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By: Mrs. Shira Mirvis

A series of cycles of violence plays out through the stories of Bereshit. Yosef dreams of his brothers becoming his servants. The brothers react by selling him as a slave. When Yosef, frees himself of slavery, he in turn ‘enslaves’ the Egyptian nation by decreeing they must donate their food supply for the upcoming years of famine. When the brothers show up in Egypt, he throws them into a dungeon. Cycles of violence are not limited to Yosef; they seem to be a family trait. Even in minor incidents we find disturbing intimations of violent cycles: Reuven promises Yaakov that if he does not return Binyamin, Yaakov can kill Reuven's sons. Who does that help exactly?

Is there any way out for the people of Israel? Yehuda, father of the mashiach, becomes the cycle breaker, the one capable of redeeming the family. As Yosef perpetrates his plots on the brothers, Yehuda steps up; “Vayigash Yehuda…” and declares: "Let me be your slave in place of Binyamin. How can I see my father suffer?" Yosef hears this and immediately breaks down, sends out the Egyptians, and unmasks himself to his brothers.

 What is Yehuda's power?

Yehuda has suffered - recall the seemingly out of place story of Yehuda and Tamar in which Yehuda lost his own two sons. Somehow, he emerges from this episode carrying a deep ethic of personal responsibility. Unlike Reuven, who offers his father more pain in exchange for risking Binyamin, Yehuda tells his father: "Anochi e'ervenu” - I will take responsibility.  And he does. In place of recycling violence and spreading suffering, Yehuda contains it. Having known pain, he puts himself on the line to keep others from suffering. Yosef, like Yaakov, sees Yehuda's strength and understands in a moment that there is another way out. He welcomes the brothers and the rest of his family to Egypt. He offers to feed and protect them.

May we find the strength to take responsibility for each other when needed, to protect and when necessary, defend clal Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom.




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