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Joseph and Benjamin demonstrate that the cure for any conflict is going the extra mile to see the world through another person’s eyes.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayigash” (Genesis 44:18–47:27), in which Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers. Joseph had been playing a bit of a tyrannic tug-of-war with his brothers, who come down to Egypt for food due to the famine in the land of Israel. He accused them of being spies and played on their emotions. Finally, he revealed himself as their brother Joseph and not merely the governor of Egypt.

When Joseph finally comes clean, he tells his brothers to return home quickly and bring their father to him so that they can see each other once more. It had been over 20 years since Yaakov last saw his favorite son, Joseph.

Joseph tells his brothers that he will personally look after them and see to all their needs. He also instructs his brothers to relay to their father the details of his life: his power over Egypt, his children, and his accomplishments.

Just before Joseph sends his brothers off on their return journey to the land of Israel, the verse says, “Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.” (Gen. 45:14).

The reason why Benjamin approached Joseph and wept on his neck, instead of any of the other brothers, is easy to figure out: Benjamin was Joseph’s only full brother, whose parents were both Yaakov and Rachel. All the other brothers were only half-brothers, who came from Yaakov, and either Leah, Bilha, and Zilpah. Hence, the connection between Joseph and Benjamin was stronger than their connection with any of the other brothers.

But what was the crying all about?

The commentators teach that Joseph was actually crying because he foresaw that in the future Jerusalem’s two Holy Temples would be destroyed, which were located in the portion of the Land of Israel that belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.

Meanwhile, Benjamin was crying over the Mishkan/Tabernacle, which was built and later destroyed in Shilo, located in the territory belonging to the tribe of Joseph.

Therefore, Joseph and Benjamin were not only shedding tears of joy for their reunion after so many years, they were also crying over tragedies that would befall one another, later in history.

So the question is asked: Why now? Why are they thinking about Tabernacles and Temples that weren’t even built yet? Why couldn’t they just focus on the happiness of their reunion, in the present?

It is explained that the brothers’ extreme concern for tragedies that would befall one each other’s descendants thousands of years later was the product of the “extra love” that each brother made an effort to show.

The reason Joseph and the brothers ended up in this family feud in the first place was because they did not show enough love for one another. They were quick to judge, argumentative, and didn’t care for one another. Now that life had brought them full circle, they wanted to show that they had learned the lessons of the past.

Therefore, they wanted to demonstrate–to an extreme, perhaps–their commitment to be sensitive and loving toward one another forever, so that the conflict and tragedy that befell them previously could never happen again.

The message for us is to try to show sensitivity to others. More often than not, hard feelings arise when people care only about themselves and aren’t sensitive to others. Making even a small effort to see things from another person’s perspective is guaranteed to save heartache and aggravation.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.








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