Responsibility Through Torah by Judah Moskowitz


            A Midrash on our Parsha, says: when Yosef grabbed Binyamin, and told the brothers, "He will be my servant", causing Yehuda to become very angry.  He told Yosef, "You've captured Binyamin, and you expect peace in our father's house?" His anger was so great that he let out a loud roar ‑ and the sound traveled so far that Chushim, the son of Dan, heard and came.

            The paradox is that Chushim was deaf; a possible answer is that to the contrary ‑ Chushim means senses. Chushim was uneducated, but he was able to sense feelings, even far away. So even though he was deaf, he heard his uncle's anger and pain, and realized something was wrong.

            The Avnei Azal uses this Midrash as a parable. Binyamin, the youngest of Yaakov's twelve sons, represents a young Jewish child ‑ torn out of Israel's lap, taken by foreign hands that wish to educate and raise him to assimilate into their society and to abandon Judaism. There are many Jews who should be aware of the problem this poses, but many chose to ignore it.  They make themselves deaf and are not affected.

            Only Yehudah truly feels the bond of Yehudim that all of Israel is responsible one for the other.  "For your servant is responsible for the boy [34:32]."  He is the one who cannot sleep, realizing the danger faced by this child, and by extension, all of us. When Binyamin is in danger of assimilating, there cannot possibly be "peace in our father's house!" The "house of our father," Israel, cannot be complete ("Shalem," from the same root as "Shalom," peace), or at ease, when the youth are in danger of being torn away ‑ even one.  This applies to a greater extent today because we stand to lose millions.

            Therefore the Yehudahs cry out, to awaken and arouse all of Israel, pointing out the great danger, and guiding the response. And their voice is so great and powerful that the entire camp shakes ‑ and even the deaf Chushim hear the call.

            It's a wonderful parable... but although this was written many years ago, it is obviously quite applicable to our time. Where are the Yehudahs?  If we aren't working to solve the problem, we're Chushim ‑ and Chushim is still deaf! We still need to hear the message, to sense the danger.

            How do we solve the problem of assimilation?  Our forefathers guided us here as well.  Later in the parsha, Yaakov himself departs for Egypt ‑ "And he sent Yehudah out before him, to Yosef, to direct him..." [46:28].  Rashi quotes the Midrash: the word "L'horot" means "to teach" as well as "to direct," and Yehudah was sent down to Egypt to create a house of study, from which Torah teaching would emanate. To survive, we must have houses of study.

            Jewish identity means little without Jewish education ‑ and it is our responsibility to insure that both we and our children have that education. We must create our own houses of study, wherever we may be.

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