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Parashat Vayigash

December 22, 2023
10 Tevet 5784
Genesis 44:18 - 44:27

Dear Friends,

As we begin our approach to the end of the year, a year that has been fraught in so many ways, we have this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, "he approached" (Genesis 44:18 - 47:27). It is an extremely tense Torah portion filled with drama, courage, pain, and a measure of fear. However, it ultimately resolves with a family reunited and hope for a better future.

It begins with Joseph and his brothers coming together and Joseph revealing himself to them after Judah offers himself as a hostage instead of their younger brother Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother. The family dynamics are complicated with twelve brothers from four different mothers covering a wide age range. It could have blown up so easily. But both Judah and Joseph thought of their father. Neither one wanted to inflict more pain upon him, having believed for so many years that Joseph was dead.

Not wanting to inflict more pain. It seems so simple. To find common ground and to look for a solution - not the perfect solution, but a solution that all could live with - was the goal. Chesed, lovingkindness wins in this family interaction. Ultimately, they are thoughtful and caring - at the very least, Joseph and Judah are.

Lovingkindness is not something most of us see or experience on a regular basis, so that when we encounter it, we are surprised and feel a sense of blessing. A friend just experienced it when her father had a planned surgical procedure of long duration. In the hospital she encountered a caring, communicative environment where not only did the needs of the patient matter but those of the family as well, including having comfortable chairs in the waiting area.

Lovingkindness, chesed, can appear in many forms. It can require the kind of risk taking that Judah employed when he stepped forward to take the place of his younger brother. Even the Pharoah exhibits lovingkindness when he welcomes Jacob’s entire family to Egypt. It can be about simply being thoughtful and taking oneself out of the equation enough to see the others involved in a given situation, which both Judah and Joseph did.

As we prepare to enter 2024, may we be reminded that each of us carries within us a spark of the Divine light, giving each of us the opportunity to take the risk that Judah did in putting himself forward and the risk that Joseph took in forging new bonds with his brothers.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyyar 5784