Vayechi 5770 (2009)

A Drash for Vayechi 5770

by Marc Mangel

The last Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote that “The Torah is eternal. It is addressed to every Jew and therefore what it relates involves every Jew”. Thus, the Torah has a message for us on this, the day after the secular new year, when we make resolutions about our lives.

In Ch 50, v 19, Joseph says “Do not be afraid, for am I in place of God?”

We have heard Joseph’s comment “for am I place of God?” once before – when Rachel was barren and complained to Jacob, who said exactly the same thing.

The commentators condemn Jacob’s use of this phrase, and praise Joseph’s use. Nechama Leibowitz points out that “Jacob had shirked responsibility in these words, rejecting his wife’s Rachel’s request to pray for her in time of trouble and share in her distress, on grounds of man’s incompetence and limitations in the manners concerned…Joseph, on the other hand, uttered this expression of inadequacy and self-abasement in order to save his brother’s feelings and reassure them. It was not for him to judge them; the judgement was God’s”.

“It was not his to judge them; the judgement was God’s”.

About this verse, the Isbister (Rabbi Moderchai Yosef of Isbitza) wrote “Therefore one must always pray before the blessed God that it should never enter his mind to judge another as guilty, and also that his fellow man should not judge him as guilty”.

And about this verse, in Shney Luchot HaBrit the Shalach writes “The main ingredient of Chesed is that it is to be performed without expectation of a reward.  Only when performed thus is one called generous; otherwise one is simply a trader.  There is no greater virtue than that of Chesed. That is why a person must train himself to practice this virtue until it becomes second nature”.

We cannot direct other people’s thoughts, but we can direct our own.  So, I offer to all of us a New Year’s resolution – and one that is tough to keep:  “Let us all work so that it never enters our mind to judge another”.  Not as trading, but as it should be – as developing our quality of chesed.

Shabbat shalom.

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