Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayigash December 22, 2017

Torah reading: Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

Haftorah reading:  Ezekiel 37:15-28

Have you wondered why the account of Joseph’s plight in Egypt is interrupted by a chapter about his half-brother Judah (Gen. 38)?  Genesis 37-50 is described as ‘the generations of Jacob’. The whole of this section is more about the LORD’s dealings with all of Jacob’s sons, rather than just one of them – and through them, or even despite them, the outworking of the purposes of the LORD for all people.

No doubt the placing of the chapter about Judah’s exploits at this point in the timeline has the advantage of chronological integrity. It also serves to illustrate how the cruel and scheming half-brother of Joseph (Genesis 37:26-28) became an honorable son to Jacob: humble, sensitive and self-sacrificing; caring for his father, and protective of Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin in Genesis 44:18-34. This is the testimony of Judah.

JudahJoseph

Judah’s oldest son was ‘wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him’ (Genesis 38:7).  According to Torah, a man was obliged to marry his brother’s widow and raise seed by her so the second son made as if to fulfill this obligation, but reneged on his duty at the last moment –  ‘which thing displeased the LORD,so He slew him also’ (Genesis 38:8-10).

Judah then selfishly and insensitively deceived his daughter-in-law, sending her back to her father’s house, but never recalling her to marry his third son. So Tamar deceived Judah and posed as a cult prostitute, easily seducing him, by now a widower himself, into fornication. Judah sent his payment to the ‘prostitute’ but his Canaanite friend, ironically enough, could not find the woman Judah had slept with. In order to avoid public humiliation, Judah then thought to cover up his sin by ignoring it.

His self-righteousness and hypocrisy were displayed when Judah heard that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. He pronounced the death sentence against her. Yet when Tamar produced Judah’s pledges which he had left with her when they were intimate, Judah was brought to humble confession of his sins: ‘she has been more righteous than I’.

This encounter changed Judah.   In this week’s reading we see a repentant Judah who shows the fruits of his repentance in care and compassion towards his elderly father, his brethren and all their children, and his youngest brother Benjamin. His repentant heart finds its greatest expression in the wonderful and moving speech in which he offers himself as a slave to Joseph in order to spare his youngest brother.

Here in Genesis 44 he is sensitive care and passionate compassion  Here is humility and self-sacrifice. Here is a taking of responsibility for the well-being of others .

In Tune with Torah this week – Humility, self-sacrifice and responsibility are character traits to be emulated and taught to our children and grandchildren.  However, we cannot give what we do not exemplify.  How are we demonstrating a repentant heart? Are we willing to sacrifice for others? Do we accept responsibility when we fail?  Do we walk in humility?

Shabbat Shalom

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To all of my subscribers who will be celebrating with family and friends at this time, may the Holy One of Israel bless you with good health, joy, peace and an abundance of His love at this special time and reveal Himself to you in deeper and deeper ways in the year to come.

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