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Rabbi Acoca on Parashat Vayigash

(Flickr photo)

The Torah portions we have been reading recently are extremely dramatic. Episodes including Joseph and his brothers not getting along, Joseph being placed in a pit and sold and then being thrown in prison are just part of it.

One of the most moving scenes is Judah pleading on behalf of his brother Benjamin, who is accused of stealing the Egyptian viceroy’s silver cup. Benjamin’s punishment is to stay in Egypt as the viceroy’s servant for the rest of his life.

Our rabbis teach that Judah tried all types of tactics to convince the viceroy (an unrecognized Joseph) to release Benjamin. He tried to talk harshly, then softly and did anything in his ability to protect his brother.

There is a great lesson to be drawn from this story. As Jews, we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our background or beliefs. When one Jew is hurt, we should all feel the pain and do our best to assist him or her.


A few years ago, on erev Hanukkah, I found myself in a store, buying some items for the holiday. As I was shopping, I got a call from an acquaintance, who pleaded with me to buy him some candles to light the hanukkiah. He told me he had lost his job and did not have money to buy candles for Hanukkah.

After an unsuccessful attempt to convince him to come to our home for dinner, I bought the candles and some doughnuts and headed out to the address he gave me. As I was waiting, I got a call from a businessman I knew who was looking for a worker. I told him about my acquaintance who had recently become unemployed, and made a match for the job.

Just as Judah felt his brother’s pain, we should do the same and bring some more light to the world.