Divrei Torah

PARSHAS VAYICHI 5780

When Ya’akov blessed his sons, he gave each one a bracha befitting to that son. To Yehuda, Ya’akov said, “Yehuda, you, your brothers will praise you. . .” The Seforno explains that Ya’akov said to Yehuda, “You are fit to be king when those before you fell – Reuven, Shimon and Levi.” They lost their rights to the Jewish monarchy due to their actions. Yehuda merited the monarchy for the reason stated in Ya’akov’s bracha, “From the torn animal, you raised my son” – Rashi explains that Ya’akov suspected that Yehuda was involved in Yosef’s murder. In truth, Yehuda could have saved Yosef outright, but he instead advised that he be sold into slavery. Furthermore, Yehuda sinned with Tamar. Yet he raised his personal status when he saved Tamar from execution by admitting that he was the father of her children and she was more righteous than he.

Yehuda was not embarrassed to admit the truth as to what happened between him and Tamar. He recognized his mistake and took responsibility for what he did. Similarly, when Binyamin’s life is on the line, Yehuda demonstrates his repentance for not taking greater action in the case of Yosef by offering himself in place of Binyamin.

Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller – the Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Chicago - makes note that this is the opposite of the world’s approach to matters. The world assumes that what makes people great is that they do not make mistakes – e.g. in Christianity, the Pope is infallible. Unfortunately, there are many Jews who also think along those lines – that great people do not make mistakes.

But, that itself is a great mistake. Even a great person is a human being and every human being makes mistakes. In the words of King Solomon, “There is no righteous person in the world who does all good and does not sin. We see in the Torah that even Moshe made mistakes. Granted, his mistakes would be considered greatness by us, but on his exalted level, he made a few mistakes – not many, only a few. But he was human, and no human being is perfect. Moshe was as close as one can get to perfection, but still not perfect. 

Rabbi Keller emphasizes that the Torah is teaching us that one who is worthy for royalty is one who has the strength and honesty to admit his mistakes.  The strength to admit mistakes is true strength. It is that strength through which Yehuda rose to royalty.

King Solomon wrote, “a righteous person falls seven times and gets up.” Everybody falls, but a righteous person gets up and seeks ways to improve. It is difficult to admit and say the three words, “I was wrong.” But that is the stepping stone to greatness. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But admitting to two wrongs makes one righteous.