Vayigash - weekly Torah portion

Judah took a big risk upon himself addressing Joseph directly, the man he defines as being “equal to Pharaoh.” He explains to him the difficulty that he, Joseph, has presented upon their aging father. Jacob told them, say Jodah, “You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, ‘Surely he is torn in pieces,’ and I have not seen him since. ‘ If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’” Judah continues and explains that he will not be able to return to his father without Benjamin as “when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow.” He goes on to suggest that he will stay in Egypt instead of Benjamin so as not to harm their already hurt and suffering father.

Joseph can go no longer with this, asks that everyone but for his brothers vacate the room, and “he wept loudly” and addressed his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” Stunned they were speechless. I think all of us deeply feel for this situation. Our thoughts are with the old father, in deep pain for the loss of his son, the brothers who know they have done wrong but still find it difficult to admit, and Joseph, who knew immediately what was going on, but builds this moment of drama may be so it is deeply engraved into our collective memory. So that we feel for the loss of a child, his disappearance, and the attempt to find reason for such an occurrence.

Sometimes we think this is simply a story told about something that may have happened, or maybe not, thousands of years ago. Simply a story to assist in the building of a narrative of the creation of a nation. But maybe, only maybe, there is also something there that looks deep into the future, assumes that something like a disappearance of a child may just happen, that the child will be raised by another family, a very different family, and then, when we are lucky, there is also a happy end to the story. The lost child reappears. In the past few weeks, after many years of struggle and coverage attempts by the State, finally information about what is known as the Case of the Kidnap of the Yemen Children, that included also others, is being exposed to the public. A collection of stories that are hard to believe, about the possible abduction of children when being hospitalized or treated in various hospitals and convalescence homes. Tales about children’s sudden deaths for one or another reason, burial without the presence of the mourning family, without showing the tiny body of the lost child. It is the story of Joseph all over again.

These events happened not thousands of years ago but between the years 1948-1956, and from reading the initial exposed documents, such abductions took place almost systematically. Now after many years the government decided to remove the seal of secrecy that was place and due to be removed only tens of years from now, for no apparent reason. As if none of those people who decided about it ever read the grief of Jacob about Joseph, as if one can justify the demise of a person to Sheol and simply waive it with half-say that the child has died, without providing even a grave to cry one’s heart out on. The moment Jacob learns that his son is alive he simply says, “my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” It is exactly what we see with the few mothers and fathers still alive from the period in the early 50s, and certainly with their brothers and sisters. They long to reunite, hopefully, with their lost son, their sister that has vanished.

The government of Israel did the right thing by deciding to fully expose the information collected by the investigative commissions that attempted to resolve the case. I hope they will allow access to each and every archive that can shed more light and bring comfort to the families. It is time that this period of our history be cleared up without fear and without hesitation. There was no justification whatsoever to what has happened in those years. I do not know if any government of the time was involved or had an intention of that happening. However, assisting in the cover up, not willing to provide the information when it could have brought some comfort to many more people, is a major failure by the various governmental institutions. That raises the fear that the State had an interest in doing so, and it should have never done that to its citizens. Surely, this has been done by long bygone governments and people, however, we as citizens must be aware that governments may act this way and therefore, every government, regardless of whether we have supported it in the ballot or not, should have our grain of suspicion involved. The State cannot enjoy the benefit of doubt, we must doubt it, in a healthy way, but maintain our doubts. When a mistake happens. Deliberate or not, we must rush to fix it, quickly, so that those who are affected by such deed can, just like the aging Jacob say, “I will go and see him before I die.”

Shabbat Shalom. Reuven Marko, 6 January 2017, 9 Tevet, 5777

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