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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Vayigash – The price of circumventing reality

This parashah presents the emotional moments in which Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, his meeting with his father, Jacob, and Jacob’s resettlement in Egypt.

Given the superb performance of Joseph in Egypt, his entire family is received in the palace and then settled in the land of Goshen. These developments not only resolved the problem of the famine but enabled Jacob’s family to attain a privileged situation in Egypt. Pharaoh owed Joseph a lot, he knew his capabilities and that he needed him in the future, so he had to treat him and his family with great consideration (45: 17-20).

However, the story gives us indications of the great conflicts that were ignored by the family of Joseph. When the brothers appear before the Pharaoh they had to justify the fact that they were shepherds because such work (according to Rashi 45:34) was considered disgraceful by the Egyptians since they worshiped those animals. On the other hand, they are settled in Goshen because it was a good land for grazing and was far from the palace (ibid.). The Children of Israel lived in a type of ghetto, in isolation from the local culture and segments of the population. It is not surprising that, once Joseph died a new Pharaoh planned the extermination of his people (Exodus 1).

Since Talmudic times (Megilla 16, b), many interpreters saw many conceptual and linguistic parallelisms between the story of Joseph in the palace and that of Esther in another one. They both refer to a pattern that was repeated constantly in the history of the Jewish diaspora. Time and again Jews were welcomed and their help accepted in the development of different countries but ended up being hated and persecuted.

Joseph, the one who had the power to envision the future, left a lasting message for his descendants. He made his family swear that once they returned to their own land, they would take his remains and bury them there because that land would be the definitive end of his wanderings. Perhaps that is why the numerical value of his name (156) is the same as that of Zion.

Shabbat Shalom!


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