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| Published: December 27, 2022
General Overview: In this week’s Torah reading, Vayigash, Judah responds to Joseph‘s demand that Benjamin remains enslaved in Egypt, pleading to be taken as a substitute. Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. At Joseph’s request, Jacob and his family come down to Egypt.
First Aliyah: At the end of last week’s Torah reading, Joseph demanded that Benjamin remain behind in Egypt as his slave. This week’s reading opens with Judah approaching Joseph and appealed to him to allow Benjamin to return to his father Jacob in Canaan. He spoke of Jacob’s reluctance to allow Benjamin – Rachel‘s only remaining child – to make the trip to Egypt, and the great love Jacob harbored for his youngest son.
Second Aliyah: Judah continued: “When [Jacob] sees that the boy is gone, he will die.” He explained to Joseph that he, Judah, had taken personal responsibility that Benjamin would return unharmed to Canaan. And as such, he asked to remain as a slave instead of Benjamin. At that point, Joseph could not restrain himself any longer. He asked all the Egyptians present to leave the room, and he revealed his identity to his brothers: “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?!” He then reassured them, and asked them not to be upset about selling him into slavery: “For it was to preserve life that G‑d sent me before you. For . . . another five years there will be neither plowing nor harvest, and G‑d sent me before you to ensure your survival in the land…”
Third Aliyah: Joseph directed his brothers to quickly return to Canaan and bring Jacob and their families back to Egypt, where Joseph promised to provide them with food until the famine ends. Joseph embraced his brothers and cried. Pharaoh was informed that Joseph’s family had arrived, and he, too, instructed them to come to Egypt where he would give them the “best of the land.” The brothers went to Canaan – laden with gifts from Pharaoh and Joseph – and informed Jacob that Joseph was alive, indeed he ruled over all of Egypt. “And the spirit of their father Jacob was revived.”
Fourth Aliyah: Jacob and his entire family left Canaan and headed to Egypt. En route, they stopped in Beersheba, where G‑d told Jacob not to fear going to Egypt, for it is there that he will be made into a great nation. Furthermore, G‑d told him: “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up.”
Fifth Aliyah: This section names the seventy members of Jacob’s family that went to Egypt.
Sixth Aliyah: Jacob arrived in Egypt, to the province of Goshen that Pharaoh had allotted his family. Joseph went there to greet his father. Joseph prepared his family for meeting Pharaoh, and instructed his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds, who only wish to tend to their flocks in Goshen until the famine ends. Indeed the brothers followed this script, and Pharaoh acceded to their request. Jacob was then brought before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed him.
Seventh Aliyah: While Joseph supplied his family with food, the rest of Egypt was in a desperate plight. First they expended all their money in exchange for food that Joseph sold them. Then their money ran out, and they paid for provisions with their cattle. Finally, when they had no money or cattle left, they sold their land and themselves to Pharaoh into servitude in exchange for provisions. Meanwhile, in the land of Goshen, Jacob’s family prospered and multiplied exceedingly.
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