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    Brothers again – Vayyiggash

    Joseph & Judah, by James Tissot

    Themes repeat themselves in every generation of the patriarchs, especially the estrangement and reconciliation of brothers. Today’s reading is an example. Its opening words are “Then Judah came near to him (to Joseph)” (Gen. 44:18).

    Why had the brothers fallen out? More importantly, what had changed to make the coming together possible?

    If constant human experience is a guide, after a while people who are at odds hardly remember what it was that separated them. What brings them together again is often a family crisis.

    No longer can they pretend that the other does not exist. No longer can they pass each other by like strangers. They suddenly discover that it is possible to be on speaking terms again.

    The hard part is the first moment, the moment of turning to see each other.

    Judah and Joseph could do it. The Torah tells the story in order to tell later generations that they too can cross the bridge.

    The Torah does not make “Face one another!” into an official commandment. It does not need to. Everything in our tradition commends the message.

    As a postscript let us ask why it was Judah who spearheaded the approach to Joseph.

    Chapter 44 verse 32 provides the answer. Jacob had allowed the youngest son Benjamin to go to Egypt only because Judah had undertaken to be responsible for him.

    The other brothers would feel guilty if Benjamin were detained in Egypt, but only Judah would be totally unable to face his father. He would live with the guilt “for ever”, which Rashi says means in this world and in the next.

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