Vayigash: Repentance for Theft.

Vayigash: Repentance for Theft.

In our Torah portion, Vayigash Genesis 45:1-3, Joseph discloses his true identity to his brothers: he is their younger sibling, the one they had sold into Egyptian slavery years prior, and who has since risen to the position of Egypt’s governor. His brothers were jealous of him, had sold him into slavery years ago, and assumed he was dead. They did not recognize him in his position of power. They failed to recognize their long-lost brother, whom they took by force and sold to Egypt in his foreign attire, serving as an Egyptian official.

Joseph, once their younger brother and a slave, was now the governor of Egypt. Joseph had been testing his brothers’ integrity and commitment to their youngest brother, Benjamin. He used a series of dramatic maneuvers to generate their repentance for selling him to a slave! He wanted to see his brothers repent of their sins, especially for the theft they committed when they sold him. These combined to create a surprising revelation for his brothers. The person they least expected to see was now in a position of power and testing them to see if they were willing to sacrifice themselves to avoid the kidnapping of their brother to slavery for the king of Egypt. They could have anticipated any outcome in Egypt except this!

Theft is one of the Noahide commandments, and it is forbidden even in the smallest value possible. This also applies to land. Since G-d gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people, any attempt by a non-Jew to take land from this holy land is considered theft and is forbidden according to the 7 Noahide laws.

This is the inner meaning of our Sages’ statement: “A person will never take a portion designated for a colleague.” This is true of not only physical matters but also matters of sanctity. The divine sparks enrobed in material property are destined to be elevated by only one person in the entire universe. Every soul has a certain measurement of G‑dliness it must elevate; it is tied to a particular soul because of that soul’s nature.

G‑d structures the events of the natural world to enable anyone to elevate the portion of creation he ought to purify. As long as the person does not elevate the sparks destined for him, they remain in exile. And since the sparks connected with a person’s soul are found in exile, the soul itself is in exile. Finally, the world is on the verge of Moshiach revelation, so we must prepare ourselves for that transformative event that will change the entire creation for good.

*This is from a series of articles by Rabbi Bernstein Moshe.

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