To approach or not to approach, that is the question
ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדני ידבר-נא עבדך דבר באזני אדני ואל-יחר אפך בעבדך כי כמוך כפרעה
And Yehudah approached [Yosef] and he said: “Please my Master, let your servant speak something in the ears of my Master, and don’t be mad with your servant, because you are like Pharaoh”
The sons of Yaakov hadn’t yet caught on that their long-lost brother Yosef is the viceroy of Egypt. Binyomin was just caught “stealing” the cup of Yosef, and has been sentenced to life as a slave. The brothers felt hopeless; how can they return to their father without his most beloved son? Yehudah mustered up the courage to approach Yosef for a final confrontation. The Torah uses a unique phrase to describe this act: ויגש, to approach. This phrase appeared earlier in the Chumash with Avraham: Hashem had just informed Avraham that He intended to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Amorah. Avraham couldn’t allow this to happen, and the Torah says ויגש אברהם ויאמר, and Avraham approached and spoke. He tried his best to convince Hashem to change His mind, but no to avail.
Rashi there explains the term ויגש, to approach, implies three intended purposes: 1) למלחמה, for war 2) לפיוס, for appeasement 3) לתפילה, for prayer. He brings a source in Tanach for each connotation, and brings the example from our parsha as the source for approaching for appeasement. The meforshim, commentators on Rashi, are very bothered by this source. Rashi himself writes that when Yehudah said אל יחר אפך בעבדך, don’t be mad with your servant, that we can infer that Yehudah spoke harshly to Yosef. This would be the justification for him getting angry with Yehudah. If Yehudah spoke harshly to Yosef, how could that be an example of appeasement? The common approach to this problem is to say that a typo snuck into the text of Rashi’s commentary. He in fact was quoting a similar verse that says ויגשו בני יהודה, and not the verse from our parsha. This happens to be the verse quoted in the Midrash, the source for Rashi’s comment, as the source of appeasement. While this is a simple explanation, it’s still possible to say the ויגש of Yehudah was in fact for appeasement.
The Ba’al HaTurim informs us that the words ויגש אליו יהודה have the same gematria, numerical value, as the phrase זהו להלחם עם יוסף, this was to fight with Yosef . It also has the same gematria as the phrase גם נכנס ופייסו, he also entered and appeased him. He concludes that just like Avraham, Yehudah approached for these two purposes. He also adds that Yehudah approached for prayer, based on a Midrash similar to the one that Rashi quoted earlier with Avraham. However, this time it is about Yehudah. It cites a disagreement about what was the purpose of Yehudah’s approaching Yosef. Was it for war, prayer, or appeasement? Some explain that it could be that everyone agrees he had intended for all three; just the question is which one was primary. If this is the understanding of what Yehudah was doing, why didn’t Rashi quote this Midrash, like he did with Avraham? The commentaries want to suggest that it’s hard to understand the words literally by Avraham; how does one “approach” Hashem? That’s why Rashi explains it in a non-literal way. By Yehudah, it can potentially be taken at face value. Rashi felt no need to quote the Midrash, which is simply revealing the deeper meaning behind the verse. However, the question remains: how do Yehudah’s intentions conform with what he actually said to Yosef?
He approached him for appeasement. Where can we see appeasement in this verse? Especially the way that Rashi explains it, that Yehudah essentially insults and threatens Yosef. כי כמוך כפרעה, for you are like Pharaoh, Rashi gives four explanations what this means: “Yosef, you’re going to be punished with tzaraas just like Pharaoh”. “Yosef, just like Pharaoh doesn’t keep his word, the same with you”. “Yosef, if you don’t let us go, I’ll kill you and your master Pharaoh”. These three are derashos, textual elucidations, but they aren’t necessarily the peshat, simple meaning of the verse. Rashi says the simple meaning of the words is that “You are like a King to me”. This is basically buttering up Yosef so he won’t be mad at them anymore. One understanding is that Yehudah chose his words carefully. At first glance, everything he said was derech kavod, peppered with complements and honor. If you happen to read between the lines, you can see what Chazal are saying, that he meant to insult. This is how Yehudah can approach both for appeasement and for war, even though they are seemingly contradictory intentions.
