Torah Reading: VAYIGASH Gen. 44:18-47:27.
“AND JUDAH STEPPED FORWARD.”
The key to the dramatic encounter between Judah and Joseph with which our parshah of VAYIGASH begins is to be found in the Haftara our sages attached to this parshah: Ezekiel’s vision of the joining of the two sticks. One stick the prophet was to inscribe with the names of Judah and the Children of Israel his friends — the kingdom of Torah Law and spirituality under David. The other stick he was to inscribe “to Joseph Tree of Ephraim and all the House of Israel his friends” — secular, assimilated Israelite might: economic, political, military, involvement in the material world. The prophet was to join the two sticks and make them one, signifying that they will become —
“One nation in the earth in the mountains of Israel, and one king will be over all of them as King, and they will no longer be two nations and they will no longer be split into two kingdoms. And my servant David will be king over them and one shepherd will be for them all [King Mashiach]. And they will go in My laws and guard My statutes and do them. And they will dwell in the land that I have given to My servant Jacob in which your fathers dwelled, and they and their children and children’s children will dwell upon it forever, and David My servant will be Prince to them forever. And I will cut for them a Covenant of Peace, an eternal Covenant will be for them. And I will give them and multiply them and I will put My Holy Temple within them forever. And My Dwelling will be upon them and I will be G-d for them, and they will be My People. And the Nations will know that I am HaShem who sanctifies Israel that My Sanctuary should be among them forever ” (Ezekiel 37:28).
The encounter in our parshah between Judah and Joseph is the paradigm of this necessary joining between the two aspects of Israelite being in the world, spiritual and material. For its own existence, the Torah “kingdom” depends upon the successful material presence of Israel in the world, be it in the Land of Israel or in “Goshen”. (“Goshen” would include all historical and present-day centers of Jewish sojourn in exile and dispersal east or west.) For “if there is no flour [bread to eat], there is no Torah”. Likewise, material Israel cannot survive without true Torah leadership — Melech HaMashiach. Jacob saw this, which is why “he sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to rule before him to Goshen” (Gen. 46:28). It is the Torah leader who must rule over Israel, and Torah leadership must direct Israeli worldly power to the nation’s prophetic mission of being worthy of building the Temple in the Land of Israel from which the Law will go forth to all the Nations.