A changed life
Vayigash (And He Approached) B’resheet/Genesis 44:18-47:27
Haftorah Readings: Ezekiel 37:15-28
This week we read of the reunion of the sons of Jacob with their brother Joseph. We also read of the eventual settling of the people in Egypt. There they would spend hundreds of years as slaves before G-d would send Moshe to bring them out and lead them to Israel.
There are many questions that arise in our reading this week. However, we will look at only a couple. I pray we all can grasp how things unfolded in this family’s story and what we can learn from these events. When we read Genesis 45:5-7 we see how Joseph was able to see the hand of G-d in the things that had happened to him over the last years. He understood G-d had a plan and purpose to what he had suffered. G-d always has a purpose, a plan. That plan may involve discomfort or even suffering on our part. Our challenge is to hold on, to be faithful, to continue on and not give up or lose our faith.
Now on to my question for the week. Do you gauge a person by their mistakes or by their response to those mistakes? When we look at Joseph and Judah, over the last few weeks of reading, and apply my question to each of them, which of these two had the greatest impact on the future of the Jewish people and why? What can we learn from this?
Joseph is the central character of at least the last nine chapters of Torah. We see him emerge as a leader, not letting events drive him to despair. We have also seen Judah in these chapters. We see him as the brother who proposed selling Joseph to the Midianites (Genesis 37:26-27). He is described in Genesis 38:1 as “going down,” intermarrying with Canaanite women, losing two of his sons because of sin, going into a prostitute, who unknown to him was his daughter in law. This is not a pretty picture of a man, but of a man on a moral decline.
Yet, as we read on in scripture, we see a man whose descendants became kings over Israel, including the greatest king, King David. The tribe of Judah traveled at the forefront as Moshe led the people out of Egypt. The tribe of Judah survived the Babylonian conquest and the Jewish people still bear his name as Yehudim.
When we look at Joseph we see the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The descendants of these two sons disappeared after the Assyrian conquest in 722 BCE, not to be heard of again.
In our portion we see Judah’s interaction with Joseph. He went to Joseph and spoke in his ear. In Genesis 44:33-34 after Joseph announced he was going to hold Benjamin hostage when the brothers returned to Canaan. Judah then told Joseph he was ready to give himself in place of his brother, Benjamin. This broke Joseph and he revealed his true identity to his brothers. Remember, the last time he had seen Judah was when he was taken away by the slave traders years before. But now he realized Judah had changed.
We were given a hint of this change in Judah in Genesis 38:26 when he said of Tamar, “She is more righteous than I.” This is the first time in Torah we read of a person admitting they were in the wrong. Even the Hebrew root of his name Judah has as one of its meanings, “to confess.” (Lahitvadot)
What can we learn from all this? We all make mistakes. We all sin. There was only one perfect One and it was not us. The important thing is what do we do with that sin. Judah’s life teaches us the importance of confession. But also to live out that confession by living differently and not repeating the same mistakes over and over. It is true that when we see that we have sinned and confess that sin, sometime in the future the opportunity will arise to repeat that same sin. It is at that moment we must remember our confession and do something different, do the right thing.
Here in our portion we see the result of that. When faced with another opportunity to save his brother Judah chose the correct path. When Joseph saw the change in Judah it touched him deeply. In scripture we read of two kings of Israel, David and Shaul. Both of these men sinned. Both confessed their sin. However, the outcome was different. David confessed immediately while Shaul made excuses for his actions before he finally confessed. Shaul lost the throne. David did not.
In our lives, as G-d’s people, we will have times when we fall short. The issue is what do we do next. When we look at ourselves we must look honestly and without excuses. Do we try to rationalize our actions or do we come to the Father admitting, confessing our sin and committing to not repeat it again. G-d is always ready to accept us when we confess our sins. He is ready to forgive us and restore us. However, our lives must reflect the evidence of a changed life. We are a new creation.
We can see this over and over in the Messianic scriptures when we read the words of Yeshua. He spoke to the woman taken in adultery. First He confronted her accusers and they faded away. He then told the woman, “Go and sin no more.” John 8:11
Our lives have been changed. We live this out every day when we do stumble G-d is ready to forgive. We exhibit that forgiveness by not returning to what we were. We are changed.