THE POWER OF FORESIGHT
This week's Torah portion opens with Judah's appeal to Joseph for Benjamin's life, prefaced by the following lead-in: "And Judah drew near to him and said. . ." (Gen. 44:18).
This week's Torah portion opens with Judah's appeal to Joseph for Benjamin's life, prefaced by the following lead-in: "And Judah drew near to him and said. . ." (Gen. 44:18). What is the significance of Judah's drawing near -- why doesn't the Torah just jump right in and tell us what he said? After all, Benjamin's life is at stake, the story is approaching its climax, and the audience is at the edge of its seat. Why the delay?
The same term of "drawing near" is used to describe Abraham as he pleads with Hashem to spare the cities of Sodom and Amorrah from destruction (Gen. 18:23). Rashi comments there that the expression of "drawing near" can be found in three scenarios throughout Tanach, the complete compilation of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings: in reference to war, appeasement, and prayer. For each of these situations a person must settle his mind and carefully prepare himself for the task at hand.
The Torah is telling us that Judah did not dive into his argument without first thinking it through. He was not acting solely on the emotions which had been created by the intense buildup of frustration caused by the events of last week's Torah portion. Rather, he put himself in a controlled frame of mind in order to deliver a logical and convincing argument for Benjamin's life, taking Joseph's possible responses and retorts into consideration. Perhaps this is the reason why Judah and his descendants were chosen to be the kings of Israel, in place of the first-born Reuben. Hashem wanted a rational, calculating leader for His people.
Judah's lesson can be applied to our everyday lives in a number of ways. Very often, we act irrationally and without thinking, fueled only by our emotions. If only we would stop for a minute to determine if our goals are worthwhile and our plans rational, many problems could be avoided. The same idea is expressed in our Rabbis' teachings: "Who is wise? He who perceives the final outcome" (Tractate Tamid 32a).
Parts of this D'var Torah were adapted from Rabbi David Feinstein's book entitled Kol Dodi on the Torah.
Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta, is a founding editor of Torah from Dixie.
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