Parashat Vayigash: The Outcome Depends on Hashem
Parashat Vayigash begins with Yehuda’s impassioned plea to Yosef to allow his youngest brother, Binyamin, to return home to his father. Yosef, who ruled over Egypt – and whom the brothers did not recognize, as they had sold him as a slave when he was just seventeen – had ordered his servants to place his goblet in Binyamin’s bag to make him appear as a thief. When the brothers were brought before Yosef, Yosef demanded that Binyamin remain in Egypt for his crime, while the other brothers return home. Yehuda, however, had assumed personal responsibility for Binyamin, and thus made an impassioned plea asking Yosef that he allow him – Yehuda – to remain instead of Binyamin.
Curiously, the vast majority of Yehuda’s speech is simply a review of the events told in last week’s Parasha. Yehuda reviews the story of how the brothers came to purchase grain, and Yosef accused them of spying and demanded that they bring Binyamin to prove their innocence. Yosef, of course, was well aware of what happened, and did not need to be reminded of the sequence of events. Why, then, did Yehuda find it necessary to present a lengthy review of the story?
One explanation that has been given is that Yehuda was actually speaking not to Yosef, but to G-d. The great Sadikim understand that even as they do the work that is needed to be done, the outcome depends solely on Hashem. When great Rabbis needed to advocate on behalf of the Jewish community before the gentile authorities, they applied themselves tirelessly to the task, but all the while they recognized that the results ultimately lie in Hashem’s hands. Even as they appealed to the authorities, in their minds they were appealing to G-d. Yehuda, too, was speaking with Yosef, but in his mind he was speaking with Hashem. And thus he reviewed the entire sequence of events as part of his pouring his heart out to G-d. When we speak to Hashem, we are, indeed, to express everything that is on our mind. Yehuda told everything about his situation not because Yosef needed to hear it, but because he was speaking primarily to Hashem, who wants to hear everything we are feeling and going through.
Rav Yitzchak Hutner (1906-1980), the famed Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chaim Berlin, once wrote a letter of encouragement to Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Chairman of Agudath Israel of America. In the letter, he gave Rabbi Sherer three instructions. First, he told Rabbi Sherer that he must never become angry. Working in public service is bound to draw criticism, and one must ensure to retain his composure and not lose his temper in face of the pressure. Secondly, Rav Hutner wrote, a public servant must never grow tired. He must work diligently regardless of what it is entailed. Thirdly, he wrote that Rabbi Sherer must never “aim to accomplish.” In other words, he must exert the necessary efforts, but always recognize that the outcome ultimately depends on Hashem. We should not set out to achieve with the mindset that the results depend on our efforts. We must make the effort, but while firmly believing that the outcome is determined by G-d, and does not depend on us.
Even as we “speak to Yosef,” our minds must be focused on speaking to Hashem.