Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Doreish Tov on Medrash Rabbah Parashas Vayigash 5769 (1)

Doreish Tov on Medrash Rabbah
Parashas Vayigash 5769


The Medrash

The Medrash states that it is said (Bereishis 44:18) vayigash eilav Yehudah vayomer bi adoni yidbaeir na davar avdecho davar biaznei adoni vial yichar apcha biavdecho ki chomocha kiPharaoh, then Yehudah approached him and said, “If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears and let not your anger flare up at your servant – for you are like Pharaoh.” The Medrash cites the verse (Mishlei 6:1-3) that states bini im aravta lireiecha… nokashta biimrei ficha… asei zos…. My child, if you have been a guarantor for your friend (if you have given your handshake for a stranger) you have been entrapped by the words of your mouth (snared by the words of your mouth) do this, (therefore, my child, and be rescued; for you have come into your fellow’s hand). Rabbi Chanina said, “Flee from three and cleave to three. Flee from receiving deposits and from miunim (do not teach your daughter or another woman to refuse a marriage that was arranged when she was a minor) and from being a guarantor (See Matnas Kehunah for explanation). Cleave to chalitzah (when a man dies and leaves his wife childless, the preferred method for the brother of the deceased is to perform chalitzah, a ceremony that releases his sister-in-law from having to marry him) and to annulment of vows and to bringing peace between man and his fellow. Rabbi Berachiah said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Abba that it is not called pikadon (a deposit). Rather it is an acrostic of the words pok don, i.e. take this item out of your house that you should not accept it. Alternatively, the words bini im aravta lireiecha refer to Yehudah, who said (Bereishis 43:9) anochi eervenu, I will personally guarantee him. The words takata lizar kapecha, (if you have given your handshake for a stranger) refer to the words that Yehudah stated miyadi tivaksehnu, of my own hand can you demand him. The words nokashta biimrei ficha (you have been entrapped by the words of your mouth) refer to the words that Yehudah stated im lo haviosiv eilecho, if I do not bring him back to you. The words asei zos eifoh bini vihinatzel, do this, therefore, my child, and be rescued, teach us that you, i.e. Yehudah, should cleave to the dust of his feet and accept his kingship and mastery. It is regarding this that it is said vayigash eilav Yehudah.

Question on the Medrash

The Medrash states that one should not be a guarantor on a loan and the implication is that Yehudah was not correct in guaranteeing to Yaakov that he would return Binyomin to him safe. The end of the Medrash implies that Yehudah should have accepted Yosef as king. Is the Medrash faulting Yehudah for taking responsibility for Binyomin? We do not find that Yehudah was faulted for taking responsibility for Binyomin. What then is the Medrash referring to?

The deeper intention of the Medrash

It would appear from the words of the Medrash that Yehudah had taken a big chance by guaranteeing to Yaakov that he would return Binyomin safe. Although Yehudah assumed this great responsibility for Binyomin, the Medrash teaches us that being guarantor is fraught with risk, especially when dealing with a king. It is insufficient for one to take such a risk without humbling himself in the process. The Sfas Emes (5739) understands the words of the Medrash to mean that one has to accept the Kingship of HaShem and through that acceptance one can rectify everything. Yehudah reflected this ideal because Yehudah means hodaah, admission, and Yehudah was able to confess the truth, and once there is admission of the truth, everything can be rectified. Thus, we can understand that although Yehudah had guaranteed Binyomin’s safety, he was required to be truthful with himself and submit himself to Yosef’s authority. Only then could Yehudah rectify his taking the risk of guaranteeing Binyomin’s safe return.

The lesson of the Medrash

This Medrash teaches us to constantly examine our actions. We are always faced with situations where we declare that we will take full responsibility. We must know, however, that the only guarantee that we have of doing things correctly is by submitting to the will of our King, HaShem, Who controls the entire world and all our actions.

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