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VA-YIGGASH 5784

12/22/2023 10:22:41 AM

Dec22

Shalom to all,

First of all, a big yish’ar koach to Michael and Maggie Rubin, who sponsored last week’s kiddush in honour of their anniversary and in honour of the Israeli soldiers, and this week’s, in memory of Michael’s grandmother Lillian; and to Irwin Miller who sponsored last week in memory of his brother Monroe ben Yosef (Meir).

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A riddle for this week: on the assumption that most Hebrew verbs have a 3 consonant root, what is the root of the first word in this week’s parasha, va-yiggash, and why do I transliterate it with 2 g”s?

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At the beginning of the parasha, Yehudah approaches Mr. Tsofnat Paneach, aka avreich, the “mashbir,”  (i.e. Joseph, 2nd in command of Egypt) rather obsequiously.

Yehudah says, “please,  my master, let me your servant speak in my master’s ears, and don’t be angry at me, your servant, for there is none like you, you are just like Pharoah.  You, my master asked us, your servants, if we have a father or a brother.” This type of timid speech extends from verse 18 through verse 34.

The great Sephardi commentator Rabbeinu Bahya elaborates on this in his introduction to this parasha. He begins his introduction with a verse from Mishlei (Proverbs) 15:1 ”ma`aneh rakh yashiv heimah” “a soft answer will push away anger,” He explains how Yehudah, using this approach, felt he would be mollifying Yoseph’s anger about the stealing of the chalice.

HOWEVER, the Aramaic Targum Yerushalmi sees another message, reading between the lines of Yehudah’s speech. For, wink wink, Yehudah is saying, “I swear on my father’s life, and I‘m not lying, that if I were to take my sword out of its sheaf, I WOULD NOT RETURN IT UNTIL THE WHOLE LAND OF EGYPT WOULD BE FILLED WITH CORPSES….. did you hear what my two brothers Shimon and Levi did to the whole city of Shechem? They killed the entire city because the inhabitants had defiled their sister Dinah…..”

On Yehudah’s words “you are like Pharoah,” Rashi explains that the “peshat” is that Yehudah respects him just like he respects Pharoah, but Rashi adds that the midrash is that Yehuda really means “if you harm Benjamin, you will be harmed just like Pharoah was harmed when he had taken Sara.”

I am reminded of the aphorism popularized by US President Teddy Roosevelt, “talk softly but carry a big stick.” So, Rabbeinu Bahya tells us that Yehudah’s words were words of appeasement, but they were said in a way that conveyed the threat of war.

 

May the people of Israel have only peace and security, and may the leaders know how to negotiate wisely.

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And the answer to my question: the root of the verb are the letters nun, gimmel, shin.

The “nun” has disappeared and appears simply as a dot in the “gimmel.” The dot is known in grammar as a “dagesh hazaq,” and strengthens the sound of the “gimmel.”

May all our soldiers go from strength to strength.

Shabbat shalom, Rabbi Menahem White

Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784