This week’s portion, “VaYigash”, ‘And he drew near’, is one of my favorite passages of scripture. Yosef was betrayed by his brothers, cast into a pit, sold as a servant, becomes the head of a household of Mitzrayim, is cast into prison on false accusations, then brought before Paroh as an interpreter of dreams, and even Paroh recognized the Ru’akh of Elohim in him. So, he makes him the ruler of all the land, second only to Paroh himself. I was reminded this week in my reading of it that David once took comfort among the P’lishtim, when those he loved betrayed him. Sha’ul dwelt among the Arabs for a season, after Messiah saved him and appointed him. Many patriarchs were driven out of their ‘comfort’ zone, to be ‘comforted’ elsewhere for a season. By Elohim Himself. And then used for purposes even they themselves could not imagine. The same is true of Yosef.
Yosef predicted the famine that would come on the whole world, a message that the Creator had given to Paroh through his dreams. After the seven years of plenty, the famine has hit the whole world, hard. Twice now the sons of Yisra’el have come to Paroh, to their brother Yosef, unbeknownst to them, to acquire food. It seems at first that Yosef is being unreasonably hard on them, provoking them to bring Binyamin, his younger brother, to him, knowing how hard that would be for his father. Our portion picks up when the brothers return to Yosef, known to them now as the ruler of the world, as Zafenat Pane’akh. צָֽפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ . One can ‘see’ immediately in this name “Storehouse”, “treasure”, in “tzafenat”. This is an Egyptian word, but written in Hebrew letters in a Torah scroll. The first three letters are “tzafon” in Hebrew, meaning ‘storehouse of treasure’. In Hebrew, the tav on the end is many times the ‘construct state’, showing possession: “storehouse of”. Pane’akh is less obvious, but gets rendered into English by some as “glorious rest”. The ‘glory’ of G-d is His Face, as expressed in many verses. The first two letters of Pane’akh, “Peh” and “Ayin”, are ‘face and eyes’, and the last two are “Nakh”, which must be from where translators derive ‘rest’. “Nakh” is the root of “No’akh”, which does mean ‘comfort’, or ‘rest’. “The storehouse of glorious comfort”, then, would not be a bad rendering of Yosef’s Egyptian name. And his Hebrew name means ‘gatherer’, one who gathers up. He is certainly bringing glorious comfort to the whole world by gathering/storing up food. But, that ‘comfort’ is most especially important to his family, the brothers who betrayed him. And in this week’s portion, their comfort is in having their brother, whom they betrayed for dead, revealed to them again as their own flesh and blood.
It is amazing to me how quickly his brothers all turned on him. Not only so, but it is amazing how willing they were to lie to their father about what happened to Yosef. For nearly twenty years, they’ve kept up a ruse with their father, knowing all the while that Yosef ‘could’ be alive. They knew that they had sold him like chattel, their own brother. They had treated him as far less than a brother. They ignored their common bond, and chose to feed their own jealousy and serve themselves by being rid of him. They had been supposedly tending their father’s flock; but instead, were in “Dotan”, ‘two wells’. They’d left the flock to go to the city, probably to do things they should not be doing. We later see Yehudah’s willingness to adultery; it is possible that was why they were in Dotan. Nonetheless, they’re ‘tending the flock’, yet at the same time, tending their own flesh in some way. Yosef showed up, and was their conscience, which condemned them, and they lashed out. They thought to murder him. We know that Yeshua teaches that if one even thinks to do so, one has done it. One brother said not to do so; so Yehudah suggested that they sell him. Then, they all lied to their father, together, for many, many years. Their own self-righteousness caused them to ignore the truth: they were simply jealous of their brother’s “elaborate tunic,” the symbol of their father’s affection for him. And they lived in the sin of lies and murder for years and years.
