Parashat Vayigash: Behind Yehudah’s Anger



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There is a puzzling incident that happens in the beginning of this Parashah.

According to the midrash (see also Rashi), after Yosef had accused one of the brothers of stealing his cup, Yehudah adamantly proclaimed that anyone who would be caught stealing should be put to death — showing that he was absolutely sure of his family’s integrity. (This is reminiscent of his father, Yaakov’s, earlier declaration in Parashat Vayeitzei when Lavan accused someone in his household of stealing Lavan’s avodah zara idols.) Later, it was revealed that the cup had been in Binyamin’s sack. Of course, Yosef set it all up; so he told them that it was not necessary to put Binyamin to death, instead the youngest brother would have to become a slave in Egypt for life. At this point, Yehudah became enraged.

Now, the question is: if the supposed punishment was reduced (slavery rather than death), why would Yehudah become angry? His reaction should have been the opposite since he was the one who introduced the death penalty to begin with.

Yehudah actually got upset because he knew it was not fair. Why? When the brothers sold Yosef to slavery, they all knew that someday they would be punished for it by Hashem. So they had already accepted in their heart that whatever suffering they would encounter in the future would be well-deserved. But Binyamin was not included in the “crime” so he did not deserve to be punished at all. Thus, Yehudah had to stop it by fearlessly voicing his objection.

(Source: Heard from my husband)

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