“Then Judah went up to him [vayigash] and said: ‘Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.” (Genesis 44:18)
This week’s Torah portion continues with the story of Yoseph ben Yaacov (Joseph, the son of Jacob) who had become the Chief Steward of the Pharaoh of Egypt, after spending about 13 years as a slave.
In last week’s Parasha, we read how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams regarding the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, and how Pharaoh appointed him administrator over all of Egypt.
It was during the seven years of famine that Joseph’s brothers, who 20 years earlier had sold him as a slave, came to Egypt to buy grain.
At the end of last week’s Torah portion, Joseph had not yet revealed his identity to his brothers. But Joseph did declare that Benjamin, the youngest brother would be his slave since it appeared that the lad was guilty of stealing his silver cup. This is where we pick up the story.
This week’s portion of Scripture begins with Judah (Yehudah in Hebrew) pleading on behalf of his younger half-brother, Benjamin. He offers his life as a ransom that his brother Benjamin may go free.
“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.” (Genesis 44:33)
His plea to Yoseph echoes the life of one of his descendants: Yeshua (Jesus)—the ‘lion’ of the tribe of Judah (Yehudah) and the Shepherd of Israel who gave His life so that mankind may not perish but have eternal life.
Yeshua foresaw that such as sacrifice would be necessary to save His sheep and said: “I am the Good Shepherd (HaRo’eh HaTov). The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11; see also v. 14 and Hebrews 13:20)
While many Christians and Catholics over the centuries have accused the Jews of crucifying Yeshua, He makes it clear that no one took His life from Him, but He laid it down willingly. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us all.
Both Yehudah (Judah) and Yeshua (Jesus) effectively said, “Take me instead!”
There is no greater love, Yeshua said, than when someone lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
“No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:17)
The Example of Moses
Moses is another Biblical figure who displayed a spirit of self-sacrifice. When God called Him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, he endured much suffering at their hands.
Nevertheless, he went so far as to ask God to blot his own name out of the Book of Life, if God would not forgive His people, Israel, for their sin of idolatry with the golden calf.
“But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:32)
Moreover, Moses sacrificially toiled long and weary hours in an effort to judge Israel’s disputes. His effort was so colossal that his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), warned him that if he continued, he would wear himself out.
Like Moses, we can become irritable when we have pushed beyond sensible limits and have become worn out. When we do this, we risk alienating everyone around us with our bad attitudes.
Moses needed to unload some of the burden of leading Israel to others.
If we’re feeling that we are on the edge of burn out, it might be wise to follow Yitro’s advice and share some of the burden with those who should rightly be carrying part of the load.
The Example of Paul
“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Messiah for the sake of my people, those of my own race.” (Romans 9:3)
Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) also sacrificed himself for the sake of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Nevertheless, his heart yearned for the salvation of the Jews. He wished that he, himself, would be accursed if it would bring about the salvation of his brethren, the Jewish People.
God may call us to make serious sacrifices for the sake of bringing salvation to His people, but the rewards will be well worth it.
“Truly I tell you,” Yeshua said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29–30)
A Great Reconciliation
“And there stood no man with him while Joseph made himself known to his brethren.” (Genesis 45:1)
If we view the story of Joseph as a prophetic picture of Israel’s destined encounter with their Messiah, Yeshua, we can predict that, just as Joseph ordered everyone out of the room before revealing himself to his brothers, Yeshua will also be alone with His Jewish brethren when He chooses to reveal Himself as Messiah.
Why? Because we can’t really be intimate with someone while others are watching.
Yeshua wants to make Himself known to His brethren and to re-establish a close, personal, intimate relationship with them.
Just as Joseph said, “Ani Yoseph, I am Joseph, your brother” so will Yeshua one day say, “I am Yeshua, your brother and Messiah.” Hallelujah!