Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vayigash / “and he drew near” B’reishit / Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

Vayigash / “and he drew near”
B’reishit / Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

This is one of the most intriguing portions of Scripture from me, be it in the Tanakh or the B’rit Chadashah.  When one looks at captivating in this portion, there are various episodes that lend themselves to that description.  Among the fascinating options are the following: Judah’s willingness to take Benjamin’s punishment upon himself, Joseph revealing himself to his brothers, and Jacob’s exodus to Egypt with his family.

My choice for enthrallment is an episode that is not mentioned in this parashah.  Because it is not mentioned, pure speculation may abound, but it still captivates me.  Who would not want to have been “flea on the donkeys” as the brothers went back to Canaan to tell their father that Joseph was still alive?

Several times the brothers have already mentioned that the situations they found themselves in in Egypt were as a direct result of what they had done to Joseph twenty-two years earlier.  However, those admissions were made before Benjamin joined the party heading for Egypt.  I can imagine Benjamin looking around at his brothers upon Joseph’s revelation and saying in his best Ricky Ricardo, “You got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.” 

How do the ten get themselves out of this mess with their youngest brother?  They better tell him straight out, no softening of the events can be given, for Joseph is right there.  Furthermore, their admission of guilt is also being told directly to Joseph.  “Well, Ben, it was a long time ago, and you are probably too young to remember, but…”   Actually, I figure that Benjamin is in his early thirties now, for when they make their final trek to Egypt it is revealed that he has ten sons.  So, maybe he wasn’t too young to remember.

Surely Joseph then reveals the details of his twenty-two year sojourn concluding  “Hey, guys, remember that dream about your sheaves gathering around mine and bowing down to mine?  Here we are in Egypt, the center of the earth, so to speak.  Who would’ve thought?  Well, I guess we all did, huh?”

What about the trip home?  I imagine there was quite a long spell of silence as they were all thinking not only of the events of the past day or so, but how does this change our relationship with Benjamin, from whom we have kept this hidden?  Oh yeah, the other thing had to have been rolling around in their craniums – who is going to tell Dad?  Here we go again, “we’ve got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do”.

Based on my estimates of distance and moving along the main highway along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, I figure it would have taken these eleven around four to seven days to get back home.  That is a significant amount of time to figure out who is going to tell Jacob, and how will the story be presented.  Again, they cannot whitewash their parts in the events of more than two decades previously, for not only does Benjamin know the whole story, but soon we will all be with Joseph, and the truth will certainly come out then.

Personally I think there are a couple good options for who told Jacob, but the one I am going to choose (until a better one comes along) is that Benjamin was the one who told the tale.  After all, he had no participation in the ugly deeds of yore.  Also, what if he was sent on ahead with the good news?  Jacob would know sooner that he was not bereaved of his youngest, and it would give Benjamin some time to calm their father down.

Regardless, I would not want to be one of the other ten when they arrived.  What is Dad going to say to them?  How awkward will their arrival be?  How long are they going to be recipients of the “silent treatment”?  At least on the trip back down they can each be with their families – staying out of Jacob’s sight, so to speak. 

Judah probably was the fortunate one on the way back, for he was sent ahead to let Joseph know they were on the way.  Judah, at least in the last several months, has shown himself to have the leadership qualities necessary for a patriarch, so it is no wonder that he was the one sent ahead.


I realize that there is nothing in what I have written this week that is directly from the Torah portion, but that does not mean that these thoughts should not be considered.  it seems very appropriate to me that we consider what we would have said or done in each of these situations.  Shalom to all of you.

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