As we read this Parsha this coming Shabbat, we are completing the first of the Five Books of the Torah. Jacob is pictured on his deathbed and he “blesses all his sons” who are gathered around him, he is primarily seeking to identify the future leader of the nation of Israel. Yosef is the current leader of the tribe. He is the Viceroy of Egypt and is sustaining the entire family economically, and proves himself to be a very successful leader. Yet he is not the leader of the future. The one major drawback to Yosef is that he was never able to develop a loving relationship with his brothers. Consequently he is disqualified from future leadership. Yehudah, on the other hand, is the clear leader of the tribal nation. The commentators all look at Yaakov’s words to indicate the leadership of the descendants of other tribes, as in the case of Shimshon being descended from Dan; Gideon is a descendant, as well as Yiftach and Yehoshua. These are all successful leaders in their time. Once the first leader emanates from the tribe of Yehudah, which was King David, then all future kings are supposed to be from the tribe of Yehudah. Yehudah earned this when he offered himself in Binyamin’s stead to the Viceroy of Egypt. He had displayed leadership qualities earlier but failed to rescue Yosef and was degraded in the eyes of the brothers at that time. Here he has now regained the respect and honor, and his position for the future is secured. Professor Nechama Leibowitz pointed out in one of her lectures that the Aramaic word
– Ivrim is now translated by the Targum, the Aramaic translation of Onkelos, to be Yehudaim. Yehudim, as we see it in Hebrew, is derived from the tribe of Yehudah. Forever in the future the Jewish people are known as the descendants of Yehudah – a true mark of his leadership.
Rashi points out a Midrash that is noteworthy. He states that the Rabbis commented that once Yaakov died and was buried, the entire family returned to Egypt to live out the rest of their lives there. During their stay in the post-Yaakov period, Yosef never invited the brothers over for dinner ever again. During the time of Yaakov’s life there was brotherly love and a spirit of camaraderie displayed at all times. By pointing out the change after Yaakov’s death, our Sages were commenting that maybe time did not heal the old wounds. There was no total forgiveness offered by Yosef. The hatred subsided. There was no display of strife, but the embrace of love was lacking in the relationship among the brothers at this time. This is a very telling Midrash, one that does speak to normal, natural state of affairs. Once a close relationship ends, it is extremely difficult to mend the relationship and to put it back together again as it was earlier.
These Torah relationships can give us insight into the connections we have in our own lives today. Are there relationships that have gone sour? Is there a chance to improve them? Even if you feel there is little chance to salvage a relationship, perhaps we can take some solace in knowing that our Patriarchs also were challenged by the same things in their lives.