Parshat Hashavua

Parshah Vayigash: Truth Comes From an Open Heart

Good Shabbos! Chazal (chachmenu zichronam l’uvracha – our wise sages of blessed memory) share with us that a dvar me’halev nichnas halev (a speech from the heart enters the heart). In this week’s parshah, Vayigash, this becomes evident. The pasicha of our sedra (the opening section of our weekly Torah portion) educates us on how Judah speaks to an incognito Joseph, as he is not aware that the man he is speaking to is his brother. We know there are many halachas that outline how we address royalty. In Brachot blat (page) 58a, our rebbaim educate us about the brachah we recite in the presence of royalty. Does Joseph represent royalty and merit this blessing?

For this sheayla (question) I will provide my teretz (answer). Genesis 44:18, states, “Then Judah approached him and said, “If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears and let not your anger flare up at your servant for you are like Pharaoh.” Mashma (this implies), Judah did not say the blessing but rather, according to Tanchuma Vayera 8 (midrash Vayera 8), he was praying as he was physically walking towards Joseph. This resonates with my chaplaincy as prior to initiating a visit I ask God to open up my mouth to be a cad of kedusha (a vessel of God’s holiness). I specifically recite the blessing of preparation for the Amidah to express this desire through prayer. Judah asks to speak into Joseph’s ears. Ears being in the plural form, have you ever spoken into someone’s ears? According to Rashi, Judah was not speaking into literal ears, but rather trying to convince Joseph to release Benjamin and allow him to volunteer to swap places with his brother. In this way Judah would spare his father the pain of losing his youngest son.

Judah wishes to speak to Joseph in very certain and blunt terms, but he is worried about doing so because of the power Joseph holds as the second in command of Egypt. Judah decides to approach Joseph from his heart. Judah was ready to sacrifice his life and in that moment Joseph’s heart was pierced and his façade slowly commences to crumble. This is what REAL conversation looks like. The brothers cannot return home without Benjamin. According to what they believe, Benjamin is the only remaining child of the union of Jacob and his favorite wife, Rachel. As stated in Genesis 44:34, “For how can I go up to my father if the youth is not with me, lest I see the evil that will befall my father!“ The words from Judah’s heart compelled Joseph to expose his true self. Immediately Joseph demanded that everyone save his brothers leave the room. Joseph wanted to be alone with his brothers. Joseph had an emotional release. A physical transcendence of emotion, he broke down and became the brother and son that he had pushed aside for so long. Upon revealing his true identity, Joseph truly becomes reunited with his brothers and eventually his father.

It is a beautiful outcome, but so much time was lost. The truth can make us feel vulnerable, but it is the only way for us to truly connect to one another. The truth allows us to have authentic interactions, but if it is not shared from a place of love, it can result in distance rather than drawing others in for a closer connection. When Joseph made the conscious decision to reveal he was in fact Joseph, the long lost brother, he did so out of a sense of love. Just as Judah pleaded with Joseph out of sense of love. May we all likewise feel compelled to share our truthful selves with those around us out of love to enhance our connection to each other.

Shabbat Shalom!