A Drash for Vayigash 5767
by Marc Mangel
There are many interesting verses in this week’s parsha, but my favorite is Ch 44: 32-34 which I would like to now read to you : Read it
Here, Judah takes responsibility for the youth (Benjamin) in order not to sin his berfore father for all time and so that evil will not befall his father.
From this verse, the Rabbis teach that we are called Jews (rather than Israelites, Jacobites, or Hebrews), because Jews take responsibility for the youth.
Myron Rakowitz, a modern Orthodox Rabbi, teaches that a Chasidic Rebbe (he does not name the Rebbe) replays this question in every generation, with a different father:
“How will I be able to face my Heavenly Father if I do not take on responsibility for our youth”
How do we make this into a practical guide for our lives?
First, we can take responsibility for the youth in our own synagogue by ensuring that the cost of educating them through the synagogue school is borne by all members of the synagogue, not just the parents of the children in the school. When somebody asks “Well, what do I get for my dues?” you can answer “You get to take responsibility for the youth”.
And in addition to our regular dues, each of us could add a small amount to our annual payment, indicating that this should go towards the school, to help reduce the cost for parents. To be honest, I only thought of doing this while preparing the drash, but consider it to be a very good idea.
Second, we can take responsibility for the youth in our community who are away from home for the first time – namely the students at UCSC and Cabrillo. These youth are served well by Hillel and Chabad Student Center and we should support those organizations.
So, if you are asked to serve on the Board of Hillel or to help Chabad Student Center, remember our ancestor Judah taking care of the youth and say yes and work hard.
And it is not too late in this tax year to both earn the moniker Jewish and get a tax deduction! After Shabbat ends, go to the Hillel or Chabad Student Center web site after and make a donation.
Each day that we can say “Today, I have taken responsibility for the youth” is a day that we have earned the right to be called a Jew.