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    Squabbles on the way – Vayyiggash

    Joseph & his brothers, by Gustave Dore

    Joseph & his brothers, by Gustave Dore

    The brothers of Joseph were sent out to bring their old father in Canaan the news that Joseph is still alive and holds a high position in Egypt.

    Farewelling the brothers on their journey, Joseph tells them, “Don’t squabble on the way” (Gen. 45:24). The Targum Onkelos treats the word tir’g’zu as meaning, “Don’t start quarrelling with each other”.

    Why on earth should they quarrel?

    One view advanced by Rashi is that they might argue with each other as to who started the whole episode of the sale of Joseph as a servant.

    Ramban thinks the word means “Don’t tremble”, i.e. “Don’t lose your nerve out of fear of being attacked by bandits on the way”.

    Rashi, however, adds another suggestion based on Talmudic exegesis: “Don’t start arguing about halachic matters, about ‘The Way’, i.e. Halachah”.

    No-one wants to suggest that people shouldn’t engage in halachic discussion, but where it becomes a problem is when people lose track of time or place, which in the case of Joseph’s brothers could lead them to get lost and put themselves in peril.

    On another level, academic variation – inevitable as part of debate over points of halachah – can become personal and lead people to insult each other because they can’t disagree peacefully.

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