In an article for Vayigash 5774, Rabbi Cherki explains Joseph’s role within Israel in partnership with Judah.
Joseph returns to his family. In last week’s Torah portion he tried to take Benjamin for himself, hoping the brothers would agree to leave Benjamin in his hands. When a dispute develops within the nation, an increased tendency develops to separate into different groups. However, Judah, who felt overall responsibility for the nation, did not allow this to happen. “For your servant guaranteed the young boy to my father, saying: If I do not bring him back to you I will have sinned to my father for all time” [Genesis 44:32]. When Joseph understood that he would not be able to divide the nation he gave up on the idea of building up Egypt on his own, completely separated from his father’s house. It may be that the reason Joseph wept in this week’s Torah portion was that he saw that he had failed in his approach, which would have divided the family of Jacob into two.
However, Joseph’s cosmopolitan approach cannot be completely rejected. Judah was careful not to destroy everything that Yosef had accomplished. According to the Midrash, Judah threatened Joseph, “If you do not return Benjamin, I will fill the markets of Egypt with blood.” But his brothers said, “Judah! Egypt is not Shechem, if you destroy Egypt you will be destroying the entire world!” Egypt, The most highly developed culture of the era, is worthy of respect, it must be preserved. This culture will mold the identity of the nation of Israel in its melting pot. And that is why it is written, “Do not despise the Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land” [Deuteronomy 23:8]. Our task is to gather the holy sparks, even from Egypt.
The proper path was for Judah to win in the controversy with his brothers, so that Joseph would become the one who prepared the way for Judah. This phenomenon appeared within the annals of history as two different identities of the messiah: the son of Joseph and the son of David. The determination of the historical process is that the messiah, son of Yosef, will come first, and that the messiah, son of David, will be the ultimate redeemer. All the nations will come to Jerusalem, and there will be no need for Israel to go to the other nations. This is in fact the ruling of our Patriarch Jacob, as is written, “And he sent Judah ahead to Joseph, to prepare in Goshen” [Genesis 46:28]. Jacob showed that even when the nation is on the way to exile, the main goal is Judah’s approach.
Our exile started as follows: “And Israel traveled… And G-d spoke to Israel in visions in the night, and He said, Jacob, Jacob” [46:1-2]. He changes his name back to Jacob, although until now we have only seen Jacob change his name to Israel. In some situations we must revert to the lowly position of Jacob. This is a way to accommodate ourselves to the conditions in exile, but the main goal remains, “Your name will be Israel” [35:10].
Source: “AS SHABBAT APPROACHES” – a biweekly column in Shabbat B’Shabbato, Vayigash 5774, Volume 1502. (Zomet Institute) See: www.zomet.org.il/eng