Sunday, January 1, 2017

Soul Brothers

Parshas Vayigash
Rav Lipman Podolsky z"l

It's interesting. At first, Yaakov had refused to send Binyomin with his brothers to Egypt. His reasoning: Both Rachel and Yosef had died while traveling (Rashi 44:22). Chances were that a similar fate awaited Binyomin. Better safe than sorry!

Even after Reuven assured Yaakov that he would assume full responsibility for Binyomin's safety (42:37), Yaakov was not convinced. Binyomin remained at home.

So why is it that Yaakov ultimately agreed to let Binyomin go? What changed?

The answer is, Yehuda guaranteed Binyomin's safe return. "I will personally guarantee him; of my own hand you can demand him... (43:9)." The enigma: What's the difference. What distinguished Yehuda's guarantee from Reuven's?

My rebbe, Rav Nison Alpert zt"l, answered as follows (Limudei Nison): True, Reuven was willing to sacrifice of himself on behalf of Binyomin. "You may slay my two sons if I fail to bring him back to you. Put him in my care and I will return him to you (42:37)." For Binyomin's sake Reuven was willing to forfeit his future in this world and his allotment in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, Reuven was willing to forego all worldly gain. Nevertheless, Reuven reserved for himself his portion in the World-to-Come.

Yehuda went the extra mile. "...If I do not bring him back to you and stand him before you, then I will have sinned to you for all time (43:9 and Rashi ad. loc.)." Yehuda literally bound up his soul with Binyomin's (Rashi 44:32). They fused into one. Without Binyomin, Yehuda's meaningful existence would obsolesce.

Consequently, Yaakov acquiesced. Binyomin was no longer alone. The danger to his life was reduced to nil by an interweaving of souls.

This bond between Yehuda and Binyomin waxed eternal. When the ten tribes seceded from the Kingdom of Dovid, establishing a separate monarchy, Binyomin remained indivisible from Yehuda. They were not just brothers; they were soul brothers.

The dividend: After the ten tribes were exiled, never to be heard from again, Binyomin and Yehuda maintained an inseparable partnership. "Two are better than one... For should they fall, one can lift the other; but woe to him who is alone, when he falls and there is no one to lift him (Koheles 4:9-10)!" Yehuda and Binyomin thus supported one another throughout their long and arduous journey through the Diaspora -- Soul brothers forever.

The Hebrew term that demarcated Yehuda's commitment is Arvus. It is a commitment that transcends both time and space, both physical and spiritual. Like nuclear fusion, it is exceedingly potent.

"Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh bazeh -- Every Jew is bound up with every other (Shavuos 39a)." Note the Hebrew. It does not say that every Jew is Achara'i (responsible) for the other. Rather, the soul of every Jew is immutably intertwined with that of every other. As such, it is exceedingly potent.

We stand at a very pivotal crossroads in our history. Who will endure this challenging period? Who will survive the ordeals that lie ahead? Yehuda teaches us a secret of survival. All we have to do is implement it.

May Hashem help us.