבָר שֶׁהוֹצִיא מִלְּחָיָיו, (בראשית לז, ב): וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת דִּבָּתָם רָעָה אֶל אֲבִיהֶם. וְסוֹף וְאַט אֵלָיו אוֹכִיל, אֲכִילוֹת הַרְבֵּה.
Here the Midrash states, וְיוֹסֵף הוּרַד מִצְרָיְמָה (בראשית לט, א), כְּתִיב (הושע יא, ד): בְּחַבְלֵי אָדָם אֶמְשְׁכֵם, אֵלּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל “Joseph brought down to Egypt, as it is written, in the ropes of man I will draw you Israel.” This Midrashic interpretation suggests that Jacob would be drawn in chains to Egypt in fulfillment of God’s vision to Abraham. (Bereshit / Genesis 15:13) The Midrash goes on to say that Rabbi Simeon son of Yohai taught, where ever the righteous go the Shechina accompanies them. They give examples of Isaac when he descended to Gerar, a blessing went with him and as Isaac sowed in the land the Lord blessed him (Bereshit / Genesis 26:12). Another example they give is Jacob went down to Laban and a blessing went with him. Another example is Joseph went down to Potiphar and a blessing when with him as the text states that “the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s Sake” (Bereshit / Genesis 39:5, וַיְבָרֶךְ יְהוָֹה אֶת-בֵּית הַמִּצְרִי בִּגְלַל יוֹסֵף). The Midrash is reminding us of these things so that we remember no matter what happens in our lives, the Lord God Almighty is in control!
In conclusion, the lessons that Joseph and his brothers teach us is we can trust that the Lord is in control and that all things are in his hands just as we see in the life of Joseph. We do not have to fear being who we truly are before others. We do not have to worry and so project an image of ourselves for others to see. And we have to be very careful that we are not deluding ourselves and projecting to God an image of ourselves (believing the lie) that we are good people. The stark reality is that we are all in need of God’s Salvation, we need the savior Son of God Yeshua the Messiah! This is the plan God had laid out, that His Son would become the way in which we draw near to him, and facilitated by the indwelling of God’s Spirit in our lives to overcome the world! These things reveal to us why the Torah is the end goal, the Word of God is the very thing that leads us to faith in the Messiah Yeshua. (Romans 10:4)