When Yehudah sought to convince the man he knew as Tzafnas Paneach, viceroy of Egypt, to release Binyamin and hold him instead, an essential part of his plea for mercy was based on the unique relationship between Binyamin and his elderly father, Yaakov.
“Since his soul is bound up with his soul, it will happen that when he sees that the youth is missing, he will die,” Yehudah argued. “For how can I go up to my father if the youth is not with me, lest I see the evil that will befall my father?”
Yehudah’s underlying message was that even if the accusations against Binyamin were true, detaining him would have a devastating, possibly fatal, effect on Yaakov Avinu’s health. Therefore, the viceroy should act with compassion; the elderly father certainly hadn’t stolen any goblet and didn’t deserve to suffer so terribly.
This claim was precisely what Yosef Hatzadik was waiting for.
For in addition to being a moving plea for clemency, it was also a remarkable admission of remorse on Yehudah’s part. Two decades earlier, the brothers had reached a psak to sell Yosef as a slave on the grounds that he was deserving of death but they would commute sentence to selling him. But even if this psak had been halachically correct, they still should have had mercy on their father. They knew that Yaakov would be heartbroken if his beloved son disappeared. The plea for compassion that Yehudah was now making to Yosef had been equally applicable back then.
We have no inkling of the lofty levels of the Avos and the Shevatim, but we do know that maaseh Avos siman l’banim — everything that happened to our ancestors was inherently connected to our destiny.
Chazal list examples of the deep spiritual weaknesses that will be prevalent among Klal Yisrael immediately before the coming of Moshiach. This makes us wonder in what merit we will be redeemed.
The answer is the same argument that Yehudah made to Yosef: Chazal inform us (Sanhedrin 46a) that Hashem is pained when a person suffers punishment for his sins; how much more so is He pained when the blood of the righteous is spilled.
Hashem is with us in our suffering, and suffers pain, so to speak, over our fate.
Therefore, the same way Yehudah pleaded for mercy because of the pain of Yaakov, we should cry out to Hashem to redeem us for His sake — for the sake of His pain!
(Based on a teaching of the Arugas Habosem, zy”a)
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“Har’ini es mar’eich, show me your countenance” (Shir Hashirim). The Midrash says, “This is what it says: ‘Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem.’” What is the connection between these two seemingly divergent explanations of the same phrase?
The Dubner Maggid gives a parable of a father who expels his misbehaving son. The son wanders the streets, bereft. Though the father yearns deeply for his beloved son, his determination to mete out justice prevents him from bringing his son back home.
One day a close friend of the father encounters the son. Dismayed at the son’s condition, he offers some friendly advice:
“Know that although your father is living in his home in relative comfort, his very appearance is marred by his distress over the fact that he felt forced to expel you. Take a mirror and place it over your heart at once. Go to your father and ask him to look at his own reflection in the mirror. Plead with him, beseech him, ‘If not for my sake, then for your sake, act!’”
Hashem feels the pain of every Yid. When we plead with Him not for our sake but for His sake, pouring our hearts out like water before Him, the water becomes like a reflecting pool or a mirror, so to speak. We beg Hashem to act because of His own suffering and have mercy on us.
The word mar’eh can be understood as “reflection,” and this is the advice of the Midrash. “Hold up a mirror,” so to speak — that is, beseech Hashem to act for the sake of His pain. Then we will merit to “stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem” (Mishlei Yaakov, Parashas Nitzavim).