Parashas Vayiggash

This week’s parashah opens with Yehudah’s plea to the viceroy of Egypt (whom he did not know to be his own brother Yosef) to free Binyamin and take him as a slave in Binyamin’s stead. Yehudah reviews some of the family background, including Yosef’s apparent death, and then says (Bereishis 44:30-31): “And now, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad [Binyamin] is not with us – since his [my father’s] soul is bound up with his [the lad’s] soul – it will come to pass, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die, and your servants will have brought the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow down to the grave.” The Maggid asks why Yehudah includes the phrase “when he sees that the lad with not with us.” The phrase appears unnecessary, for the message seemingly would get across well enough without it: “When I come your servant my father, and the lad is not with us – since his [my father’s] soul is bound up with his [the lad’s] soul – it will come to pass that he will die.” The Maggid also asks on what grounds Yehudah argues, as suggested by the phrase “and now” at the beginning of the quoted segment, that what he had said up to that point proved conclusively that Yaakov would die if the brothers returned without Binyamin.
The Maggid explains that Yehudah was apparently seeking to pre-empt a possible counterargument that the viceroy whom he stood before might make. The viceroy might claim that the only reason Yaakov cherished Binyamin so much was because of his exemplary conduct (following in his forefathers’ footsteps), but once he heard that Binyamin had been caught stealing his silver goblet, Yaakov’s esteem for Binyamin would dissipate entirely and he would feel no sorrow over losing him. On the contrary, Yaakov, given his own saintliness, would regard Binyamin as an embarrassment. Yehudah therefore astutely presented facts that would nullify such a claim. He said (ibid. 44:20-29):
We said to my lord: “We have a father, an old man, and a young child of his old age; his brother is dead, and he alone is left from his mother, and his father loves him.” And you said to your servants: “Bring him down to me, that I may set my eye on him.” And we said to my lord: “The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, he [his father] would die.” … And our father said: “Go back, buy us a little food.” And we said: “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother will be with us, then will we go down, for we may not see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” And your servant my father said to us: “You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said to myself, ‘Surely he has been torn to pieces,’ and I have not seen him since. And if you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. “
Yehudah was pointing out that Yaakov feared deeply that Binyamin would meet the same tragic end as his brother Yosef, and that from the moment Binyamin left home to go to Egypt with his brothers he was gripped with worry that Binyamin would not return. And he was telling the viceroy that, this being so, “when he sees that the lad with not with us” – the very second he sees that Binyamin is missing – Yaakov will die instantly, for he will automatically conclude that Binyamin had been killed. There would be no chance to tell Yaakov what had actually happened, and thus no chance for Yaakov’s attachment to Binyamin to be dissolved by hearing Binyamin had been found guilty of theft.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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