OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Vayigash
Surely, you have personally said or have heard someone else say, "I am proud to be a Jew."
We always hear "I am proud to be a Jew," but how come we never hear, "I am proud to be an Israelite," or "I am proud to be a Hebrew"? In fact, we speak of Judaism, never Israelism or Hebrewism.
What makes "Jewish" stick?
The name Jew comes from Yehudah, whose eloquent plea on behalf of his brother, Binyamin, opens this weeks parshah. In the subsequent parshah, Yaakov blesses him: "Yehudahyour brothers know you."
It is Yehudah in whom we take special pride.
But what is the special quality that distinguishes Yehudah from his brothersthe quality for which he is chosen by his father to precede the family to Goshen and establish a Jewish presence in Egypt?
A young man once interviewed for a job. Toward the end of the interview he was asked, "Are you a responsible person?"
"Of course," he said. "In my last jobeverything that went wrong, they held me responsible."
Responsibilitythat is Yehudahs prime quality. Yehudahs words resound through history, "I have taken responsibility for the youth."
Yehudah would guarantee his familys and his peoples future.
This guarantee, this commitment to the future is the hallmark of Jewish living.
A Hasidic Rabbi extracts from Yehudahs protection of Binyamin the ultimate quest in lifethe quest for continuity, for a learned and observant youth to carry on future generations.
"How can I return to my father and the lad is not with me," Yehudah asks Yosef. The Rabbe replays this very question to our generation: "How can I face my Heavenly Father if I do not bear responsibility for our youth?"
We are Jewish because we are like Yehudah. We are responsible.Rabbi Myron Rakowitz
Rabbi Rakowitz is rabbi of the Sephardic Jewish Center of Canarsie in Brooklyn, New York.
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OU Torah Insights 5758 Parasha Index
OU Torah Insights 5757 Parasha Index