• Gabbai

Vayigash – Turning a Loss into a Gain

The dynamic between Joseph and his brothers is perplexing and fascinating. While Joseph apparently had a good rapport with some of his half brothers, the sons of the maids, he never got along with the six sons of Leah. The hostility escalated, leading eventually to Joseph’s imprisonment in the pit and his subsequent sale as a slave. Now the tables were turned. Joseph was no longer weak and alone. He commanded a position of power, and his brothers were now in a vulnerable position. Their purchases of food spiraled into a disaster, with Joseph’s silver goblet “discovered” in Benjamin’s packs. They stood before Joseph, despairing as their father’s fear for Benjamin’s safety was quickly turning prophetic.

From Joseph’s perspective everything was going according to plan. He had orchestrated this, planning for it as carefully as the director of a blockbuster film. His brothers were at his mercy now, with Benjamin’s life at stake. Joseph’s dreams had all but been fulfilled. But this was more complex than a simple fulfillment of those dreams. More than two decades earlier Joseph was at the mercy of his brothers. They were jealous of the favour with which Jacob treated Joseph. They were resentful of his haughty ways, as they interpreted Joseph’s actions and attitudes. They colluded to bring Joseph down, resulting in Joseph’s descent to Egypt and estrangement from the family. The sons of Leah had crushed the son of Rachel. Now Joseph was going to recreate this tension, putting Benjamin in the place Joseph had previously occupied, showing favour to Benjamin and sowing jealousy in the hearts of the brothers. Would Benjamin end up like Joseph, a slave in Egypt? Would his brothers again push Rachel’s son under the bus, or would they now stand up for him? Did they mature in the years that passed?

Joseph was seeking to forgive his brothers, but how does one forgive such a betrayal? How could he move past the horrific treatment Joseph was subjected to at his brothers’ hands? Earlier, when they were accosted by Joseph on their first trip to Egypt, accused of spying, the brothers h