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Parashat Vayigash - 5775

My friends,

In this Parasha we have one of the most dramatic events in the life of the children of Jacob.

You will recall how in the preceding two portions, we read about the terrible situation in Jacob's household. Jacob's favoritism shown to Joseph led to jealousy and strife. Joseph added oil to the fire by sharing his dreams of becoming a ruler over them.

Instead of killing him, his brothers sold him to merchants who were heading to Egypt where he was sold as a slave. Jacob refused to be comforted about the loss of his beloved son, even though the brothers brought him Joseph's bloody coat, suggesting that he was eaten by a wild animal.

Twenty-two years later the brothers come down to Egypt to buy food. Unknown to them, Joseph is now a very important person in Egypt in charge of all food purchases. He recognizes them, but they do not recognize him. He accuses them of being spies and forces them to bring Benjamin to prove that they are all one big family. Before they are sent away, he has his goblet planted in Benjamin's sack and accuses him of stealing, demanding that he must stay as a slave.

Vayigash begins with Judah coming forward to plead for his brother Benjamin. It is one of the longest, uninterrupted speeches to be found in the Bible. Judah explains that he cannot return to Canaan without Benjamin, because his father will die if he sees that Benjamin is missing. Judah offers himself to stay as a slave instead of Benjamin.

Seeing his brothers' sorrow, Joseph can no longer control himself. He asks everyone to leave the room, except for his brothers, and when no strangers were present, he pronounces these words:

"I AM JOSEPH - IS MY FATHER STILL ALIVE?" (Genesis, 45:3)

The parasha continues: "The brothers could not answer him, because they were so DUMFOUNDED because of him."

There is a very important message for all humans in these two verses. If the brothers were so shocked when the truth was revealed - if twenty-two years of lying came to an end because of two words: "Ani Yosef" - "I am Joseph" - if they were forced to face the truth, ashamed and humiliated for what they have done - How much more so for each and everyone of us, when the day of judgment comes around.

The Midrash puts it this way: "Woe unto us from the Day of Judgment, when we appear before the Almighty and we hear the words, I AM G-D."

What will be our excuses? There are no excuses before G-d!

"Ani Yosef" - "I am Joseph" - should be before our eyes as we go about life. We hope that we will never be ashamed for our actions and the path of life that we follow.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram