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Parashat Vayigash - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat we read he portion of Vayigash. It is one of the most dramatic events in the Torah related to Jacob's children (Joseph and his brothers) until their exile to Egypt where they would subsequently be enslaved and remain there for hundreds of years.

Vayigash relates the final confrontation between Joseph and his brothers. After being accused of stealing Joseph's special goblets, all the brothers (including Benjamin) are brought back before Joseph. Joseph wants to keep Benjamin in prison and allow the rest to return to their homes. "Vayigash elav Yehudah" - "Judah approached him" - Judah walked up to Joseph and delivered one of the most moving speeches found in the Bible. Judah appeals to this man's conscience and compassion, telling him that his elderly father will surely die if Benjamin does not return with them. Joseph could no longer control himself after hearing Judah and he reveals himself to them by saying 5 words:

"Ani Yosef. Haod avee Hai?" - "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" (Chapter 45, verse 3)

Verse 4 tells us, "But his brothers could not answer him because they were dumfounded."

The Talmud in Tractate Hagigah tells us that when Rabbi Eliezer would read this verse, he would begin to cry, saying, "If the brothers were so frightened and startled when Joseph said 'I am Joseph' and could not give a simple answer of 'yes', how much more so it would be on the Day of Judgment, when each and everyone of us is asked, "What kind of life did you lead?"

This story should teach us to do our best in living a life of kindness and compassion. Vayigash is about reconciliation and forgiveness between the brothers.

This Shabbat we will remember the life of Nelson Mandela - a man who could have avenged his jailers and those who practiced apartheid against his people. Instead, he put to practice reconciliation and forgiveness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram