Torah Portion: Vayigash (He Approached) (B’resheet) Genesis 44-47
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 37:15-28
This week we read of the meeting between Joseph and his brothers where he reveals himself to them after years of being separated. We read in Genesis 44:18 where Yehuda whispered in his ear and pleaded for his brother, even offering to take his place. Unlike years before when Yehuda came up with the idea of not killing Joseph but selling him into slavery. However, here we see Yehudah when faced again with such a choice, has a different reaction. He chose to basically give himself for his brother. This action by Yehudah had an immediate effect on Joseph.
In Genesis 45:1 we see Joseph restraining himself and sending everyone out of the room except his brothers and then breaking down in tears. He was moved by the declaration of Yehudah. Why? Maybe he saw that Yehudah had changed and was not the same as the man who had thrown him into the pit years before.
Joseph cries are so loud that the people who had been sent out of the room heard him. He held back until everyone had left then he cried. Why do you think he sent everyone out? Maybe he was concerned about how the people might react to his brothers once they knew what they had done to him. Maybe he was concerned about the feelings of his brothers. If we had stood in his place what would have been our reaction to these brothers?
Remember what had transpired they had sold him into slavery years before. His master’s wife had set him up and accused him of assault. He spent years in an Egyptian prison for a crime he did not commit, because his brothers sold him. How would we react? Better still, how do we react when wronged by someone? We would have expected Joseph to seek some level of revenge for what had happened to him through no fault of his own So first, what does scripture say about revenge? Lev. 19:18 “do not seek revenge.” Ezekiel 25:12 “Edam took revenge on Judah.” Romans 12:19 “never avenge yourself” Mark 11:25 to point out a few of many.
So what can we learn from the example of Joseph here and from the example of Yeshua in the New Testament? (Luke 23:34) We are not to seek revenge. What can we do to let things go from our past? The secret lies in Joseph’s answer to his brothers in Genesis 45:4-5. What is amazing about his response to his brothers? Joseph was able to see and understand that his life was in the hands of G-d. What his brothers had meant for harm to him G-d used for good, not only for Joseph but also for his family. Many times things come into our lives that we see as hurtful and cause us pain. However, we must hold on to the fact that G-d is in control. G-d has reasons that may not be evident to us. Our challenge is to not be discouraged or bitter but to hold on to Him knowing eventually it is for our good. If we can use every experience we go through to draw us closer to the Father then good can come of even the most painful events in our lives. If we can remember what happened to us is in the past and cannot be changed but the experience can be reframed. Joseph was able to not dwell on what the brothers had done to him but to look at how G-d used those events to change him and his future. He was able to keep his eyes on G-d and His future plans for Joseph and his family. To do this he had to let go of the hurt of the past.
This is so important for each of us to be able to learn from the present, to ask when something comes into our day that is distressing or disturbing, “What is G-d trying to teach me through this? How can I grow by having this experience?” Is it much easier to concentrate on the hurt or the action that distressed us. Joseph was able to do this with his brothers. He was able to look ahead, not behind. May we all be able to more and more each day, let G-d deal with us and bring us into His will each day, letting go of the hurts which will allow us to see G-d’s future he has planned for us.