Parshat VaYigash

Parshas Vayigash starts off with a dispute between Yehudah and Yosef. Yehudah and his brothers have just arrived into Mitzraim intending to collect food for their family in the midst of the famine. Upon the arrival of the shevatim, they find Yosef, who is now a nobleman handing out food rations. Yosef forces his brothers to keep Binyamin in Mitzraim for the time being. Yosef begins to argue with Yehudah, who is responsible for Binyamin, while the rest of the shevatim watch, grieving. Yehudah refuses to leave Binyamin as he knows his father cannot emotionally withstand the loss of another son. Finally, Yosef asks about his father and confesses that he is the son of Yaakov. Yosef’s brothers are shocked by this news. They were convinced Yosef was dead for the past 22 years.

Yehudah and Yosef’s argument have much significance. Yehudah and Yosef both held high dignitary status. They each represent a nation of kingship. The Torah give emphasis to this argument. What is it about this fight that makes it so significant and what is the significance of being a king?

Secular society equates kingship with power to rule, with having advisors, a kingdom, an army, great wealth, obedience and adoration from the people, and so forth. The gemera brings down a mushel: a king who relies on others for his personal nobility it is like a man walking a dog. Who is really in control? The dog or the owner? If one sees someone walking a dog from a distance, it appears the dog is walking the master as opposed to the master guiding the dog. It is not until approaching them that one is able to see who is really in control. The master is the one who, at his own liberty, chooses the path. He does not rely on the dog to decide which direction to take. A secular king relies on his nation to guide him. All of his actions are based upon the direction indicated by the needs and wishes of his nation. He openly relies upon his political popularity rather than his own personal principles and beliefs.
The Jewish view of kingship is strength of leadership: someone who is able to strengthen the middah of leadership. A strong leader is aware and in control of his own actions and consistently demonstrates ability to guide others; a weak leader is blinded by inability or unwillingness to recognize truth. In order to guide others, a leader must first be able to guide himself and take control of his own life. When we fight against our innate desires and habits, we become rulers over our yeztar hara.

Yehuda and Yosef were both kings who ruled over themselves because they were able to control their own direction and actions. Yosef was so pure of averios, he never went near sin; his entity was kingship. Every single part of Yosef was detached from averios; he embraced the essence of righteousness, ethical behavior, and leadership. He was so far from sin and in control of his actions that he was able to refuse the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. Yosef emerged from slavery and prison to becoming second in command in Egypt. He was not only a mighty ruler; he was in control of himself. Yehuda admitted his relations with Tamar- this was a true example of ruling over himself. He could have covered up his actions but he didn’t. He admitted his encounter with Tamar. Yehudah merited all the bracha of future kings who would coming from him. His relationship with Tamar eventually led to Dovid Hamelech, and soon, please G-d, to Moshaich.
Before Moshiach ben Dovid can come and redeem us, Moshaiach ben Yosef must come. Both are required in order to lead our nation to do teshuva. Once we repent and return to Hashem then Moshiach will come and lead us to salvation. In order to bring Moshiach we must take control of our own actions and fight our yeztar hara. We must be leaders for ourselves and others, in order to lead them to a brighter future.

Student studying in Sharfmans