Benjamin is in trouble, accused of a wrong he did not commit. Judah steps forward to plead on his behalf. It is Joseph, their own brother, who hears the plea, but so far the brothers are not aware of Joseph’s identity.
Judah begins his speech with exquisite courtesy and restraint. Gradually, says the Midrash, his voice becomes so loud that he is roaring.
What is he determined to say in tones so loud and clear? That it is all a massive frame-up, and Benjamin must not be allowed to be taken away from his father. The unfairness, the injustice of it all has to be got across.
And so effective is Judah’s wrath that Joseph has to give way, reveal his identity and let Benjamin go.
What a parable of the major problem that Israel is facing at this crucial moment in history. Jerusalem is on the agenda. Its name means City of Peace, but its status is the subject of a growing war of words.
Though important for all the monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it is uniquely attached to the history, experience, aspirations and destiny of the Jewish people. As it has been said, the Jews never forsook Jerusalem and Jerusalem never forsook the Jews.
Teddy Kollek said, “Jews care immensely about Jerusalem. The Christians have Rome and Canterbury and even Salt Lake City; Muslims have Mecca and Medina. But the Jews have only Jerusalem, and only the Jews have made it their capital. That is why is has so much deeper a meaning for them than for anybody else…”
Yitzhak Rabin said, “Three thousand years of dreams and prayers today wrap Jerusalem in love and bring close Jews of every generation – from the fires of the Inquisition to the ovens of Auschwitz, and from all corners of the earth – from Yemen to Poland.”
But voices are heard – from those who should know better – urging that the barbed wire should come back to sever one part of the city from the other, leaving Israel with only half a city.
For years already we have heard the even more grotesque allegation that not even half the city belongs to Israel and Israel has no right to call any part of Jerusalem its capital.
It’s a shame that the voice of united Jerusalem itself is not heeded, Judah-like, with its message, “What you are saying about me is a frame-up, and you know it”. Jerusalem is one city and it cannot and must not be dismembered.
There is no evidence that Israel has denied freedom of access or religious tolerance to any of the minority religions that have their presence in the city. There is no evidence that Israel is incapable of governing the whole city justly with proper regard to the rights and needs of all its inhabitants.
It is another historic frame-up to suggest that redividing the city would bring peace.
Joseph heeded the roar of Judah. Today’s world needs to heed the roar of Jerusalem that says, “Leave me in peace!”