This week’s Parashah, Parashat VaYigash, begins with a close encounter between Yehudah and Yosef. While Yosef knows perfectly well of Yehudah’s true identity, Yehudah knows Yosef only as the Mishneh LeMelech, viceroy of Egypt. During their discussion, Yehudah begs Yosef to spare Binyamin, as he was sentenced to death for supposedly stealing Yosef’s cup. This episode is viewed by many as the culmination of the story of Yosef.
Yet, an alternative lens would suggest that this is also the climax of the past few Parshiot for another character—Yehudah. Though not the Bechor, Yehudah quickly assumes the position of leadership among his brothers. When he suggested that they sell Yosef, they all gave their consent. Hence, when they shortly later witness the terrible pain Yosef’s loss causes their father, they are awash with remorse and blame their leader and chief conspirator, Yehudah. But rather than accept responsibility for his mistake, Rashi explains that Yehudah runs away from his brothers and then sins with Tamar. In response to this incident, however, though he could have escaped punishment, Yehudah chooses to actually take responsibility for his actions with Tamar.
Now, when Yehudah bears the responsibility for Binyamin’s safe return, he goes to great lengths to secure Binyamin’s rescue. Rashi comments on ViAl Yichar Apcha that Yehudah spoke harshly to Yosef, undoubtedly a dangerous and bold move when against the second most powerful person in the world. Still, he acts with such fortitude in order to fulfill his duty, despite the difficulties, thus proving his and his descendants’ worthiness to be king of the Jewish people. We should all learn from his example, by always taking responsibility for our own actions. By that may we merit the restoration of the rule of Shevet Yehudah, BeMiheira BiYameinu.