Parashat Vayigash (and he drew near)

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Vayigash – “and he drew near” – (Genesis 44:18 to 47:27) starts by describing how Judah came to appeal on behalf of Benjamin to the Egyptian Vizier who he did not yet know was Joseph. He explains how they brought Benjamin with them much against their father’s wishes. Their father had two sons by his wife and the first was already dead. If they returned home without the other the father would die of a broken heart, so the life of Benjamin and the life of their father were closely intertwined

Joseph can’t wait any longer. He orders all his servants to leave. ‘I am Joseph’ he tells them ‘Don’t you remember, the one you threw into a pit?’ The brothers are speechless. They are also terrified because Joseph is now in a position to exact merciless revenge. But Joseph reassures them and invites them to draw near. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” he says. It was all part of God’s plan to save many from starvation.

They have a tearful reunion and Pharoah is pleased that Joseph has been reunited with his brothers. Joseph then tells his brothers to hurry back to Canaan and fetch their father, Jacob.

When they return they tell Jacob that Joseph is alive and is the ruler of Egypt.  He thinks they are making it up, but when they see the wagons sent by Pharoah his spirit reviews and Jacob himself determines to go down to see Joseph before he dies. On the way, God appears to Jacob in a dream and tells him not to be afraid to go down to Egypt since He will make Jacob’s descendants a mighty nation there. Jacob and his family settle in the land of Goshen, a fertile part of Egypt.

The famine continues and when they run out of money, the Egyptians sell their land to Pharaoh to buy food, and then they sell their flocks as well, so Pharoah owns the whole land of Egypt.

When sowing could start once again, Joseph is able to supply seed back to the people, but they had no land of their own. With the exception of the lands of the Egyptian priests the whole of Egypt belongs to Pharaoh

Israel prospered and become numerous in the land of Goshen.

Haftarat Vayigash                               הפטרת ויגש

The Haftarah associated with this Parsha is Ezekiel 37:15 -28. The prophet looks forward to a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah will be joined once again. God tells Ezekiel to take two sticks, one for Joseph and one for Judah. Ephraim and Manasseh comprise the tribe of Joseph and Ephraim is by far the most influential tribe in Israel, and so Ephraim is often used to describe Israel. Ezekiel looks forward to a time when the Kingdoms will be reunited under the rulership of King David.   The connection between the Torah and Haftarah this week is the reference to Joseph.

Messianic Message 

The tearful reunion of Joseph and the brothers who rejected him is a foretaste of the great outpouring of grief that will be displayed by our people when Messiah returns.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit[a] of grace and supplication. They will look on] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 

 Zechariah 12:10-12 (NIV)

One of the reasons Joseph’s brothers could not recognize him is that he was dressed in Egyptian clothes. Presenting Yeshua to our people dressed as a Jew in his native clothing has to be one of the chief aims of the Messianic movement.

The prophecy of the reuniting of Israel and Judah has not yet come to pass. Today we assume that Jews today come from the Kingdom of Judah so must be either from the tribes of Judah Benjamin or Levi. Israel succeeded from the house of David when Jeroboam rebelled against Rehoboam’s harsh tax regime. When Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 BCE, they were gone for good unlike Judah who came back at the invitation of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple after its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. However, before the destruction of the second Temple in the year 70 CE there must have been many of the tribes of Israel who had come back to Judea. One of these would have been the family of the prophetess Anna who we are told was of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36).

None of us can therefore be sure what tribes are in our ancestry. The records were all lost with the destruction of the Temple. Ezekiel’s prophecy will come to pass when all tribes will be reunited under the rulership of Yeshua the Messiah from the House of King David.

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website, December 10, 2021, and reposted with permission.