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Dvar Torah - Vayigash

This week begins the end of the story of Yossef. Yossef has tricked his brothers into believing that he will penalise them for the "theft" of his silver goblet. They come back in a state, ready to fall on the sword together rather than abandon Binyamin to his fate after the goblet was found in his saddlebags. The brothers show a touching concern for each other, for perhaps the first time ever. And then, cliffhanger. We break for the week, not finishing the story yet. Even more strangely, this is not merely a characteristic of some idiosyncratic rabbi hundreds of years ago who decided to confuse us all with strange breaks in the parsha. The Torah itself indicates that the parsha of Vayigash is to be read as a separate unit through its use of paragraph breaks. Why?

To explain this anomaly in the Torah's recounting of the events long ago, we need to think about how the two stories are thematically different. Last week, the brothers finally learned to work together, to love each other, to look after each other. That lesson is learnt, and yet their ordeal is not yet over. There is one more thing which has to happen. Yehuda must jump forward and volunteer to go in Binyamin's place, as long as Binyamin can go free. Yehuda must fulfil the promise of leadership which he showed over the last two weeks. Yehuda here shows everyone present what it means to truly be in charge and be concerned for the welfare of others.

As Yehuda jumps forward to offer to make his offer which would spare Binyamin we see what makes this week's parsha different. It's not about the mere fact that Yehuda cares about and loves Binyamin. There is a new element here of responsibility and leadership. Yehuda has stepped into the role that he will fill for most of the rest of Jewish history, to lead the Children of Israel forwards to a better future. He guarantees them, he provides the vision, and he recognises his own responsibility for the results.

Throughout the past two years, we have seen the tremendous importance of good leadership. Good leaders are able to inspire others to follow them, to grow, and to make the world a better place. Good leaders have a vision of the future which is compelling and which others can connect with. Good leaders have the ability to foresee how their actions will affect the world. Good leaders exhibit all the traits which Yehuda shows here as he works to solve the brothers' conundrum.

But Yehuda teaches us one more thing. He teaches us that leadership is necessary for many occasions. You have to be a good leader to help your country, to feed the masses as Yossef did. But you must equally be a good leader to help your immediate family navigate danger. We all face both the opportunities and the necessity of leadership. Let's all use the coming year to capitalise on that opportunity on behalf of all who depend on us.

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