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Parashat Vayigash: Hate Between Brothers

Sinat achim. Hate between brothers. The word hate is something strong. But so it is when siblings stop talking to each other.

This week’s parasha shows us the change in family ties: after the breaking of the fraternal bond between Yosef and his brothers, it is Yehudah who displays a total dedication by offering himself to replace his younger brother, Binyamin, in face of a deception armed by Yosef that makes him stay in Egypt as a hostage.

Yehudah changes the paradigm that the brothers of the biblical story maintained. That of division, that of discord, that of deception and even worse. Each pair of siblings, up to this moment, let out the crudest trait of their personality, regardless of the consequences to the other. But in the case of Yaakov’s sons, they did it as a group.

Something begins to change. The brothers start, for the first time, taking care of each other as never before: Yehudah of Binyamin and his father Yaakov; Yosef of his brothers, leaving aside all the anger and pain that the story they lived had caused him. In Yehudah’s case, he puts his own life at risk for his younger brother.

Interestingly, Binyamin and Yehudah become the forefathers of the two tribes who survive the dispersion and remain as solid axes of the People of Israel. Based on that love and personal renunciation that strongly tie bonds.

Yehudah resigns, but if we go a little further in the story, the one who resigns the most may be Yosef. That is probably why he is called Yosef haTzadik. Not because he has been fair in his performance as administrator of the Pharaoh; not because his adminstration has been successful and has enriched their coffers. Not even because he has welcomed into his new home those brothers who had betrayed him. What gave him that condition was probably that internal power to renounce his own anguish and miseries, understanding that it was the only way to rebuild.

The message is clear. If there is a will to build, it is mandatory for egos to step aside. In a joint construction it is impossible for one to think of oneself, because if each one maintains his own convictions, offenses, pains, differences, claims, positions... we will not be able to do anything together.

Yehudah succeeded and maintained a bond that kept our people to this day.

Yosef succeeded and rebuilt a family that was plunging into division and dissolution.

There is a change to be achieved. We must learn from our own history and understand that Sinat Achim is leading nowhere. That change and acceptance of differences in our families, in our Communities and in our People is possible.

We can surely rethink how to do so that what divides us can be put aside and that we are able to change the present for a better, more solid future, with stronger content and commitment to our fellow man and our environment.

Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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