Torah – B’resheet/Genesis 44:18 - 47:27.
Haftarah – Yechezk’el/Ezekiel 37:15-28.
B’rit Chadashah – Luke 6:12-16.
B'resheet/Genesis 44:18, Then Y’hudah approached Yosef and said, “Please, my lord! Let your servant say something to you privately; and don’t be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself” (CJB).
“The original word of our text means, ‘draw or come near’ or in other words, to approach, denoting past tense and narrative sequence. This seems a perfectly unexceptional piece of narrative introducing Y’hudah's plea to Yosef on Binyamin's and his father Ya'akov's behalf. The early Sages generated two interesting pieces of midrash that expose novel ways of engaging with the text.
Firstly, the Sages want to know why Judah approached - drew near to - Yosef. What was he trying to do or say and what might the physical proximity mean? Rabbi Nehemiah said: He came near for conciliation, as in the verse, “Then the sons of Y’hudah drew near to Y’hoshua in Gilgal and Kalev the son of Y’funeh the K’nizi said to him, you know what Adonai told Moshe the man of God about me and you in Kadesh-Barnea.” (Y’hoshua/Joshua 14:6, CJB) - to conciliate him to Yosef.
Rabbi Leazar combined all these views: Y’hudah approached for conciliation, or for prayer" (B'resheet Rabbah 93:6). Was Y’hudah about to get on bended knee and plead with Yosef, begging for Binyjamin's release? Rabbi Leazar suggests perhaps that Y’hudah was simply prepared to do whatever was necessary.
The second direction that the midrash suggests refers to the prophet Amos: “Behold, days are coming,' declares Adonai, when the plowman shall meet the reaper and the treader of grapes meets him to who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall be wave with grain.” (Amos 9:13, NASB) The Sages explain that "the approaching plowman' alludes to Y’hudah and 'the reaper' to Yosef, as he said, “for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field” (B'resheet 37:7, NASB) when he had some dream 20 years before. The days are approaching, when the harvests of the restoration age will never end.
Douglas Stuart says, "These times will virtually blend together in the almost constant harvesting of the eschatological age, restoring the original promise of such bounty." The wording used by Amos may be based on the promise given in the Torah as a reward for obedience: "If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments ... your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land." (Vayikra 26:3-5, NASB)
When challenged by the chief priests and the elders about His authority - to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, to purge the Temple and to teach the people - Yeshua told a parable about a man who had two sons: "What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And the son answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And the father went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" (Mattityahu/ Matthew 21:28-31a, ESV) The underlined words 'went' in both verse 28 and verse 30 translated to the Greek word as "to come or to approach." It could comfortably be translated 'approached' in English.
In his Hebrew translation of the Gospel, Franz Delitzsch translated both with as does the Thirteenth Century Shem Tov Hebrew manuscript of Matthew. The father approaches his sons and asks them to work in the vineyard. Although the words quoted for the father appear to be a command, the use of 'approach' shows that this is a request: he gets close to them and speaks to them.
Yeshua - who is descended from the house of David, part of the tribe of Y’hudah - stands in the place of Y’hudah facing up to Yosef - the chief priests and elders of the people, the authority figures of the time - telling the truth using an agricultural illustration as Amos did in the times of the kings. When the leaders answer Yeshua's question, admitting that it was the first son, He tells that "the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you." (v. 31, ESV) Here the underlined word 'go' can comfortably be translated "lead the way." Yeshua had been approached by the religious leaders and called on for his credentials. He responded by asking whether they accepted the authority of Yochanan the Immerser - did his baptism come "from heaven or from man?" (v.25, ESV)- and then Yeshua tells the story of the father and his sons.
By the end of His terrestrial days on earth, accordingly to Mattityahu /Mathew 28:18, “Then Jesus approaching them, He said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (BVN - Portuguese) We know that when Yeshua approaches someone, things change in that person’s life. Throughout the Gospels this history repeatedly happened. What things had been changed in your life after Yeshua approached you? Or what are the things you need to change in your life, in order to follow Him?
In our days Yeshua approaches us and asks us to go and work in His vineyard, to be involved in the work of the kingdom. He does not demand, but the kingdom imperative rests upon us.
Will we be like the son who said 'yes' but didn't go, or the son who said 'no' but then went? Or is there another alternative – the son who says he will go/obey and then follows on his word? Who obeys the will of the Father?
In the same lines, how do we approach others - are we ready to do battle with them, to wrestle with the truths of the kingdom and win a victory for heaven? Are we prepared to come alongside people, to console them in their distress and encourage them in their walk and aid them on reaching out to God? Are we committed to praying publicly and privately and committed to engage on spiritual warfare to see heaven touching earth as Yeshua brings life, freedom and peace through the power of His resurrection?
If we are to be faithful servants and see the days when the “plowman” will approach the “reaper”, we must be prepared to do whatever needs to be done and trust the Almighty to guide us as we share the light of Yeshua HaMashiach. It all depends on your approach!
CJB – Complete Jewish Bible.
NASB – New American Standard Bible.
ESV – English Standard Version.
Richmond, January 4th, 2020
Rabbi Jaime Araujo.
Copyright © 2018 Or HaOlam - All Rights Reserved.