Parshat Vayigash • Genesis 44:18–47:27

Fallen Dominoes

The Domino Theory has gotten a bad rap for its role in reactionary, anti-Communist foreign policy during the Vietnam War.  I’d like to reclaim it as the Domino Theory of Jewish Theology for its critical role in this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash. Joseph dramatically reveals himself to his brothers, and rather than exact wrathful vengeance for how they treated him, he gives them a pass by intoning, “…for it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”  More than merely an act of altruistic forgiveness, it reflects Joseph’s realization that the human dynamic within his family propelled a much larger, more impactful unfolding of events on the fraught stage of Jewish destiny.  Without Joseph’s imprisonment in Egypt, he would not have risen to the Egyptian court, thus empowered to save both Egypt and Jacob’s tribe from famine.  Without their refuge in Goshen, the Jews would not have been established in Egypt to eventually become slaves. Without enslavement, the Jews would not have been liberated by God, received the Torah on Sinai nor eventually settled in the Promised Land.  It’s a kind of Chad Gadya on a geo-theologiocal scale!  As the contemporary commentator, Nechamah Leibowitz, reminds us,“Fortunate is he to whom it is granted to detect in the metamorphoses of his daily existence and the vicissitudes of her personal affairs, the workings of Providence—a mission on which he has been sent by God.”

Rabbi Daniel Weiner

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