OU Torah Insights ProjectParshat Vayigash
There are three motivations in lifefaith, reason and love.
Faith forms the basis for relationships of families and friends. It is also the underlying factor in commerce and business dealings. Trade and credit are promoted by trust. But alas, we see a breakdown of faith between parents and children, and the prevalence of betrayal in business.
Next comes reason, or logic. Psychologists advise us to reason with our childrenyet failure is rampant. And in arguments between husband and wife we know who lost when we hear, "Darling, lets be reasonable."
It is then that we resort to love. But love, too, has pitfalls. It is subject to moods and caprice.
Therefore, even in the highest love relationshipmarriagethere must be a contract and guarantees. Judaism calls for tanaim and a kesubah, marriage contracts that lend discipline, direction, and dedication to a relationship.
Muslims have faith; secular humanists, reason; Christians, love. But Judaism is based on a covenantthe Torah.
In Parshas Vayigash, we read of the confrontation between Yehudah and Yosef. Yehudah was pleading for the release of Binyamin.
Why did no other brother step forward to defend Binyamin, against Yosefs charge that he was a thief? Surely they all believed that he was innocent? Reason dictated that they should save him. Surely, their love for Binyamin, and more so, for their father, Yaakov, ought to have prompted them to come forward.
Yet only Yehudah did so. Why? Because he had made a covenant with his father, a pledge to bring Binyamin home, as he told Yosef, "Your servant became surety for the lad unto my father."
Likewise, Avraham and Yaakov made covenants with Avimelech. G-d Himself made covenants with Noach, Avraham, and the entire nation of Israel.
This is the principle of "Gadol metzuveh veosehGreater is the one who is commanded and fulfills" the command. The one who is bound to a task by a commitment will be more exact in fulfilling it.
A member of a synagogue has to be a committed Jewa committed Jew who is a ben bris, a member of the covenant, a Jew bound as a guarantor by his covenantal contract: the Torah.
Rabbi Philip Harris Singer