He approached him for prayer. The Rokeach asks: what’s the source for the custom to take three steps forward before reciting Shemoneh Esrei, otherwise known as the Amidah. He says it’s the three times the word ויגש appears in Tanach in connection to prayer. The first is with Avraham, the one quoted earlier, the second is Yehudah in this week’s parsha, and the third is Eliyahu HaNavi on Har HaCarmel. The problem is: how can we say Yehudah approached for prayer? Yehudah immediately began speaking to Yosef, not to Hashem! The truth is, on closer inspection, Yehudah doesn’t say any new information to Yosef. So why is he speaking at all? In reality, he is speaking to Hashem, the Master of the Universe, the only one that can resolve the situation. He’s explaining the situation and requesting salvation. The Vilna Gaon says there’s a similar idea found by Queen Esther. When Achashverosh asks her who is trying to kill her and her people, she responds: “A wicked adversary – this evil Haman”. The gemarra says that she was actually planning on pointing to Achashverosh, but an angel pushed her finger towards Haman. She was in the middle of asking Achashverosh for a favor to spare her people; how could she choose that moment to point the blame on him? That wouldn’t have worked so well…The Vilna Gaon explains that in reality she was speaking to the King of Kings, asking Him to spare her and her people. This is true even though it appeared to be that she was speaking to Achashverosh. This is exactly what happened with Yehudah and Yosef.
He approached him for war. The problem with saying that Yehudah approached for war, was just a few verses earlier he said to Yosef: האלקים מצא את עון עבדיך הננו עבדים לאדני, G-d found the sin of your servants, behold we are slaves to my Master. When Yehudah subsequently approaches, what’s with the change in attitude? It could be based off of Yosef’s response to Yehudah’s suggestion that they all become slaves. Yosef said only the one who had the goblet will become a slave, meaning Binyomin. This whole time the brothers had the attitude that everything that was happening to them was their fault, for their sin in the sale of their brother. Once Binyomin was threatened with slavery, everything changed. Binyomin wasn’t involved in the sale; there’s no way he’d be punished for such a thing. Yehudah realized that what was happening was unjustified, and was willing to fight to prevent it. Rav Eliyahu Lopian suggest the lesson we can take away from this is that when חס ושלום, G-d forbid, trouble befalls a person, they should examine their ways. They should introspect. “Why is this happening?” It’s something that’s very difficult to deal with in life, but very important. Everything happens for a reason. This explains Yehudah’s sudden switch in attitude. When the brothers thought it was a punishment, they were willing to accept it. When they realized it wasn’t, they were determined to fight.
 Based off of divrei Torah given by Rabbi Yissocher Frand from Ner Yisroel (http://torah.org/torah-portion/ravfrand-5771-vayigash/ and http://torah.org/torah-portion/ravfrand-5774-vayigash/) and Rabbi Shimon Golan from Efrat (http://www.tora.co.il/parasha/01_golan/vayigash_68.doc)
 Genesis 44:18
 Yosef planted it in his bag in order to further his ruse, as a lead up to his big reveal that he was alive and in charge
 Genesis 18:23
 See Nachalas Yaakov ad. loc., brought in Sifsei Chachamim. See also Maskil LeDovid ad. loc
 Genesis 44:18
 Joshua 14:6
 Bereishis Rabbah 49:8
 According to Rashi HaShalem, all the versions of Rashi that we possess contain the quote from our parsha. They posit that Rashi’s source is Tanchuma Yashan Vayigash § 16, and Aggadas Bereishis § 22
 Genesis 44:18
 Bereishis Rabbah 93:6
 Yefeh To’ar ad. loc.
 Maskil LeDovid to 44:18
 Now that it’s clear that Yehudah did in fact approach Yosef for appeasement, why then is it necessary to say that a typo snuck into Rashi to 18:23? Maskil LeDovid loc. cit. writes that since all 3 possibilities apply to Yehudah, you can’t give it as a source that ויגש can mean appeasement. Rashi wanted to bring an example that was exclusively appeasement, which must be the verse in Joshua loc. cit.
 Genesis 44:18
 Often translated as leprosy, but from parshas Tazria it’s clearly a spiritual disease
 See Sifsei Chachamim ad. loc. for what this is referring to
 § 322, brought by Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 95:3
 Commentary to Esther 7:6
 ad. loc.
 Megillah 16a
 Genesis 44:16
 The Tzeidah LaDerech to verse 18 asks this question on the Midrash and gives the following answer. I heard a similar explanation in the name of the Alshich