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    Setting eyes on Jacob – Vayyiggash

    Joseph & Jacob reunite, by Charles Foster

    Joseph yearns to be reunited with his father.

    Being told that there is a younger brother at home with Jacob he says, “Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes upon him” (Gen. 44:21).

    Ibn Ezra takes these words literally: “set my eyes upon him” means “see him”.

    Ramban is more likely to be correct when he suggests that this is an idiomatic phrase and means, “I will take care of him”. The Septuagint expresses this quite unambiguously: “Bring him down to me and I will take care of him”.

    The Targum Yonatan renders the verse, “That I may set my eyes upon him for good”, following Jer. 24:6, “I will set my eyes upon them for good”.

    A similar use of setting one’s eyes upon someone is found in Amos 9:4, “I will set My eyes upon them for evil and not for good”.

    A useful English equivalent is the idea of looking after someone.

    One of the tragedies of human nature is that people often make promises like this at moments of crisis – “You’ll never have to worry: I will always be there for you” – and then proceed to forget all about it.

    It is better not to make promises but to get on with the mitzvah quietly and without fanfare or rhetoric.

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