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Parashat Vayigash - Designer Babies

Dear Friends;

This weeks Parasha climaxes with Yosef, much to the chagrin of his brothers, finally revealing himself to them, as their long-lost brother whom they had sold into slavery. Yosef mitigates his brothers' shock and obvious shame by explaining to them the hidden hand of Hashem in all that had occurred. He then sends provisions and transportation for Yaakov’s entire household and presents each brother with a suit, singling out Binyamin by giving him a unique gift of 5 suits.

The Talmud, Megillah 16a-16b asks: why did Yosef give Binyamin five suits, more than the other brothers? Wasn’t the favoritism symbolized by the ketones pasim - the colored garment given to Yosef by his father Yaakov the very reason why Yosef ended up in Egypt? The Talmud answers that he was hinting to the five garments that his descendant Mordechai would one day wear. The Vilna Gaon (1720 - 1797 Lithuania) asks even with that answer, how did this solve the problem of jealousy? He answers that Binyamin's five suits were of lesser value and their total value was equal to the one suit of his brothers.

Another approach is, that Yosef was trying to teach that we each have our own traits, talents, and needs. We all have a different story. The added suits given to Binyamin were not meant to show favoritism to Binyamin and to cause jealousy, but rather to highlight something specific about Binyamin’s individual story.

Dr. Cecile Janssens, an expert epidemiologist, notes that we shouldn’t worry too much about the Brave New World scenario taking place in genetic reproductive technologies that have recently circulated in news headlines worldwide, sparking a moral debate. The opportunity to produce designer babies has been around for 20 years and hasn’t been attempted because editing genes always puts the recipient at risk for other problems. While Janssens isn’t worried about a genetic Brave New World, we always have to be concerned about creating a “brave new” type of family, community, or world in the realm of ideas. We have to recognize each person’s talents and accomplishments and be proud of them, not jealous of them, while at the same time thinking about how we can make our own unique contributions.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom;
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay

Parasha Summary - Parashat Vayigash

Rishon: Yehuda confronts Yoseph in the aftermath of the stolen chalice. Yehuda reviews the past events, starting from Yoseph’s suspicious interest in their family.
Shenei: Yehuda’s final plea, that he would remain a slave instead of Binyamin, triggers Yoseph to reveal himself. Yoseph mitigates his brother’s shock and obvious shame by explaining to them the hidden hand of Hashem in all that had occurred.
Shelishi: Yoseph instructs his brothers to bring Yaakov and the rest of the family to Egypt. Pharaoh, having heard the news of the brother’s arrival, confirms Yoseph’s offer.
Revei: Yoseph sends provisions and transportation for Yakov’s entire household. Yaakov is told of Yoseph being, “alive and well and ruling the land of Egypt”.
Chamishi: Yaakov wishes to see Yoseph, but first asks G-d for instructions. G-d reassures Yaakov that the time of slavery and nationhood has begun and that he must go down to Egypt. The 70 direct descendants of Yaakov are counted.
Shishi: Yaakov and Yoseph reunite after 22 years. Five of the brothers and Yaakov are presented to Pharaoh. Yakov blesses Pharaoh. The year is 2238.
Shevei: The remainder of the Parsha is a flashback to the two years preceding Yaakov’s arrival. Yoseph’s master plan for reconfiguring Egyptian society is detailed. Yoseph follows the broad outline of his advice to Pharaoh regarding the administration of the 7 years of plenty. The famine must have been of enormous intensity for Yoseph to accomplish his plan in just two years. Although the people “sell” themselves to Pharaoh in order to get food, Yoseph’s plan maintains their sense of dignity and independence.