is so much in this portion that could lead in so many different
directions, but instead of going into really deep concepts this week, I
wanted to simply explore the part of this story that really touched me
and see where we end up.
This portion begins with the encounter between Joseph and Judah. We find Judah offering himself as a slave instead of Benjamin, his youngest brother.
Throughout this story until Joseph reveals himself, it seems as if he (Joseph) is testing his brothers to see if they have truly changed over the years. Remember, it was Judah who suggested that the brothers sell Joseph into slavery rather than leave him for dead.
Joseph tested his brothers with exactly the same situation, as it had been when they sold him, except this time it was in a different setting. Would Judah and the brothers sell another of their kin as a slave?
This story turns out different than the first. This portion is named “Vayigash—And (Judah) approached.” In this story we see Judah placing himself as defender, interceder and spokesman on his younger brother’s behalf. This time Judah is not going to sell his brother or allow his brother to go into slavery. The Sages tell us that in this instance Judah approached and wasprepared to do one of three things. He came prepared to battle, to reconcile, or to entreat. In other words, he came prepared to ensure his brother Benjamin returned home safely. Judah was prepared to do whatever was necessary to protect his little brother.
Before Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt a second time, Judah guaranteed to his father (Jacob) that he would take care of Benjamin. He said, “I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.”
Judah became the Guarantor for Benjamin. He placed himself in the position to “stand in the gap” for his brother. It was a commitment he made to his father. He had made the decision beforehand, that no matter what, he was going to take care of his brother.
Just as Judah became the Guarantor for his brother, Yeshua also became the Guarantor for the entire world.
Rabbi Nati writes in his article, “The Tzadik Emet – Part 3” “It says in the Holy Zohar, Hashem asked Moshiach ‘should I make the world or not? Because man will rebel against me!’ Moshiach said, “put it all on me I’ll pay the debt”.
(Hashem stands for God’s name and Moshiach means Messiah in Hebrew…)
The Messiah (Yeshua) told God, “even though mankind will rebel against You, make the world, I’ll pay the debt in their stead.”
Isn’t this what Yeshua did? Was this not His main purpose for coming? He came to restore the world back to God! He didn’t have to do it, as He says in John 10, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” He gave Himself up and made Himself “…[the] surety (guarantee) of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7) A covenant that brings life to all the nations, starting with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 31)
Judah standing in the gap for his brother Benjamin is a perfect mini-picture of the “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2) As it says in Romans 8, “Who is he who condemns? It is Messiah who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Yeshua is in the heavenlies making intercession even now for the world. He volunteered to pay the debt of mankind.
This is how we should be in our own daily lives. We ought “to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2) We are to make intercession for others and stand in the gap, just as Yeshua did and does for us. The Talmud, in Shevuot 39, tells us, “Kol Yisrael Aravim Zeh L’zeh—All of Israel are Guarantors, One to Another.” We can learn from this quote. We should stand in the gap for each other and even for the world, just as we see Avraham Avinu—Abraham our father—and his example to us in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Judah pled for his brother Benjamin’s sake, Yeshua pleads on all of our behalf, and so, we too, plead and intercede for the world and the people around us.
At the moment Joseph realizes his brothers have changed, he can’t withhold himself anymore. He can’t play bad-cop anymore. He is beginning to break down in front of his brothers. He sends everyone out of the room, even the interpreters, because until that time he had spoken to his brothers through interpreters. He cries out to his brothers in Hebrew, “Ani Yosef!?—I am Joseph!” After some 20 years being separated from his family, the whole clan of brothers is reunited in one of the most amazing stories of all time!
Judah and Joseph are reunited, reminding us again of the picture of Messiah son of Joseph and Messiah son of David. These two revelations of Yeshua (Joseph and David) are what we await in the coming days. Ezekiel 37, which is the corresponding reading from the prophets for this Torah Portion, speaks of the two sticks, Judah and Ephraim (or Israel) being joined together as one stick. In verse 17, God tells Ezekiel, that these two sticks, when joined together “…will become one in your hand.” The normal way to say “one” in Hebrew would be “Echad.” But in this verse it says “Echadim” which is a plural of the word “one.” How can you have a plural of the word “one?”
What we understand from this verse is the idea that even though there will one day be unity between the House of Ephraim (Israel/Joseph) and the House of Judah, there will still be a distinction between their purposes and missions to accomplish. The unity will come from each man knowing his place in God’s great master-plan.
