Vayigash – Taking Responsibility Then and Now

Baruch Gordon,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Baruch Gordon
Baruch Gordon founded the Arutz Sheva - website in 1995 and served as manager and News Director for its English Media Department for 14 years. Today he serves as Director of Development and Public Relations for the Israel Defense Forces Preparatory Academy in Bet El and Bet El Institutions. He also directs which offers countrywide tours of Israel. Baruch founded in Bet El a Smicha Program for working men, and received his smicha in 2014 from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Baruch served in the IDF Search and Rescue Unit. Born and raised in Memphis, he was elected International President of United Synagogue Youth in high school and soon after became religious while studying at Tufts University. Baruch resides with his wife Anat, a native Israeli, in Bet El and has 7 Sabra children and even more grandchildren. ...

The opening of this week’s parsha Vayigash is perhaps the most intensely emotional moment in the entire Torah. It is the moment of mending a huge rift in our nation. The huge rift between rivaling parties: the children of Leah vs. the Yosef and Binyamin, the children of Rachel.

Yosef, in disguise as the ruler of Egypt, framed his brother Binyamin who is now accused as the thief who stole Yosef’s silver goblet. The punishment came swiftly: Binyamin is doomed to slavery in Egypt and the other brothers are free to return to their father in Israel.

Yehuda now steps up to the plate and delivers a speech which will change Jewish history. He tells Yosef, listen to me carefully:

כי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת-הַנַּעַר, מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר:  אִם-לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ, וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל-הַיָּמִים.

I am the guarantor to my father for the welfare of this boy. I told him, If I don’t bring him back to you, I will have crossed you forever.

And now comes the ultimate taking of responsibility, the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate lesson in integrity. Yehuda insists with all the force of his personality:

וְעַתָּה, יֵשֶׁב-נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר--עֶבֶד, לַאדֹנִי; וְהַנַּעַר, יַעַל עִם-אֶחָיו. כִּי-אֵיךְ אֶעֱלֶה אֶל-אָבִי, וְהַנַּעַר אֵינֶנּוּ אִתִּי.

And now, I will remain as your slave in place of the boy, and the boy will return with his brothers.

Rashi explains that Yosef might have wondered, why is this brother, Yehuda, so forceful about the whole affair, much more than his brothers?

Rashi answers with these words: הם כולם מבחוץ – All the brothers are outside of this ultimate calculation. Even though they do care about Yosef and Binyamin and they came to Egypt to rescue Yosef who they assumed was still a slave, the question that must be asked is, Who is taking ultimate responsibility. Or in the words of US President Harry Truman, Yehuda was saying to the Egyptian ruler, “The buck stops here.”

Rashi explains that Yehuda said, נתקשרתי בקשר חזק – I bonded myself to this boy. I looked my father in the eye and said, “it’s my responsibility to bring him back to you.”

Rashi is teaching us that when you נתקשרתי בקשר חזק –bond yourself to something, you are living the full force of life. You are willing to completely sacrifice yourself for a lofty ideal. The other brothers would have returned to their father with great excuses about why Binyamin was left behind: “The ruler of Egypt spoke harshly with us. He’s a tough man. There was nothing we could do.”

Yehuda lives up to the responsibility that he took and is ready and willing to forfeit seeing his wife and family ever again, to forfeit all of his life aspirations and instead serve in slavery, all this in order to live up to his word and take responsibility for the welfare of his brother.

Up against such force of character and sterling integrity, Yosef breaks down crying, reveals himself to his brothers and the huge rift that tore apart the founding family of Am Yisrael was mended.

This is the difference between a life of mediocrity and life of depth and intense character development: who’s going to lose sleep when things go wrong? Who’s going to take responsibility and sacrifice himself?

Indeed, in the merit of this leadership, our tradition tells us that all future Kings of Israel must descend from the tribe of Yehuda.

We are all from the tribe of Yehuda. And In our day, there are many ways to express commitment to the Jewish People and take responsibility.

After thousands of years of wandering at the mercy of gentile governments, after our nation has been burned at the stake, expelled, and our properties confiscated, Hashem has finally graced the Jewish People with sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael.

Hashem has thrown the gauntlet before us. The one who picks it up, is the one who will alter his life plans, choose to live in Israel, and will serve, he and/or his children, in the IDF and be placed in a po‎sition of readiness to sacrifice his life for the Jewish State, a basic tenet of Judaism [Sefer HaMitzvot, Ramban at end of Mitzvot Ase, Mitzva 4].

And just like Yehuda, when one bonds himself with the ultimate bond to the Jewish People, he is imbued with force of personality, his character becomes that of a leader, and his life receives unprecedented depth and meaning on the highest of levels.

In the words of Rashi, הם כולם מבחוץ “All the others are left outside.”