Vayechi: It's Payback Time

Reacting to intractable, unrepentant evil.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

As Sefer Bereishit comes to an end, so does the amazing saga of Yosef and his brothers. After Yaakov's death,
It is certainly not politically correct today to speak about revenge. But it is Jewishly correct.
the brothers fear that Yosef will exact vengeance upon them for what they did to him. The pasuk says: "Perhaps Yosef will return upon us the evil we did to him."

Rabbi Leff points out that while the word lu in the pasuk can mean "perhaps," it also has the connotation of hal'vay, "if only." Read that way, the pasuk would say: "If only Yosef will return upon us the evil we did to him." Now, why would the brothers want Yosef to seek revenge upon them?

Rabbi Leff answers: Deep down, the brothers sought forgiveness for their crimes; and subconsciously desired for their sins to be expiated, even if that necessitated them being punished.

Okay, that works for the the brothers. But what about Yosef HaTzadik? Why would he seek vengeance? Isn't the desire for revenge a very negative trait, always to be avoided?

"No!" says Rabbi Leff. "Chazal tell us that 'vengeance is great,' for it is put between two names of G-d (kayl nekamot HaShem - 'G-d is a G-d of vengeance' - found in the psalm we say every Wednesday morning). Revenge is a vehicle to even the score with evil and balance out the seeming benefit accrued by evil means. Vengeance shows that crime does not pay and that justice prevails."

It is certainly not politically correct today to speak about revenge. But it is Jewishly correct. If G-d is all-powerful and all good, then there must come a reckoning that somehow "balances the books" and sets the record straight. The greatest Chilul HaShem is when G-d is perceived as powerless in the face of evil and the good suffer with no respite. Punishing evil, however, is pure Kiddush HaShem.

This is precisely what Moshe argued before HaShem during the horrific suffering in Egypt: "How can we reconcile a G-d of mercy with unadulterated evil?" G-d's answer: Retribution will come - have no fear - but only when G-d deems it appropriate.

For years, we in Israel have tolerated an evil entity in our midst. Hamas has blown up school buses, shot babies in
Good must vanquish evil.
their cribs, murdered our captured soldiers. When we foolishly handed Gaza to these terrorists and naively begged them to become our peaceful neighbor, they used every second and every shekel to arm themselves to the teeth so they could kill as many people as possible. Seven-thousand deadly rockets later, we are finally reacting to that intractable, unrepentant evil.

Parshat Vayechi is unique in that it is a stuma, a "closed" sedra that has no open spaces before it. Chazal tell us that the open spaces allow for examining and interpreting the lessons just learned, or those to follow. What is unfolding now, in this unique moment in history, is a lesson of ultimate value: good must vanquish evil, and injustice must be answered by justice - and revenge.