In Essays

Parsha Vayigash | A Family Reunion

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Explore Jewish heritage with an amateur Jew’s commentary on Parsha Vayigash, Genesis 44:18 – 47:27. Click here to read last week’s, Parsha Miketz.

Judah, the one who suggested selling Joseph into slavery, begs Joseph to let him return to his father with the youngest, Benjamin. He essentially says, “My dad’s wellbeing is so entangled with this kid, he’ll straight up die if I return without him.” Judah asks that he stay behind instead of Benjamin because he doesn’t want to “be witness to the woe that would overtake my father!”

The ruse has gone on long enough. Joseph can no longer keep his true self from his brothers.

“Have everyone withdraw from me!” he shouts to his attendants. Then, he blubbers. It’s written that “His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.”

It must’ve been some aggressive crying for the news to spread by tears.

Joseph finally reveals himself, saying “I am Joseph. Is my father still well?”

But the brothers can’t respond. They’re “dumbfounded.” To be fair, Joseph didn’t exactly tread into the revelation. He just kind of dropped it into the conversation.

Joseph backtracks and gives some much-needed context. He explains that he’s the brother they sold into slavery. But before the brothers could collectively shit themselves, he asks for calm.

“Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.”

Wow. Talk about staying optimistic. Joseph must’ve been surrounded by those cheesy motivational posters that say things like “Teamwork: When we all work together, we all win together.”

Indeed, Joseph believes that the shitty things his brothers did to him years earlier was actually God’s doing and worth it in the end, because he was able to predict and prepare Egypt and the surrounding nations for the famine. He says, “God has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance.”

I suppose I too should look for the deeper meaning behind that time my older brother continuously punched my thigh until my leg went numb and then watched me try to walk around. God’s work?

The Fat of the Land

Remember, Pharaoh knows what’s up now because of Joseph’s epic crying. He tells Joseph that his brothers and father are welcome in Egypt. “I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you shall live off the fat of the land,” Pharaoh tells Joseph.

The fat of the land!? That’s the best part!

The brothers return to Jacob/Israel and report what happened. At first, he can’t believe it. But hearing of Joseph “revived” Jacob’s spirit.

“My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.”

God then gives Jacob some insurance in a vision, saying “Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

That’s a pretty sweet insurance policy. But knowing what happens to the Israelites in the next book of Moses (Exodus), I can’t help but wonder what gives in God encouraging them to head to Egypt knowing they’re about to be enslaved.

Anywho! Jacob and his tribe don’t know what’s around the corner, so his entire household of seventy persons head off to Egypt.

The move to Egypt goes well. After some introductions, Pharaoh declares to Joseph, “As regards your father and your brothers who have come to you, the land of Egypt is open before you.”

Hot damn! Egypt is ours! This can’t possibly go wrong!

Onward with Parsha Vayechi.

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