Interpersonal Community Building
December 19, 2015 – ז טבת תשע”ו
In this week’s parsha, Yaacov sends Yehudah ahead of him to Egypt to prepare for his own descent. The verse (Bereishit 46:28) tells us “he sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to direct him to Goshen, and they came to the land of Goshen.” From this verse, several questions arise. First, why did Yaacov send specifically Yehudah ahead of himself? Why not any other brother? Second, what was this “directing” that was occurring in Goshen?
Let’s start with the latter. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah 95:3) teach us that “להורת-to direct” meant that Yaacov was sending Yehudah down to Egypt to construct a Beit Midrash, a house of study and learning, and that Yehudah was best suited to build it because he was the most physically strong and the most learned of all of the brothers, the sons of Yaacov.
On the other hand, the Midrash Rabbah (91:1) gives an alternative answer. It states that the situation being refered to here is hinted at by the prophet Isaiah, who states that “the lion like ox will eat straw” (Isaiah 65:25). The symbol of Yehudah is the lion and that of Yosef is the ox. On the basis of this verse, we see that the ox and lion had a special relationship. This indicates that Yehudah was sent because he had the strongest rapport and relationship with his brother Yosef.
Which was the real reason for sending Yehudah down to Egypt? A house of study or to interact with Yosef? The answer is both. We see from here that the presence of strong intercommunal bonds play a key role in the establishment of a Torah community. The higher level of relationship between Yehudah and Yosef facilitated the building of the Beit Midrash, and Yehudah’s presence ensured that a place of learning would be established in Goshen and founded upon principles of Torah and proper interpersonal relationships, both very important ideals.