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Transformation

"And Judah approached him and said, please my master, let your servant speak... for you are like Pharaoh."

In what is perhaps the most dramatic scene in all five books of Moses, Judah, king of the brothers, approaches Joseph, viceroy of Egypt, to plead with him to spare his brother Benjamin, for whom he had pledged his life.   After listening to Judah's pleas, Joseph can no longer contain himself and reveals his identity to his brothers.

On the surface, it appears that Judah was forced to humble himself before Joseph and acknowledge his superior authority.  However, on closer examination, we perceive that actually, Judah conducted himself with considerable bravado and determination.  He approached Joseph without receiving permission in advance, and spoke to Joseph using firm, audacious words - seemingly not taking in consideration the strength of Joseph's position.

Judah and Joseph, while both possessing majestic qualities, represent two different forms of divine service.  At the end of times, the kingship of Judah will prevail, as a verse in this week's haftorah states:  "I will gather the Jewish people from among the nations and make them into one people, with one king over them, and my servant David will rule over them forever."

The difference between Joseph and Judah is that Joseph was granted his rulership by Pharaoh, and was in fact secondary to him.  Although Joseph ruled over Egypt, he was not entirely free of its bounds - his rule extended only over those matters that did not conflict with Pharaoh.  Judah, on the other hand, approached Joseph with full command of the situation.   He conducted himself as if he completely did not recognize his subjugation to Joseph.  This indicates a manner of divine service in which a Jew does not recognize any earthly master, but behaves as if he is completely above the bounds of this world. This strength derives from a Jew's acknowledgment of his Divine Master.  Indeed, the word "Jew" is an abbreviation of the name Judah, which in Hebrew means acknowledgement of G-d.

This strength and determination of the Jew, in face of all worldly obstacles, will bring to the redemption, when the Davidic dynasty, offspring of Judah, will be established forever.  Even the nations of the world will recognize the authority of King Moshiach, as the verse states:  "Then I will transform all nations to be pure of speech, to call in the name of G-d and serve him as one."

Presently, we are at a point in history where Jewish pride is flourishing.  We live amongst nations that not only permit but also encourage Jewish observance.  There is a tremendous thirst among all people to hear the divine wisdom in Torah.  We must take advantage of this opportunity to transmit the divine message and prepare the world for the complete redemption.

(Based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Parshat Vayigash 5752)

 

 


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