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January 3, 2020
6 Tevet 5780

Parashat Vayigash
Genesis 44:18 - 47:27


Please join me as we say no to hate and fear and stand together, extending our arms to the larger Jewish community.  The time has come to stand together joined together in love and compassion, as ‘we pray with our feet." We will gather this Sunday, January 5, at 11am in Foley Square in lower Manhattan for a march across the Brooklyn Bridge followed by a rally in Columbus Park (near Cadman Plaza).  

 Contact me at for more information on how to join us.

Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portion, Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27), begins with Joseph and his brothers coming together as Joseph reveals himself to them after Judah offers himself as a hostage in lieu of their younger Benjamin. It is a complex reunion; the brothers are unsure of what to make of Joseph’s words telling them that their actions and his experiences were meant to be, so that he would be in a position to help his family when help was needed. These twelve sons from four different mothers, spanning quite an age range, are a family, bound together by history, circumstance, and belief.

Vayigash means “and he drew near” or “he came closer”. It is Judah who approaches Joseph and who takes on the role of leadership from among the brothers. The language makes me think of how one approaches an animal that one is unfamiliar with. Judah has no idea how Joseph will respond to his overtures, but he has to make them. He has to step forward, whatever the consequences may be. Judah has to do what is right this time around, having watched his father suffer all these many years believing that Joseph is dead, after Judah made the suggestion to sell their brother to a caravan. He cannot let Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother, be lost to their father as well.

I have an image of the tension in that room reaching a fevered pitch, only coming to a head when Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers. But the revelation does not mean that everything is forgotten. The brothers are forcefully reminded of their actions or inaction alongside the cistern so long ago. The past is made visible once more and, more than anything, there is a need to go forward.

This story of a fractured family mirrors our situation today. We live in a world fractured by suspicion and mistrust, unable to see what binds us together, always identifying that which separates us one from another. This is true not only in the Jewish community, but in the larger world as well.

Judah is a model for all of us as a person who learned his lessons the hard way. Even when you think you are in control, you really aren’t; there are always things that will come up and blindside you. So take the risk -- put your hand out, put yourself forward, and act out of kindness and caring -- not out of control, fear, and hate. The actions for us to keep in our hearts and in our minds is to draw closer to one another and to find as many ways as we can to build bridges with one another, sometimes taking large steps and other times taking small steps.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781