Sedra – Vayigash

Sedra – Vayigash

With Rabbi Zvi Solomons.

EVERYONE KNOWS that ancient Israel was divided after the death of King Solomon into two kingdoms, the northern calling itself Israel and the southern calling itself Judah.

The southern kingdom was ruled over by Kings from the tribe of Judah, the northern by descendants of Joseph, mainly from Ephraim. In a way, the story of Joseph is the story of these two kingdoms. Midrash tells us that Joseph gained his status and his coat because Jacob understood that Joseph would embody the high values and qualities required by a true heir of Abraham and Isaac. He was not clear that the others would carry on the traditions of observing the mitzvot.

So Joseph was marked-out.

Yet Joseph was not yet fully-grown in his role of leadership. It was not until some years after he had been sold into Egypt, and two years after interpreting the butler’s dream, that he was raised to the giddy heights of Viceroy. Judah also needed to do some growing up. He, not the firstborn Reuven, suggested real action in selling Joseph instead of killing him. He erred with Tamar, fathering the line of King David.

Then he stood up and acted to ensure his family’s survival in the face of his father’s reluctance to send the brothers with Benjamin to Egypt. At the start of this week’s parsha, Joseph challenges the brothers to show their mettle, by accusing Benjamin of theft.

Only Judah faces what they have done, and admitting his wrong takes responsibility and leadership. It is these symbolic qualities which we see here. Joseph is raised to leadership for his high moral values and for preparing the way in Egypt for the de- scent of Israel thither. Judah/Yehudah is raised to leadership for his sense of responsibility and solidity, bringing his family to safety.

Both are singled out despite their human flaws, be- cause they represent leadership by example. For this reason, In the Kabbalah, there is an idea there are two Mashiachs. The first is Mashiach ben Yosef, who represents a spiritual redeemer and the leader of the north – who will prepare the way for the redemption, and lead the ten northern tribes towards a union with the southern ones.

The Mashiach ben David will unite and rule all Jews, but the Mashiach ben Yosef will be killed beforehand. Here we see the two archetypes foreshadowing the future of Israel.

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