Shabbat Vayigash 5773

Of all the heroes in the Bible, only one character earns the title Tzaddik, righteous, from the Rabbis. That character is Yosef, the man who rises from obnoxious teenager to Egypt’s chief economic adviser, from slave to master of his family’s destiny. And perhaps most significantly, Yosef is the one to break the cycle of sibling rivalry and estrangement in the narratives of Genesis.

This week, once he has revealed his identity to his brothers, reunited the family and established them in their own posh suburb of Goshen, Yosef goes about carrying out the economic plan that he crafted in response to Pharaoh’s dreams. Seven years of plenty have passed, and in the depths of famine, the Egyptian people come begging for help. First, they offer all their money; next, their livestock. Finally, with no currency left at their disposal, and still in need of food, they offer their land and themselves: 

“So Joseph gained possession of all the farm land in Egypt for Pharaoh, every Egyptian having sold his field because the famine was too much for them; thus the land passed over to Pharaoh. And he removed the population town by town, from one end of Egypt’s border to the other” (Genesis 47:20-21)

In his book Assimilation Versus Separation, Aaron Wildavsky observes Yosef’s managerial policies and posits that the reason Yosef’s story occupies so many chapters in the Torah is to prepare us for Moshe’s arrival once we move into Exodus. That’s because Yosef is the model of what NOT to do as a leader. He was the anti-Moshe.

What are some of the ways in which Yosef’s actions are the antithesis of Moshe? We’ll talk about this further on Shabbat morning.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise