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Home » Vayigash

Vayigash: The Path of Teshuvah

Submitted by on December 5, 2005 – 5:36 pmNo Comment | 2,620 views

Judah’s Repentance

The brothers held Judah responsible for the sale of Josef. After all, Judah made the initial suggestion to sell Joseph into slavery. Demoted from his position of leadership, Judah left home and embarked upon a self-imposed exile. He returned years later, contrite and prepared to make up for previous sins.

Many years later, when the brother traveled to Egypt to seek food during  a famine, the brothers were confronted by an Egyptian Prince, who demanded that Benjamin,their youngest brother , be brought before to Egypt. Jacob, fearing that Benjamin, like his older brother Joseph, would disappear, refused to let him go, but Judah took it upon himself to bring Benjamin home safely.

In assuring Benjamin’s return he reversed direction from his previous conduct of assuring Josef’s disappearance, thus taking the lead in correcting for a sin that he had taken the lead in committing.

When carefully laid plans backfired Judah stepped up to speak on his brother’s behalf. He stated that he alone was responsible for bringing Benjamin home. He boldly proclaimed that he would not stand by and watch his father’s devastation.

Life on the Line

Our sages tell us that in standing up to Josef, Judah was prepared not only to negotiate but if necessary to fight. Our sages further inform us that Judah and his brothers would not have prevailed militarily against the Egyptian army. Yet they were prepared to put their lives on the line in a valiant effort to save Benjamin.

If nothing else, this was the ultimate yardstick by which Josef measured their repentance.the path to teshuvah - innerstream In the past they had sold their brother into slavery and caused their father tremendous anguish now they were prepared to lay their life on the line in defense of their brother and to save their father from anguish. This was precisely what Josef was looking for. He wanted to know that they had repented.

The Signpost of Repentance

Rambam teaches that the ultimate sign of repentance is to be tempted by the same sin in identical circumstances and nevertheless abstain. Indeed, the brothers were provided with the opportunity to abandon Benjamin, but they had repented. They sacrificed themselves for the sake of their brother. When Josef saw that, he recognized that they were on the path of teshuva. He forgave them and revealed his identity to them.


Our Parsha teaches that it is not enough to offer verbal apologies and display public bouts of contrition. In Teshuva (repentance) we must pro-actively reverse the damage caused by past sins and take constructive steps to adjust our future behavior.