Parasha Vayigash (Then He Drew Near)
Genesis 44:18–47:27; Ezekiel 37:15–28; Luke 6:12–16
“Then Judah went up to him [vayigash] and said: ‘Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.” (Genesis 44:18)
This week’s Torah portion continues with the story of Yoseph ben Yaacov (Joseph, the son of Jacob) who had become the Chief Steward of the Pharaoh of Egypt, after spending about 13 years as a slave.
In last week’s Parasha, we read how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams regarding the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, and how Pharaoh appointed him administrator over all of Egypt.
It was during the seven years of famine that Joseph’s brothers, who 20 years earlier had sold him as a slave, came to Egypt to buy grain.
At the end of last week’s Torah portion, Joseph had not yet revealed his identity to his brothers. But Joseph did declare that Benjamin, the youngest brother would be his slave since it appeared that the lad was guilty of stealing his silver cup. This is where we pick up the story.
This week’s portion of Scripture begins with Judah (Yehudah in Hebrew) pleading on behalf of his younger half-brother, Benjamin. He offers his life as a ransom that his brother Benjamin may go free.
“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.” (Genesis 44:33)
His plea to Yoseph echoes the life of one of his descendants: Yeshua (Jesus)—the ‘lion’ of the tribe of Judah (Yehudah) and the Shepherd of Israel who gave His life so that mankind may not perish but have eternal life.
Yeshua foresaw that such as sacrifice would be necessary to save His sheep and said: “I am the Good Shepherd (HaRo’eh HaTov). The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11; see also v. 14 and Hebrews 13:20)
While many Christians and Catholics over the centuries have accused the Jews of crucifying Yeshua, He makes it clear that no one took His life from Him, but He laid it down willingly. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us all.
Both Yehudah (Judah) and Yeshua (Jesus) effectively said, “Take me instead!”
There is no greater love, Yeshua said, than when someone lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
“No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:17)
The Example of Moses
Moses is another Biblical figure who displayed a spirit of self-sacrifice. When God called Him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, he endured much suffering at their hands.
Nevertheless, he went so far as to ask God to blot his own name out of the Book of Life, if God would not forgive His people, Israel, for their sin of idolatry with the golden calf.
“But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:32)
Moreover, Moses sacrificially toiled long and weary hours in an effort to judge Israel’s disputes. His effort was so colossal that his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), warned him that if he continued, he would wear himself out.
Like Moses, we can become irritable when we have pushed beyond sensible limits and have become worn out. When we do this, we risk alienating everyone around us with our bad attitudes.
Moses needed to unload some of the burden of leading Israel to others.
If we’re feeling that we are on the edge of burn out, it might be wise to follow Yitro’s advice and share some of the burden with those who should rightly be carrying part of the load.
The Example of Paul
“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Messiah for the sake of my people, those of my own race.” (Romans 9:3)
Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) also sacrificed himself for the sake of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Nevertheless, his heart yearned for the salvation of the Jews. He wished that he, himself, would be accursed if it would bring about the salvation of his brethren, the Jewish People.
God may call us to make serious sacrifices for the sake of bringing salvation to His people, but the rewards will be well worth it.
“Truly I tell you,” Yeshua said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29–30)
A Great Reconciliation
“And there stood no man with him while Joseph made himself known to his brethren.” (Genesis 45:1)
If we view the story of Joseph as a prophetic picture of Israel’s destined encounter with their Messiah, Yeshua, we can predict that, just as Joseph ordered everyone out of the room before revealing himself to his brothers, Yeshua will also be alone with His Jewish brethren when He chooses to reveal Himself as Messiah.
Why? Because we can’t really be intimate with someone while others are watching.
Yeshua wants to make Himself known to His brethren and to re-establish a close, personal, intimate relationship with them.
Just as Joseph said, “Ani Yoseph, I am Joseph, your brother” so will Yeshua one day say, “I am Yeshua, your brother and Messiah.” Hallelujah!
Once he revealed himself, Joseph no longer spoke in Egyptian through an interpreter to his brothers: he spoke directly to them in Hebrew.
So too, will all the foreignness of a Gentile Jesus dissipate as Yeshua speaks to His Jewish brethren in their own language.
In terms of reconciliation and forgiveness, Joseph’s response to his brothers is nothing short of amazing.
Here is a man who experienced terrible betrayal, injustice and pain at the hands of his brothers and yet what does he say to them? “How could you have done this to me?” “It’s payback time – now I will receive vengeance by punishing you?”
No, no, absolutely not! Joseph’s first concern was to alleviate his brothers’ tormenting guilt and remorse over their crimes against him.
“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5)
Can God Forgive Israel?
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
There are some who believe that God is angry with the Jews for rejecting His Son. They also think that all the evil that has befallen the Jewish People is a sign of God’s curse upon them.
They believe that God has rejected Israel as His covenant people and that He has replaced them with another – the Church.
This belief is called replacement theology.
This Torah account of Joseph’s response to his brothers, however, blows that erroneous theory to smithereens!
Yeshua isn’t angry with His Jewish brethren for rejecting Him, betraying Him, selling him out for silver, and even for crucifying Him (even though it was the Romans who did the latter).
No, He is longing to be reconciled with them and to have an intimate relationship with them.
When Yeshua returns, and when the Jewish people recognize him and mourn for him, the One they pierced, as the prophet Zechariah tells us will happen in Zechariah 12:10, then Yeshua’s response to their remorse will be the same as Yoseph’s.
Messianic Prophecy: Zechariah 12:10
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look upon me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
He will tell his brethren to not be grieved, or angry that they sold Him and consented to His crucifixion, for this was part of God’s plan for the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles (Nations).
Just like Yoseph saved not only his own family, but also the Egyptians, so too, did Yeshua come as a Savior not only for the House of Israel, but for every tribe and nation of the earth.
Isaiah said of God’s servant, the Messiah, that it would be too small a mission for Him to raise up only the tribes of Jacob, but that He would bring salvation (Yeshua) to the ends of the earth! (Isaiah 49:6)
Paul sets the record straight in the Epistle to the Romans: “I say, then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:1) Or in Hebrew we would say “has v’halilah,” which means God forbid!
Extending Forgiveness to Ourselves
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Today’s Parasha is also a personal message to each one of us this very day in our own private lives.
If we are grieved and angry with ourselves for things we have done that we now regret, because of what Yeshua has done for us, we can be released from guilt and condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
God can work all things for the greater good of everyone and even work events into His redemptive plan and purposes for your life. (Romans 8:28)
Yeshua calls us His friends. We are not just ‘servants’ to Him, but cherished friends. He wants us to be released from torment over things we have done in the past that may have hurt or wronged someone. And while sometimes making restitution is fitting and proper, we no longer have to carry the heavy burden of guilt and condemnation.
God’s word promises that if we will confess our sins, He is faithful and just, not only to forgive us of these sins, but also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
But we must also forgive ourselves and others and then press on with the integrity, faithfulness and hope displayed by Joseph—kadima (onward)!
At this time, as we look forward to the coming new year, we must find the grace to both forgive and receive forgiveness. What’s done is done.
Praise God that Yeshua came to set the captives free, heal the broken-hearted and give us new life in Him!