Vayigash (He approached)

Genesis 44:18 to 47:27

Joseph is sold into slavery and adopts Egypt as his new home. However, he retains his faith in God and may be the first Jew to live in Diaspora.

The parsha opens as “Judah approached him (Joseph – his brother) and said, ‘By your leave, my lord, please give your servant a hearing…..’” (Gen. 44:18)

VayigashJudah does not recognize his brother…. Joseph no longer looks or acts as he did when he lived in his father’s house. He has completely adopted an Egyptian lifestyle.

  • Joseph dresses, speaks, and acts in a manner his brothers would not recognize.
  • He has an Egyptian name – Zaphenath-paneah … translated to “Creator of Life” or “God speaks, he lives” … this name was given to Joseph by the Pharaoh after he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.
  • He has an Egyptian wife – Asenath – She is the daughter of an Egyptian priest.
  • Joseph’s two sons also have names that further show his feelings toward his newly adopted home. The name of his first son was Manasseh, meaning “causing to forget.” The text after the name gives its meaning as “For God has made me forget all the troubles I endured in my father’s house.” …. The second son’s name, Ephraim, translates to mean “fruitful” (source of name translations is Behind the The text after this name is “God has made me fruitful in the land of affliction” as the name’s meaning. (Gen. 41:44-51)

However, Joseph has kept his faith in the Eternal. He states that all the events leading to the bringing of Jacob/Israel and his family to Egypt were part of God’s plan. (Gen 45.5) …. Joseph also attributes his dream interpretations to God. …. When asked to interpret the dreams of the Cupbearer and Cook, Joseph replied: “Surely interpretations are in God’s domain, but go ahead and tell them to me” (Gen. 40:8) And then, when asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph said: “Not I – it is God who will account for Pharaoh’s well-being.” (Gen. 41:13)

Based on the information above, Joseph can get the title as the first Jew to live in the Diaspora. While the Patriarchs are said to serve a role model for Israel’s future children, Joseph should be selected as a model for Jews living in the Diaspora.

Joseph kept his faith in God, while completely adopting the customs and traditions of Egypt. He had no contact with his family – or his people – until an emergency arose. Then, he did all he could to help them….. Yes, he did play games with his brothers before he finally identified himself. This may have been in retribution for their treatment of him when he was sold into slavery….. However, in the end, he did supply his family with food, housing, and a place where they could continue there livelihood.

However, he did not become part of the family. He remained an Egyptian and continued to live apart from his family.

I see this relationship as very similar to us, as American Jews living outside of Israel. Most of us have no plans to move and rejoin the Hebrew nation….. However, we do much to help and support the Jewish state. We are interested in its policies and offer spiritual and financial support.

While Joseph is not classified as a patriarch, many sages refer to him as “righteous.” For this reason, I feel that story of Joseph tells all Jews living outside of their homeland … or those living when there was no homeland … that they can play an important part in the story of Israel… just as Joseph did.

Earl Sabes

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

World Of Judaica
Learn Hebrew online with Israel's best teachers