Leadership comes with responsibility

The end of Parshat Miketz (Breisheet 44:16) leaves us with a cliff hanger. After the silver goblet is found in Binyamin’s bag, Yehuda and his brothers return to Yosef: “Yehuda said, ‘What shall we say to my master? What can we speak? How can we justify ourselves? God has found the iniquity of your servants. Let us be slaves to my master, both we, and the one in whose hand the goblet was found.’”

Yosef answers: “It would be degrading for me to do such a thing. The man in whose hand the goblet was found, he shall be my slave, and the rest of you go up in peace to your father.”

In the beginning of Parshat Vayigash, Yehuda explains why he can’t leave Binyamin behind:

“We said to my master, ‘We have a father who is old, and a young child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone survives of his mother, and his father loves him’…We said to my master, ‘the lad cannot leave his father, for if he left his father, he would die’…Your servant, my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife (Rachel) bore me two sons. One has already left me, and I said surely he is torn to pieces. I have not seen him until now. If you take this one also away from me, and misfortune befall him, you will bring my white head down to the grave in evil.’ And now, when I come to your servant, my father, and the lad is not with us; his soul is bound up with the lad’s soul.”

Yehuda is carrying a lot of emotional baggage as he was the one who suggested that they sell Yosef in Breisheet 37:26-27: “Yehuda said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come let us sell him to the Yishmaelites, and let our hands not be upon him; for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ His brothers listened to him.”

If the brothers were willing to follow Yehuda’s instructions to sell Yosef, they also would have followed his cue to remove him from the pit and set him free. Yehuda misused his power as a leader and encouraged bad behavior when he could have been a positive influence on his brothers.

When they were younger, the brothers tried to get Yosef out of the picture in order to change God’s plan. We see that with Binyamin this was no longer their goal.

In retrospect, Yehuda realized that Yaakov, as the father had the right to love Yosef, Rachel’s firstborn son. As well, Yaakov has the right to love Binyamin, Rachel’s second son and it would be devastating to him if that love was taken away.

Yaakov may have initially thought that his spiritual heirs would be Rachel’s children, just as Avraham thought that the spiritual heir would be Yishmael and Yitzchak thought that the spiritual heir would be Esav. The difference in Yaakov’s case is that all twelve of Yaakov’s sons become the spiritual heirs of the Land of Israel, but Yosef’s portion was split between his sons, Menashe and Efraim.

Yehuda learned his lesson and did not abuse his power the second time around. He truly repented and was even willing to go to jail in order to spare Binyamin. Today, unfortunately we have leaders who abuse their positions of power. It is up to the true leaders to make sure that the abusers of power do not get away with it.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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