August 16, 2022

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Top secret Symptoms: Passing on Judaism’s Code of Conduct (Parshat Vayigash) | Kenneth Brander

3 min read

TRANSCRIPT

Is there a mandated moral course of action to take in situations where there is no explicit ruling in the Torah?

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayigash, we find assurances of how this accountability is element of the Jewish halakhic mandate.

When Yosef reconciles with his brothers, he sends them back home with gifts and food for his father and family – including something which, on the surface, is puzzling:

‎וַיִּתֵּ֨ן לָהֶ֥ם ‎יוֹסֵ֛ף עֲגָל֖וֹת ‎עַל־פִּ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה

Yosef gave them agalot – wagons, or cows, based on the translation – with the permission of Pharaoh.

And when Yaakov sees these agalot and is told that his son, Yosef, is alive, his spirit is revived due to the fact of the information these agalot express. Right away, Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains the connection between this gift of agalot and Yaakov’s spirit.

Yosef knew that his father might not believe his brothers when they inform him that he is still alive.

He therefore sent the agalot as a indicator, a secret code indicating to his father that he has not forgotten the past subject they researched together ahead of they were divided: the halakhic concept of the “eglah arufah.”

According to the regulations of the eglah arufah, inhabitants of a individual are meant to escort traveling to friends to the outskirts of the city in purchase to guard them.

If a traveler is murdered in the region in between one town and the subsequent, the town leaders need to just take responsibility for not keeping him/her safe.

This occurs through the medium of the eglah arufah ritual.

On the one hand, sending the agalot to Yaakov is Yosef’s way of telling him that he is, in point, alive.

But at the same time, it is also Yosef’s way of sending his father an fundamental information: perhaps Yaakov is not completely free of responsibility for Yosef’s life of tragedy. After all, Yaakov despatched Yosef alone from Hebron to his brothers.

There is also a more substantial narrative highlighted by Yosef’s reward of the agalot that we Ought to extrapolate from the textual content.

Mentioning the study session between Yaakov and Yosef reminds us that our patriarchs’ and matriarchs’ lives ended up eaten with speaking about beliefs that would at some point make up the moral and thical fiber of the Jewish people.

We see this in the course of Bereishit.  Another case in point is in the famed discussion concerning Avraham and God about Sodom and Amorah Avraham reminds God, “Far be it from You! Shall not the Decide of all the earth deal justly?” – would not the Creator of the universe want ethics and righteousness to be section of His conduct with Sodom and Amorah?

This ethical and moral foundation is emphasized several times within the Ebook of Bereishit and it is why our Sages contact it ספר הישר – “The E-book of Righteousness,” for it animates an ethos that will shape Judaism and its worldview.

Baked into the Jewish tradition is an elastic clause that demands from us to do good and right in all times and in all situations.

A responsibility to be a moral and ethical people.

When we read the story of the agalot through this prism, we learn that Yosef is sending his father Yaakov an important message. He is declaring, “Abba, your lessons were being not missing on me. I acted ethically and morally even in Egypt.”

May possibly we merit to successfully pass on our spiritual genetic makeup to future generations and conduct ourselves according to the ethics embedded in Judaism.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-dependent network of 27 instructional and social action plans transforming Jewish life, residing and management in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva Substantial College. He served as the Vice President for University and Neighborhood Lifestyle at Yeshiva College and has authored a lot of articles or blog posts in scholarly journals.

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