If the parasha cycle was ever made into a T.V. Show this would be where the announcer goes “Last Time On…The Bible!” We continue from last week’s cliffhanger with the resolution of Joseph’s testing of his brothers. Our parasha this week is called Vayigash which translates to “And He Drew Near” and covers Genesis 44:18-47:27. This parasha demonstrates the need for forgiveness and reconciliation as well as a powerful reflection from Jacob on his life.
We continue from last week with Judah stepping up and begging to take Benjamin’s punishment for his supposed stealing of Joseph’s cup. Judah tells the still unknown Joseph that to lose Benjamin would kill their father Jacob. Judah has shown in this situation that he is a changed man, willing to take the punishment for Jacob’s other favorite son.
At this display of selflessness Joseph can no longer maintain his ruse. After clearing the room Joseph wept loudly and said “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” His brothers were speechless, they could not believe their brother was alive and so powerful.
Joseph promises to take care of them all, and that they should bring everyone, including their father, to Egypt. Then Joseph collapses onto Benjamin crying and Benjamin does the same. The other brothers are not recorded as weeping but rather just talk to Joseph, still holding themselves back.
No doubt the brothers were incredibly scared that Joseph was going to take his revenge on them. However, Joseph has no desire for revenge, having made his peace with their sin and understanding his life from a perspective greater than his own. He tells his brothers that they should not be scared. They had sinned by selling him into slavery, but the Lord used it to save many lives during this famine. He had also sent Joseph to save their family as well.
In this situation we see a family torn apart by jealousy and betrayal restored. Even the story reflects this fact, the brothers of Joseph are called once again his brothers, no longer “the men” that we saw in Genesis 43. While his brothers were still stuck in the past, worried that Joseph was going to exact his revenge, Joseph was focused on the present and the future, reflected in his immediate concern for his father, and for their surviving the famine.
After leaving Egypt with many provisions the brothers eventually reach Jacob. Their father cannot believe that Joseph, his son he had mourned so many years for, is alive. Jacob agrees to go to Egypt, so he can see Joseph one last time before he dies.
On their journey Jacob or Israel, reaches the familiar place of Beersheba, home to many encounters with the Lord and close to the border of the Promised Land. At this place he offers sacrifices to the Lord, who comes to Israel in a dream. The Lord encourages Jacob that He would go with him to Egypt and that He would bring Jacob back to the Promise Land. He also promises that Joseph would be with Jacob when the time came for him to die.
After arriving in Egypt Joseph meets his family and falls crying on Jacob. The parasha ends with Jacob and his family being given good land for shepherds and Joseph gaining great wealth for Pharaoh through the famine.
Before we end there is also a powerful moment of candor and reflection from Jacob as he tells Pharaoh about his life. He states that his years were few and evil, that they did not reach the days of his fathers. Jacob got everything he asked for in life; the blessing, marriage to Rachel, children, and great wealth. Yet each of these things was a source of struggle and pain for him, starting in the womb with Esau and progressing throughout the rest of his life. Instead of bringing him great joy, most of what he received brought him pain, the loss of Joseph being the final most painful wound.
There is some deep truth to the words of Jacob that resonate with me and perhaps you as well. The days of our lives pass by so very quickly and too many are a struggle. Sometimes the struggles are from things we cannot control and sometimes we are the cause of them. But Jacob had a focus beyond this life. While Jacob was ready to die he did not give up on God. He continued to live in the land he was promised as a stranger and still had future hope.
Vayigash is a fitting name for a parasha focused on coming together. The Lord also desires for each of us to draw near to Him through Messiah Yeshua. Through the Son of God there is healing like Joseph experienced, and amazing promises of future blessing, like Jacob trusted in.
The Lord desires all of us to forgive one another and reconcile when possible. But life is not simple and as fallen human beings we receive and cause emotional wounds. While we might not sell our siblings into slavery, many of us have hurt our family members, parents, spouses, children, and others, and/or been on the receiving end of such treatment.
But the Lord does not want us to stay in this state of pain and disharmony. Messiah Yeshua taught to forgive our family, our enemies, and one another, we need to reconcile wherever possible.
In His prayer that He gave us as a model, we are taught that if the Lord is gracious enough to forgive us our sins and transgressions, we need to do the same to others. For some of us this may seem impossible, but with the Lord all things are possible. With the power of the Holy Spirit we can deal with these painful wounds.
This is a very personal issue for many of us, myself included. But the Lord really can heal us, to give us a heart that is willing to forgive and to build bridges. I’ve seen it in my own life and He is there for healing in your life as well, in His time, if you let Him work within you.
May the Lord, the healer of the broken, the God of our father Jacob, give us true Shalom, true peace and wholeness that comes only from Him. May He give us the strength to forgive and bring us together wherever possible and the wisdom to know how to safely do so.