It was not until they had to rip their other brother, Binyamin, from their father’s side, due to the famine, that Yehudah finally humbles himself. He put up his own life in the stead of his younger brother. His contrition and humility breaks Yosef, who wept over his brothers before all Mitzrayim. He then tells his brothers not to grieve too much over what they had done, as he had been betrayed for greater purposes: Elohim used their betrayal to save all of Yisra’el. The purpose was not only to preserve that generation of B’nei Yisra’el, but all future generations, in order to bring about Messiah Yeshua, a direct descendant of Yehudah, the eventual ‘hero’ of our story. I have long thought that Binyamin can represent the Messianic community in our future, and Yehudah can represent the Jewish community that does not yet believe. Yosef, of course, would be an archetype of Messiah, sold into bondage by Yehudah.
For 2,000 years now, Yehudah has resented Yeshua. In fact, ‘he’ has lied about Yeshua, saying He is dead, though He lives. ‘He’ sold Yeshua to the Romans. In fact, the individual who took the silver bore the same name, “Yehudah”. [Judas] ‘He’ [figurative Yehudah, our unbelieving Jews] has lied to his father about his brother!
Just this past week, I and another brother were accosted by a descendant of Yehudah, an unbelieving Jew. He came at us with an accusatory, aggressive tone, and called us “charlatans,” using the Jewish pejorative for Yeshua’s name, and saying that He is not the son of G-d. THIS is the spirit of Mashi’akh HaSheker: to deny that Yeshua is come in the flesh. I looked this Jewish man in the eye and told him with absolute confidence that Yeshua is the Son of G-d, and is risen from the dead, and is standing at the right hand of the Creator. He said Yeshua is not in the Torah, to which I replied, “He is in the song of Moshe: Shemot 15:2, ‘Yah is become for me Yeshua’. It’s on the surface of the text!” The verse actually reads: “Yah is my strength and my song, and He is become my Yeshua[h].” Yeshua is salvation. I hoped beyond hope that he would ‘hear’, but he did not. I had been so exhausted that day, having worked out very hard the day before, and twice that day, and was already hungry after a mere two hours since my last meal. And, I was on borrowed time with a brother who was helping me, and did not have time to engage him further; plus, I could see he was completely unresponsive. In fact, he’d told me that I would not change his mind about Yeshua. He was there only the heckle and scold, and I knew it. So, I backed out of the conversation as politely as I could. And since, I have been praying for him, and for all our Jewish people to ‘see’ Yeshua as their brother. And lo and behold, our portion surfaces yesterday, and all of this comes reeling through my mind again.
I was affectively accused of being a “False Messianic”, by this Jewish ‘brother’, even though I repeatedly declared the flesh and bone Body of Yeshua, which was dead, but is now alive, and is seated at His Right Hand. Clearly, my accuser doesn’t understand who Mashi’akh HaSheker is. Mashi’akh HaSheker, and ‘false Messianics’, do not ‘know’ that Yeshua, a man, was raised from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Creator. His hatred of this ‘fact’ caused him to lash out at Messiah in me. I’ll never forget looking dead into his eyes and telling him of Yeshua’s resurrection and living Body. If there is one thing I will carry before the throne of judgment, it is that fact alone.
Hatred is a fickle beast, and it lurks in far too many hearts, especially among the religious. They see their sense of ‘justice’/’righteousness’ as cause for their haughtiness, when it is merely hatred. Religious hatred is the worst, too. Rarely does it ever truly do teshuvah, and restore the bonds of shalom, because hatred of another human in the Name of G-d, or any ‘god’, is the ultimate self righteousness. Yehudah, the brother of Yosef and progenitor of Messiah, had to learn this, and had to submit to humility and contrition, for all our sakes, or we would have no Messiah. He did so because he realized how he’d been hurting his father. But, in spite of that, what I took note of this week is that in his telling Yosef, whom he thought was merely Zafenat Pane’akh, he still perpetuated the lie that Yosef was dead! I’ve written before on the power of a lie. That power, I conclude, is greatest over the one who tells it. And HaSatan is the father of every lie. Most especially of the lie that Yeshua is not raised from the dead, or, that someone who professes that with faith is a ‘false messianic’. To attack a brother who professes that with confidence is to commit the very sin of denying the Body of Messiah.