There is an expression, “heroes are made, not born.” Someone willing to put his own life at risk to save others is a real hero. One such person was Yehudah.
In this week’s Torah portion of Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27), Yehudah risks his life to save his brother Binyomim who was being held captive by the all-powerful Egyptians.
When Yehudah boldly confronted the second in command to Pharaoh and demanded Binyomin’s freedom he did not realize he was speaking to Yosef.
Yehudah understood the importance of saving a life. This mitzvah is so important our sages say, “whoever saves a Jewish life is as if they saved an entire world” (Talmud Sanhedrin 37a).
In addition to securing Binyomin’s release, Yehudah’s action reuniting the family of Yaacov and saved the entire Jewish people.
Heroes don’t expect rewards. However, individuals who take selfless risks are often rewarded in ways they never expect. I believe Yehudah’s unexpected reward was a spiritual insight he received from Yosef.
Once Yosef identifies himself to his brothers, they are terrified that he will seek retribution for selling him into slavery. Joseph, however, reassures them by proclaiming, “do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5).
Yosef was expressing the Jewish belief in divine providence. Nothing happens by coincidence, and events are guided by God.
Kind David’s statement, “The footsteps of man are established by God” (Psalm 37:23), is another reference to divine providence. However, while events are guided by God, we retain the responsibility and freedom of choice to do good and not evil.
I have experienced divine providence numerous times, and there are volumes of stories that document moments when God interacts with mankind.
When missionaries ask me if I have a “personal relationship with God,” I immediately tell them I do. What could be more personal them be able to experience how God is touching your life and leading you to situations where we are given the opportunity to make good choices.
May this Shabbos provide the opportunity to heighten our spiritual sensitivity so me and experience a personal relationship with God.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz