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    Slave for slave – Vayyiggash

    Joseph's cup is found in Benjamin's sack, a depiction from the 16th century

    Joseph’s cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. The proposed punishment for Benjamin was slavery.

    Judah, however, asked Joseph to let Benjamin go and to take him, Judah, as a slave instead (Gen. 45:33). Presumably Judah would make a better slave (Rashi).

    Is it nobility of character that leads Judah to make his offer? Is it brotherly love for Benjamin? It is true that Judah had promised Jacob to take care of Benjamin, but to take the responsibility this far?

    Another approach is possible. As last week’s sidra ends, Judah tells Joseph, “God has found out the sin of your servants” (Gen. 44:16).

    Which sin – the stealing of the cup? Could the answer be, the sin of kidnapping Joseph all those years before? Who, after all, had suggested at that point that Joseph should be sold as a slave? The same Judah who now figures in our story (Gen. 37:26)!

    It is years later, but Judah now feels the pangs of guilt. He who wanted one brother taken into slavery now sees how distressing it is to see another brother faced with becoming a slave. A long-suppressed conscience now comes to the fore.

    No wonder Joseph, the Egyptian official whom the brothers do not recognise, can no longer contain himself. He sees Judah’s agony and reveals his own identity as their brother (Gen. 45).

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