Inspiration vs. Action

Thursday, 21 December, 2017 - 11:48 am

J.jpgInspiration vs. Action   

Judah approaches Joseph.

He did not know it at that moment, but when Judah approached the viceroy of Egypt, to demand that his brother Benjamin be released, he was approaching his long lost brother Joseph.

The Kabbalists explain, that the rivalry between the brothers and Joseph, which led to the brothers selling Joseph as a slave, was no ordinary rivalry motivated by a dispute over their father's attention and love. In fact, the dispute between Joseph and his brothers was about something much deeper and more spiritual in nature: it was about which brother should be their leader? Which brother would be their king, the one who exemplified the qualities critical for the Jewish faith to survive? Whose model of spirituality should the family adopt?  

The brothers chose Judah. They believed that he was to be their leader, for he personified the qualities necessary for their values to flourish. The word Judah means acknowledgment and submission. Judah was a man of action. Very often his motives were less than exemplary, yet, consistently, in moments of crises, regardless of his own personal feelings and state of mind, he rose to the occasion and made the right choice.

Judah personifies the Jew who is committed to what he knows is correct despite tremendous persecution and pressure. In fact, the word Jew comes from the word Judah, and was first used to describe all the children of Israel in the book of Esther, when the people remained loyal to their faith despite the persecution of Haman, thus exhibiting Judah like - Jewish - qualities.    

The brothers crowned Judah as their king. They understood, correctly, that he must lead. That his commitment to action in the face of challenge was the secret ingredient to their survival.    

Then, along came Joseph and his dreams. Joseph told the brothers, that in his dreams, the brothers bow to him, that he must be their leader. That they must acknowledge the superiority of inspiration, wisdom and learning. The word Joseph means “to add”. Joseph was like a fountain of wisdom who continuously would come up with new insights, adding layers  of understanding to the previously acquired wisdom.  

The brothers decided to get rid of Joseph. They mistakenly thought that they were correct in doing so because Joseph rebelled against Judah the king who they had appointed, and because he threatened their survival by undercutting the importance of action based commitment to the correct path.

In this week's Parsha, Judah approached Joseph, Joseph was the powerful ruler of Egypt and Judah was subordinate to him. In what is perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in the Torah, Judah revealed his identity to his brothers, and then, explain the Kabbalists, Joseph revealed a deep truth. He told them “G-d has sent me here before you”. Joseph explained that indeed, ultimately, Judah would  rule. That indeed the tribe of Judah would be the tribe of kingship. That indeed action, the quality of Judah, is superior. Yet “G-d sent me (Joseph) before you”. That before you acquire a leader who is Judah you require a leader who is Joseph. There must be a recognition of the role of study and personal growth in the life of a Jew.

Just as it was in the history of the Jewish people, so it is in the life of every Jew. At first our inner Joseph is meant to rule. We are called upon to “add”, to grow our understanding and our emotional bond to the teachings of Judaism. Yet once we reach the limit of where our heart and mind can take us, we appoint Judah as our king. We realize that our wisdom, our Joseph, cannot touch the infinite light of G-d. To touch the infinity we must achieve a Judah like commitment and dedication to G-d’s will. We must take action.[1]

[1] Adapted from the Shalah Parshas Mikets, and on Torah Or Parsahs Vayigash. 

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