Parashat Vayigash (And He Approached)
Beresheet (Genesis) 44:18–47:27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15–28
A year ago, I wrote about the amazing connection between the Parashah and Haftarah portions this week. As some of what I write in this week’s commentary will be a reminder of what I previously wrote, I want to stress the interesting connection to our Messiah that we find in both portions.
In Genesis 37:26-27 we read about Judah's suggestion to sell Joseph, instead of killing him:
And Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, and let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
While Judah may have saved Joseph life, his actions were still selfish as he (and his brothers) personally profited from selling Joseph. Furthermore, selling Joseph into slavery was not exactly an act of mercy. Slavery would have been a very harsh reality for Joseph, causing him much suffering, even possibly killing him in the end.
But that is not the focus of this week's Parashah. The reason I bring it up is that between that instance in Genesis 37 and this week's Parashah beginning in Genesis 44:18, we see a change of heart in Judah. Could it be that he felt remorse for selling Joseph and causing his father, Jacob, so much heartache as a result?
Our Parashah opens with the description of how Judah stood in his promise to Jacob to protect Benjamin, their baby brother, from harm. Judah makes this promise in Genesis 43:9:
I myself will take responsibility for him! You may demand him back from me. If I do not bring him back to you and present him to you, then you can let me take the blame forever.
As we learn from Genesis 44:1-17, Joseph deceived his brothers by instructing the overseer of his house to put the silver goblet in Benjamin's sack. Then, Joseph sends his overseer to catch the brothers and demand that the one who “stole” the silver goblet would become his slave. In a moving display, Judah offers himself as a replacement for Benjamin, his youngest brother (Genesis 44:33). Judah takes full responsibility for the promise he made to his father to protect Benjamin, and is willing to sacrifice himself in order to not cause any further agony to his father. Clearly, this is not the same Judah from Genesis 37 who sold his brother, Joseph, into slavery! Judah's actions move Joseph so deeply, which lead to the dramatic revealing of Joseph's true identity to his brothers.
In our Haftarah portion, we read of the time when the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph (who were divided into the Northern and Southern kingdoms) will be reconciled:
The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, “Now you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then put them together for yourself one to another into one stick, so that they may become one in your hand. And when the sons of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ say to them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “Behold, I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. And say to them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “Behold, I am going to take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations, and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their offenses; but I will rescue them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.”
It is important to note that the part of this prophecy with regard to the physical re-gathering of Israel to the Land is something that you and I are privileged to see and experience today! However, Israel today is still a divided land, and while we may not see the same ancient division between two kingdoms, there is a growing divide between the religious and secular Jewish people in Israel.
I personally believe this division will continue until we see the spiritual fulfillment of the prophecy from Ezekiel 37:15-28. In Ezekiel 37:24-28 we read:
And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes and follow them. And they will live on the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and My servant David will be their leader forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be among them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.
I began by stating that I believe this week's Parashah and Haftarah portions have a connection to our Messiah. The connection is that both Joseph and David are mentioned here with regard to reconciliation between the two people groups. As we learned, the story of Joseph is a reflection of that which is to come in the image of a suffering servant, who one day will reveal Himself to His brothers, i.e., the children of Israel. However, the Messiah is also described as the Son of David, a majestic King who will come and bring God’s sanctuary to be in our midst forever:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them”
Revelation (John's Vision) 21:3
I greatly look forward to this day!
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