Vayigash - Weekly Torah Portion

The words of the prophet Ezekiel are read as the Haftarah of this week. He says, “The word of the Lord came again to me, saying, ‘Now you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then put them together for yourself one to another into one stick, so that they may become one in your hand’”. Naturally he knows that not everyone will understand the analogy and therefor explains, “Behold, I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.” He then continues, “Behold, I am going to take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations, and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.”

Problems of division and inner conflict as well as return and reunion are central to the reading of this week’s portion of the Torah, as well as the Haftarah. The reunion between Joseph and his brothers is full of tension. They do not know who this distinguished ruler on behalf of the Pharaoh really is. The situation is so tense that Joseph, the second hand of the all might Pharaoh cannot stand it anymore. “Then Joseph could not control himself in front of everyone standing before him, and he shouted, ‘Have everyone leave me!’ So there was no one with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. Then he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it.” He explains who he really is and clams them down, “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to save lives. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. So God sent me ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant on the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” He continues with a request to further strengthen the union, “Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. For you shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your grandchildren, and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.’’”

Both Joseph and Ezekiel send the message that there is a significant price to pay for separation, hatred and polarization. On the other hand, there are great opportunities in one’s ability to overcome them. In the words of the Pharaoh, “do not concern yourselves with your property, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” The prophet puts it this way, “I will rescue them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes and follow them. And they will live on the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and My servant David will be their leader forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them.”

This week Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, dissolved after the government being unable to approve a state budget. Conflict raises its ugly head once more and so does separatism that some of our politicians seem to be pushing forward relentlessly, giving priority to the personal over the national, the private interest over the interests of the public-at-large. Political disagreements have existed in the past, exist now, and will continue to take place also in the future. There is nothing new about that. What makes the situation dangerous is taking legitimate disagreements and making them issues of personal conflict. Making statements as if one side has personal hate towards someone on the other side even without a shred of evidence in real-life. Some take that view in Israel’s conflict with its nearest neighbor, others from an economical perspective, some as issues relating to ethnicity, while some more prefer the conflict between or within religions. Neither should be welcomed by us. It is good to debate, discuss and learn, and it is important to respect those who are different from me.

It is therefore an excellent opportunity to wish us all the ability to handle the upcoming elections period wisely. Form opinions based on knowledge, but also on respect to those on the other side of the aisle on any particular issue. These are merely two sticks spoken about by Ezekiel, that can be brought together to form a union on the one hand, without losing uniqueness on the other hand.

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for Good Health.

Reuven Marko, 25 December 2020, 11 Tevet, 5781

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