It is the same story with Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David—Messiah son of Joseph and Messiah son of David. Though these different roles are accomplished by one character, Yeshua, the mission/assignment of Messiah son of Joseph is different from Messiah son of David. This is why it goes on to say in Ezekiel 37, that when the House of Ephraim (Israel/Joseph)—Messiah son of Joseph, is joined to the House of Judah—Messiah son of David, then “…I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King over them all.”
It is at this time that these roles will become one (no more plurality) when the nation is back in the land, “on the mountains of Israel…” and then Melech Mashiach—King Messiah can reign. When the Nation of Israel and the King of Israel become “echad.”
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. “Ani Yosef!?—I am Joseph!” He cries as he embraces his brothers and weeps on their necks. In verse 2 of chapter 45 it tells us that, Joseph’s weeping was heard “in Egypt.” As in, all of Egypt heard the cries of Joseph as he was reunified with his brothers.
Remember, Joseph is a perfect picture of the life of Messiah son of Joseph…Who as we’ve learned before, was Yeshua at His first coming. So if Joseph and Yeshua share a common identity…where do we see Yeshua weeping during His time of ministry here on earth? We specifically find Yeshua weeping in two instances. He weeps at the death of Lazarus (John 11) and He weeps over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19). Yeshua weeps over Lazarus, a man, and he weeps over Jerusalem, the resting place of God. Here’s the connection, both man and Jerusalem/the Temple have the ability to be places that God’s spirit can indwell. When those places are destroyed or defiled it breaks Yeshua’s heart. He weeps because He sees the destruction of the “containers” (if you will) that can hold God’s divine presence and shine it to the world.
If Yeshua wept over these two things, don’t you think that we, as His followers, should weep over them as well? We should weep that so many places of potential “Avodat Hashem—Service to God” are being destroyed, defiled and desecrated. We long to see a Temple in Jerusalem, because it represents the restoration of the world back to God. Yeshua thought it worth weeping over the coming destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and He also though it worth weeping over the death of a man.
He desires the restoration of the places in the world where God’s spirit can dwell. We follow Yeshua as our Rabbi, and so we weep over the things He wept over and work to see the restoration of the things He saw as important.
The tears of Joseph and the tears of Yeshua were tears to bring reconciliation. Joseph wept while being reconciled to his brothers, Yeshua wept and weeps to be rejoined with man in Jerusalem. Psalm 133 tells us, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” It continues on, that this unity is like “…the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion.” The “dew of Hermon” = life-giving water from heaven.
It then ends the Psalm with these words,“For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” Where did the Lord command a blessing? The mountains of Zion… Where are all men to gather in unity 3 times a year? The mountain of Zion. When brothers dwell together in unity, then God commands the blessing of life evermore. Yeshua was weeping because he saw the dwelling places for God in this world being destroyed, defiled or dead. His desire was and is, to see God and man, as well as man and his neighbor, living together in harmony once again.
Yeshua is weeping for HaGeulah—for the redemption and unification of the world.
The Zohar speaks of the Messiah weeping in desire to see the Redemption. It says, “The Messiah…lifts up his eyes and beholds the Fathers (Patriarchs) visiting the ruins of G-d’s Sanctuary. He perceives mother Rachel, with tears upon her face; the Holy One, blessed be He, tries to comfort her, but she refuses to be comforted (Jer. 31:14). Then the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps, and the whole Garden of Eden quakes, and all the righteous and saints who are there break out in crying and lamentation with him…”
We know this to be true because we read in Revelation 6 that the saints are crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Everyone and everything seems to be groaning and weeping till all things are subjected to truth and mercy, when God is King over all the earth!
Until then, we weep for the restoration of brothers and sisters to be unified, so that one day we can all be gathered in God’s Holy Temple to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. God set apart a specific place in the world as a marker, which is Jerusalem, so when we realize and remember the importance of unity, we know where to go to be united again. The importance of the Temple is that as God’s Holy House, it is the place that brings us together.
The Rabbis say that the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. because of the same sin as Joseph’s brothers. It’s called “Sinat Chinam—Baseless Hatred.” Joseph’s brothers hated him for no reason. So too, the Temple was destroyed because of this same sin.
What destroyed the Temple is what is destroying us today. Yet, when we read the story of Joseph… there is no bitterness in him. Only love.
When we are faced with difficulties and trials, let’s not walk into the trap of baseless hatred against those around us. It is time to live like Joseph, time to live like Yeshua, and time to end this hatred and bitterness that has divided us for so long.
Let our New Year’s Resolution be, to live a life of “Ahavat Chinam—Baseless Love.” And as we emulate Joseph, Yeshua, and all those who have exemplified “sacrificial, baseless love,” may the light of Yeshua be ever more revealed in this world, just as Joseph was revealed to his brothers.