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  • Rabbi Yonah Burr

Vayigash: Taking Responsibility

ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדני ידבר נא עבדך דבר באזי אד י ואל יחר אפך בעבדך כי כמוך כפרעה
Then Yehuda approached him and said, ‘if you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears and let not your anger flare up at your servant- for you are like Pharaoh


Yehuda approached him and said, 'Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word in your ears. Don't let your anger flare up at your servant, for you are like Pharaoh.


Rashi notes that the fact that Yehuda had to implore Yosef not to get angry implies that Yehuda was speaking strongly to him. Rashi also explains that the phrase "for you are like Pharaoh" has multiple meanings: You are as important to me as Pharaoh, you will be punished for detaining Binyamin just as Pharaoh was punished for detaining Sarah, you are as untruthful as Pharaoh, and if you detain us further, I will kill you along with Pharaoh, your master.


The question is, what happened here? Right before, at the end of the previous parsha, Yehuda had said, "What can we say to my lord? How can we speak? How can we justify ourselves? God has uncovered the sin of your servants. Here we are: ready to be slaves to my lord, both we and the one in whose hand the cup was found."


Yehuda's first reaction was to be humbled and admit his guilt, and he was ready to submit himself to slavery. What changed now that Yehuda is suddenly speaking so harshly and strongly against Yosef?


Rav Schwab brings an insight from his Rebbe, Rav Yosef Leib Bloch. Initially, Yehuda was humbled and ready to accept slavery, but when he remembered the promise he made to his father to secure Binyamin's return at any cost, everything changed. When a person takes on responsibility, they rise to the challenge and are able to fulfill their promise. Sometimes, when we accept something upon ourselves, we are given the ability to fulfill it and find within ourselves the strength and talent that we didn't know we had. This is especially true when we accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. The resolution itself empowers us and gives us the strength to reach heights we didn't know were possible. Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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