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Judah

(This d'var torah/original midrash is based on the content of last week's parashah, Vayigash (the reunion of Joseph with his brothers and later with Jacob) and this week's parashah, Vayhi (Jacob's death).)

This week is parashat Vayigash In this parashah, Joseph and his brothers have a tearful reunion. After testing and tricking his brothers (see last week's d'var Torah) Joseph is finally forced to reveal himself. This takes place after he takes Benjamin into custody for "stealing" his silver chalice and telling the other brothers that they will have to leave without Benjamin. Judah's response to this is to remind Joseph that their father will die if they return Benjamin and to offer himself in Benjamin's place. When this happens Joseph's facade cracks and he orders all of his guards and servants to leave the room. He then reveals himself and cries so loudly that it can be heard throughout the palace.

It seems clear that Judah's actions triggered within Joseph and extreme reaction. After all that has happened Judah makes it clear to Joseph that he and his brothers have changed. Though they were more than willing to bereave their father by selling Joseph into slavery and maintaining the ruse that he had been killed, they were not willing to do so now. Specifically, in our text, Judah is not willing to play the game any more. He is now ready to take responsibility and to put his own life on the line to save his brother -- and to save their father from more heartache.

As Yehudim/Jews we are descendant, at least metaphorically, from Yehuda/ Judah. And so the authors of the Torah put the best face possible on our namesake in this story. But besides protecting his father and his youngest brother what Judah does is allow Joseph to reveal himself and to cry. And Joseph cries tears that seems to have been stored up inside of him for years. Just as Joseph made certain that Egypt would store grain during the seven years of plenty in order to provide during the seven years of famine, so he stored up his own tears throughout those years. As he oversaw Egyptian society he pushed aside his own feelings and emotions. He gathered them as the people gathered the corn and stored them up in the storehouses of his mind and his heart. Judah's actions allowed him to open up the storehouses and let his tears flow.

Tradition teaches that the Messiah will come from the house of David which is also part of the house of Judah. It also teaches that the Messiah of David will be preceded by the coming of the Messiah of Joseph. Though we take all of this as metaphor I believe that there is an important message in light of this week's parashah. For just as it is Judah that allows Joseph to show his true self it the Messiah of Joseph who will allow the Messiah of David (Judah) to show his/her true self. The relationship of Judah and Joseph that begins as contentious in the end becomes one of mutual respect, admiration and, ultimately, interdependence.

May this be serve as a a model for all of us who might be estranged or distanced from family members. May we remember that in reality, in most cases, we are actually dependant on one another. And may we find what it takes to help us to open up the storehouses of tears and laughter that is within us so that we can let our emotions flow and find our way back to one another.
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah