This Shabbat’s reading is one of my favorite Torah Portions. The reading is from the Torah portion that is named in Hebrew Vayigash “and he approached.” The reading on Shabbat is from Genesis 44:18 – 47:27, from the prophets (Haftarah) Ezekiel 37:15 – 37:28. From the New Testament we read Luke 6:9-16.
This Torah portion is probably one of the most dramatic and interesting Torah portions in relationship to the book of Genesis. Yes, the first Torah portion, Bereshit (Genesis), is the most important text in the whole Bible, but this one, Vayigash is the most dramatic. Right from the opening statement of the text (Genesis 44:18). Judah, yes the same Judah who suggested that the brothers don’t kill Joseph in the Valley of Dothan, but sell him to the Ishmaelite’s is now approaching Joseph.
It is on Judah’s initiative and he volunteers information and he is willing to incarcerate himself in Egypt in order to free Benjamin and send him home back to Canaan and to Jacob his father. You could say that Judah repents and is willing to take Benjamin’s place in the Egyptian jail in order to save Jacob from deep grief and to insure Benjamin’s wellbeing. This is the verse that starts the drama of this week’s portion:
“Then Judah came near to him and said: ‘O my Lord, please let your servant speak a word in my Lord’s hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh.’” – Genesis 44:18 [NKJV]
I would have loved to be there with Joseph and to see Joseph’s face after hearing Judah’s words. You see the important part of this encounter between Joseph and Judah teaches me that people can change.
It teaches me that just because a person made some big mistakes it does not mean that he doesn’t have a conscience. It teaches me that in every one who walks on two legs, and can talk and think and imagine, there is the bad inclination and also there is a good inclination.
The challenge that we all have is the same challenge that Judah had It is the challenge to own up to our mistakes and evil deeds and reverse the evil by doing good, owning up to our mistakes and evil inclinations and doing good.
Yes, Judah does it, and he now volunteers information about Jacob, his father, and Joseph’s father. This information will melt Joseph’s heart and force him to repent too and confess what he has been hiding from his eleven brothers. Judah states in front of Joseph:
“For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my Lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” – Genesis 44:32-34 [NKJV]
These words of Judah to Joseph are an indication of the following developments that have taken place in Judah’s heart after the incident of Joseph disappearing from the well:
- Judah understood the seriousness of that vain hate that he and the other brothers had against their younger brother Joseph. He understood that it was wrong.
- Judah knows how important Joseph and Benjamin are to Jacob who loved these two children from Rachel more than the other children, because Jacob loved Rachel more and because Rachel’s two boys came after a miraculous response from God to Rachel’s prayers for sons.
- Judah loved Jacob his father very deeply and didn’t want to cause Jacob more grief, like he and his brothers did after Joseph disappeared.
- Judah now was willing to be responsible and a grantor for his brother Benjamin and take his place in the Egyptian prison. Judah was willing to sacrifice his own freedom and guarantee Benjamin’s safe return home to Jacob’s house. Judah now understands what it means to be a true brother!
This show of a kind of repentance on Judah’s part and the show of the deep concern and love that Judah has for his father Jacob, and for Benjamin his younger brother, melted Joseph’s heart and helped him confess and say: “I am Joseph your brother!”
I have seen movies of the story of Joseph and plays and musicals, but I have not seen a stage even of the best actors that has or could capture that moment where Joseph asks all the Egyptians to leave the room and says to his brothers: Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still well?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dumfounded were they, on account of him.
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph; does my father still live?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come near to me.’ So they came near. Then he said: ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.’” – Genesis 45: 3-5 [NKJV]
Joseph knows that the natural reaction of the brothers would be great fear, fear of retribution for the evil that they did to Joseph their brother. So, Joseph immediately makes it clear to his brothers that he has no intention to pay them back for the evil that they had done to him.
In fact, Joseph does not know that they didn’t actually succeed to sell him, but that the Midianites plucked him out of the well and took him and sold him as a slave in Egypt. Joseph is still under the impression that it was the brothers who made all this plan and they sold him to slavery in Egypt.
“So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and Lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:8 [NKJV]
What a wonderful way for Joseph to interpret his years of prison and years of being a slave in the house of Potiphar in Egypt. My name is Joseph and I am named after my grandfather whose name was Joseph, and my great grandfather’s name was Joseph. But, I can confess that I didn’t inherit that grand trait and character of Joseph the son of Jacob to see in all my trials and tribulations the hand of God to turn suffering and bitterness to joy and privilege for the sake of Israel and the Kingdom of God.
If early in my walk with the Lord, I had had the understanding of what the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul’s pen really mean, I believe that I could have done more and been happier with all the health difficulties in my family and with all the challenges of the calling to be a teacher of Yeshua in this land of Israel and in the city of Jerusalem.
Here are the words of the apostle Paul, words that the story of Joseph in Egypt demonstrated better than any other story in the Bible:
“Now He who searches the hearts [The Messiah Himself] knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” – Romans 8:27-30 [NKJV]
The connection of the words of Paul and the story of Joseph in my mind is very strong. You see we learn from the story of Joseph that the path of some people’s life is predetermined, not for salvation but for their part in history. We see this in the life of Moses, and Jeremiah the prophet, and King David, and Yeshua himself, and Joseph the son of Rachel and Jacob. There are people who are created and chosen for a day in history, for a moment that changes destiny, not only for themselves (and not always for their own ease and good life), but for the history of mankind.
This is true for so many different characters in biblical history but also in secular history (if there really is such a thing as a secular history). People like Theodor Herzel, and David Ben-Gurion, and General McArthur in World War II. One can add so many men and women that changed human history by one small step and sent mankind on a very long journey.
What was common in all these characters that God has chosen to do a job, to take a challenge and catapult their nations and human history to a totally different plane? Yes, Joseph understood this was his role and he didn’t look back with regret for all the trouble and the years in the Egyptian jail, and the hate that he experienced.
I knew people like Joseph son of Jacob, in my own days here as a disciple of Yeshua. I knew Jewish disciples of Yeshua who suffered persecution, depravation, even hunger and illness, but that put their calling above their own comforts and pleasures for the sake of the King and His Kingdom.
These are people who were not sad when they suffered abuse by their fellow Jews, but like Yeshua said: They rejoiced for the privilege of taking a little of the cross in their own lives.
This comes from the faith that is deeper than the ocean,
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
I never envied those who are wealthy with the wealth of this world. I never envied those who like the wealthy man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus had all that they wished to have.
I have envied poor Lazarus because although dependent on the rich man’s charity to give him the crumbs off his table, Lazarus inherited eternal life in the bosom of Abraham. Joseph the brother that was hated by his own brothers, rejected and despised, like Yeshua himself, ends by being their savior and redeemer.
The day will come here in Jerusalem that Yeshua will stand in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and lift up His hands and lift His shirt out of his pants (to show his wounds) and say, “I am Yeshua your brother!”
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20 [NKJV]
May I and you live long enough to see Yeshua’s return to Jerusalem and stand and speak in the Israeli Knesset, our parliament, and reveal Himself to the people of Israel and to the world as a true Jew, son of Abraham son of David!
At that moment all of Israel, all the rabbis and all the secular Jews and ultra-Orthodox Jews will fall down and worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! The presence of the Lord will fill the Knesset and the eternal light will shine form Jerusalem to the ends of the Earth.
Isaiah chapter 2 and chapter 66 will be fulfilled and the heavenly Jerusalem will descend from heaven and just swallow up this Jerusalem and all will be renewed and remodeled in an instance to accommodate the millions who will come to prostrate themselves at the feet of that Jew, born in Bethlehem, who died and was resurrected in Jerusalem, and is seated at the right hand of God, waiting for more than 2000 years for the marching order of the Father, “Now Son, this is Your day, the day that You too My son can rejoice and be glad in it with all of Israel and Your disciples around the world!”
Yes, just as Joseph didn’t know the day that he would reveal himself to his brothers, Yeshua also doesn’t know, but we are waiting and He is waiting, be sure my brothers, that moment is coming!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.