12/25/2014

Shabbat Vayigash

Candles Friday 26th 4:14pm
Havdalah 27th 5:10pm
The Fast of the 10th of Tevet is next Thursday.

I was brought up in a culture where one was taught to avoid being aggressive, not advertise oneself, instead to be modest and self-effacing. The idea of a perfect Englishman was to remain discrete and restrained. The benefit of this is that one does not rush to speak one's mind or to come to conclusions. One thinks before one acts. Of course the disadvantage of such an approach is that you tend to prevaricate or appease, as Britain did with Hitler until it was almost too late. Indeed the Jews of Persia have often been referred to as “the Jews of Silence” because they too preferred not to make waves, living in an alien Shiite culture. So too were the Jews of Russia under Communism. So which is better, to be open, strong, fight for what we believe in, or to be passive and hope things turn out right?

The Torah gives us examples of both. But this week it is Yehudah, the fourth brother, who emerges as the strongest, most forthright defender of the brothers and Benjamin. Whereas Reuven, the first born, the less open, the more compromising, is all but ignored.

We live in a world where compromises are necessary. We are all so interdependent. And yet if we do not fight for our rights, no one else will do it for us.