Vayigash

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“To be a Jew is to be humanity’s keeper.”

“But it is Rabbi Eleazar who offers the most insightful response. The verb vayigash means all three ways of approaching. Judah came forward, ready to do all three. He was ready to fight, to make peace, and to pray, all at once. “I come whether it be for battle, for conciliation, or for prayer,” the rabbi teaches.

Judah takes responsibility for his brother, no matter what it will take. (Genesis Rabbah 93: 5) Perhaps this is part of the reason why we all practice Judaism, named after Judah’s tribe. We are to be the religion of our brother’s keepers, the way Judah took responsibility for his brothers.

Judaism is about being able to stand up for others, to take responsibility for the life of another. This is what it means to be a Jew. Today, in modern times, we can expand the notion of family. We understand that, in addition to our own particular tribe, we are also all children of God, and thus all siblings in a way. To be our brother’s keeper, therefore, means to assume responsibility for all of humanity.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” stands side-by-side with the commandment, “You shall not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds” (Leviticus 19: 16, 18).

It was the great Rabbi Leo Baeck who taught that to be a Jew is to be humanity’s keeper.”

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