By: Alexa Szafranski (11th Grade)
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayigash, Yehuda begs Yosef to free Binyamin and even offers himself to Yosef as a slave instead. When Yosef sees how much his brothers care for each other now, he cannot manage to hold in his feelings. He sends all his servants and Egyptians out of the room and then proclaims to his brothers, “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?”
Following this surprising reunion, the brothers return back to Israel to tell Yaakov the great news. Then, Yaakov, the brothers, their wives, and their children and grandchildren travel down to Egypt–amounting to a lofty seventy people.
Upon their arrival, the Jewish people are given land in Goshen to settle in, and they become a prosperous nation with the help from Yosef’s fortune from the storehouses.
One question in this Parsha that fascinated commentators is what prompted Yosef to ask the question, “Is my father still alive?” It seems as if Yosef could have assumed this based on Yehuda begging Yosef to free Binyamin for his father’s well-being.
Rabbi Label Lamm was also curious about this question, so he asked his class to see what they would come up with. One boy, usually timid in class, raised his hand. The boy reasoned that maybe Yosef was not asking if his father was physically alive, but if his same father that raised him was the same father he is now. Yosef was wondering, “Does my father still think about me?”
When Rabbi Lamm further analyzed this idea, he realized it portrays a key picture of what Yosef was probably thinking. As humans, we constantly wonder if our relationships will stay the same. Will a friendship stay the same after twenty years of not seeing each other? This is what Rabbi Lamm understands of Yosef’s question. He was not asking whether his father was dead, but rather if his father was alive and still connected with him. So too when we act in all our relationships, whether it be with a parent, teacher, or friend, we must strive to conserve the healthy connections even as time passes.