By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
At the climax of the eloquent plea to spare Binyamin from a
lifetime of slavery, Yehudah utters the words that melt the viceroy’s heart:
“And it shall be, when he [Yaakov] sees that the lad is not [with us], he
shall die; and your servants shall have brought the gray hair of your servant
our father in grief to the grave. Because your servant guaranteed (ARAV) the
lad from my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him to you then I will be
sinning to my father all the days’. And now, please let your servant remain
instead of the lad, as a servant to my lord, and let the lad go up with his
brothers. For how can I go up to my father if the lad is not with me? Lest I
will witness the evil that will befall my father!” (Bereishit 44:31-34).
The viceroy then reveals his true identity as Yosef.
Yehudah does not disclose what occurred “behind-the-scenes” with Yaakov, but we
are aware of the difficult deliberations before Yaakov allowed his sons to
return to Egypt with Binyamin. Reuven, the first-born, took the initiative:
And Reuven said to his father, saying, “Execute my two sons if I do not bring
him to you. Put him in my hand and I will restore him to you” (Bereishit 42:37).
Yaakov rejected this offer, relenting only when all the provisions were
It was then that Yehudah made his proposal:
And Yehudah said to Yisrael his father, “Send the lad with me and let us get up
and go, so we will live and not die, both we and you and our children. I will
guarantee him (E’ERVENU); from my hand shall you seek him. If I do not bring him
to you and present him before you, then I will have sinned before you all the
days. For had we not tarried, then by now we could have returned twice!”
As Rashi says, Yehudah meant that he would suffer, even in the next world, if he
would not return Binyamin. It was when Yehudah guaranteed (E’ERVENU . . . ARAV)
Binyamin’s safety that Yaakov finally agreed.
But, what is the nature of this pledge, and what effect does it have on the
The Talmud (Bava Batra 173b) discusses Yehudah’s promise as the possible source
for the halachic principle of arevut: surety, an enforceable verbal commitment
to others. In its most familiar form, an arev undertakes to repay a loan on
behalf of the debtor. On the one hand, Yehudah might not be a true arev, since
he is both the surety and the debtor. On the other hand, Yehudah stands as
surety for Reuven’s commitment to Yaakov.
What is certain is that this pledge forges a bond between Yehudah and Binyamin
that is the key to Yosef’s reunion with his family.
This bond has historic ramifications:
When Yishai’s sons are off at war against the Philistines, he
sends his youngest son, David, to bring them provisions, saying:
“…and look how your brothers fare, and their pledge (ARUBATAM) shall you
bring” (Shmuel I 17:18).
The Sages explain (Midrash Shmuel 20:8; Yalkut Ha’mechiri Tehillim 48:4 from
Tanchuma) that David must make good on the guarantee (AREVUT) made by his
ancestor Yehudah regarding Binyamin, the ancestor of King Shaul: By defeating
the Philistine champion Goliat, David will save Shaul.
Binyamin is the first tribe of the house of Yosef to follow
David, despite their relation to Shaul (Shmuel II 3:19, 19:21; Melachim I
11:32; see Redak).
When he is pursued by Shaul, supporters of David come
from the children of Binyamin and Yehudah (Divrei HaYamim I 12:17).
Yerov’am ben-Nevat rebels against the house of David, leading
to a division within the kingdom, but:
And when Rechav’am came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Yehudah,
with the tribe of Binyamin, one hundred eighty thousand chosen men, warriors,
to fight against the house of Yisrael, to return the kingdom to Rechav’am son
of Shlomo (Melachim I 12:21).
After the division, the two tribes are one:
. . . none was left but the tribe of Yehudah alone (Melachim II 17:18).
On this, Redak says: “And the tribe of Binyamin was secondary to it and
included in it.” (See also Divrei HaYamim II 11:1,3,10,12,23; 15:2,8,9; 25:5;
This union continues after the exile to Babylon, when
the heads of the families of Yehudah and Binyamin arose, together with Kohanim
and Leviim, all those whose spirit G-d stirred, to go up to build the house of
Hashem in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:5; see also 4:1; 10:9).
The Beit HaMikdash was partially in the territory of Yehudah and partially in
Binyamin (Zevachim 53b).
The miracles of Purim came about through Esther and Mordechai,
who is called both a Yehudi and a man of Binyamin (Esther 2:5) .
The Talmud (Sukkah 27b; Tosefta Sukkah 1:5) notes other
similarities between these two tribes:
Yehudah and Binyamin produced the only kings who ruled over
the united 12 tribes: Shaul from Binyamin, and David and Shlomo from Yehudah.
The kings of these two tribes were chosen by prophets: Shaul
and David by Shmuel. (There is a view that Yerov’am ben Nevat, who was
anointed by Achiya HaShiloni, was from the tribe of Binyamin.)
In “Mah Bein Shaul L’David”, R. Yehoshua Bachrach compares the
Binyamin is the introvert, characterized by modesty, silence and restraint. The
youngest child, he is orphaned at birth, and is sheltered and granted privileges
to compensate for this hardship. He becomes the smallest tribe, behaving like a
pampered and troubled child, and providing the meteoric and unstable reign of
Shaul. Yehudah is the extrovert, characterized by action, garrulousness, and
natural leadership. He earns his privilege through his own efforts and
deliberations, learning as well from his errors. He becomes the largest tribe,
behaving like a responsible and family-oriented child, and providing the stable
and steady monarchy of the house of David.
It is altogether fitting that Yehudah and Binyamin remain united.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
THE KEY TO REDEMPTION: TEMPORARY RESIDENCE
The initial stage of our first exile is marked by a list of the seventy
names of Yaakov’s household who have just arrived in Egypt. “And these are
the names of the children of Israel who are coming (“ha’ba’im”) into
Egypt” (Bereishit 46:8-27). Interestingly, this very phrase is quoted
verbatim in the opening verse of the book of Shemot.
There, however, not only are the seventy names reduced to twelve, but
the tense also switches from the present “who are coming” in the opening
phrase to the past found in the closing phrase: “...each has arrived with
his family” (Shemot 1:1). To resolve this grammatical difficulty, Rabbi
Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l suggested that the key to redemption lies in
our ability to see ourselves as having ‘just arrived’ and being nothing
more than ‘temporary residents.’ This is borne out by the Midrash which
emphasizes that Yaakov’s children retained their Hebrew names: “Reuven
descended (from Eretz Yisrael); Reuven ascended (from Egypt), Levi
descended; Levi ascended, etc.” We also read in the Pesach Haggadah that
Yaakov had no intention to plant himself in Egypt; he meant only to live
there temporarily. Insisting on a psychological awareness of temporary
existence as a necessary prerequisite for achieving redemption, Rabbi
Soloveitchik commented that he abhorred the term “Diaspora,” preferring
instead the harsh word “galut” (exile). “Diaspora” smacks of legitimacy,
while “galut” clearly indicates detachment from an original homeland,
along with a nostalgic longing to return.
The past two thousand years of Jewish history is replete with examples
of Jews being “reminded” of their “temporary residence” status. One
should, therefore, not be shocked by the recent sharp rise in world-wide
anti-Semitism. When I was growing up in the sixties in New York, my father
would comment about isolated anti-Semitic acts (e.g., synagogue or
cemetery desecrations) that at least we should remember that we’re in “galut”!
Perhaps there was adequate “ha’ba’im” awareness in my home environment
that ultimately brought my family out of the American “galut” to join the
miraculous historic process of the ingathering of exiles in the land of
Rabbi Dr. Aaron Adler
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320