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Utter Confusion (Vayigash)

When a man’s knowledge is not in order, the more of it he has, the greater will be his confusion. -Herbert Spencer

Joseph, in his role as Viceroy of Egypt, and still unrecognized by his brothers, has orchestrated an elaborate charade to implicate their younger brother, Benjamin, in the theft of his silver goblet. Joseph announces that Benjamin will remain in Egypt as Joseph’s slave and that the other brothers are free to return home to their father Jacob in Canaan.

Brother Judah, in a great act of repentance for having sold Joseph into slavery, steps forward and confronts the Viceroy/Joseph in an attempt to rescue Benjamin. Judah altruistically offers himself as a slave in place of Benjamin. At this point Joseph, overcome with emotion, reveals himself as their long-lost brother and the family is happily reunited.

The Bat Ayin on Genesis 44:18 examines Judah’s speech to the Viceroy/Joseph and focuses on the part where Judah says to Joseph “because you are like Pharaoh.” The verse is making an equivalence between the righteous Joseph and the (ultimately) evil Pharaoh. The Bat Ayin explains that when Israel is in exile, there is no visible difference between the righteous and the evil. This is in contrast to when Israel is redeemed and in its own land with a greater revelation of God’s presence. In such a reality God more readily shows His pleasure with the righteous and with His more visible blessings they ascend in their righteousness. The evildoers in such a reality descend and are punished more clearly for their sins.

However, the current reality of exile is that God’s presence is significantly hidden. As a result of that, the clearly righteous can be wracked with travails, while evildoers enjoy the blessings and bounty of this world. Our experience is that God can be so obscured that there is no apparent difference between the fate of the righteous and the evil. There is utter existential confusion regarding good and evil, reward and punishment, and God’s involvement in our lives. In such a reality it becomes easy to equate a righteous Joseph with an evil Pharoah.

Nonetheless, the confusion of the world doesn’t absolve us from pursuing good and believing in God’s benevolent presence. Sometimes He even lets us peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of His handiwork. In fact, the more we believe in Him, the more He shows Himself.

May we get more glances of clarity within the confusion of our times.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the new project of replenishing the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) with desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea. https://www.timesofisrael.com/pioneering-plan-inaugurated-to-top-up-sea-of-galilee-with-desalinated-water/

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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