Parshat Vayigash

Parshat Vayigash opens with Yosef planting a goblet into Binyamin's bag, framing his little brother with theft. Yosef threatens that Binyamin will be imprisoned. In his impassioned appeal to Yosef to allow Binyamin to return home to his father in Canaan, with Yehuda himself taking Binyamin's place in prison, Yehuda poetically described the close bond between Binyamin and Yaakov. Says Yehuda, Binyamin and his father Yaakov are nafsho keshura ve-nafsho” – “his soul is bound with his soul.” In Devarim, Perek 44, pasuk 30, we read: עַתָּה, כְּבֹאִי אֶל-עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי, וְהַנַּעַר, אֵינֶנּוּ אִתָּנוּ; וְנַפְשׁוֹ, קְשׁוּרָה בְנַפְשׁוֹ. Now therefore when I come to your servant, my father, and the youth is not with us; seeing that his soul is bound up with the lad's soul; Yehuda explains that due to this special bond, Yaakov would likely die if his sons returned home from Egypt without his most beloved son, Binyamin. Not being with Binyamin would be devastating for Yaakov. Rav Yaakov ben Asher, the Ba’al HaTurim, is interested in the usage of the word "keshura" when describing the tight bond of the relationship that Yaakov and Binyamin share. The Ba'al haTurim comments that the only other time that the word “keshura” appears in the entire Tanakh is in Sefer Mishlei. In Perek 22, Pasuk 15, Shlomo HaMelech warns us of youthful recklessness. ... אִוֶּלֶת, קְשׁוּרָה בְלֶב-נָעַר Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a youth; Shlomo warns us that foolishness is practically endemic to adolescence. The Ba'al haTurim wishes to connect this description in Mishlei with the pasuk from this week's parsha in that they both use the term "keshura". This, says the Ba'al haTurim, describes the foolishness that an adolescent is prone toward. Because of this, Yehuda is expressing that Binyamin's soul must be bound with his father's, in order that the parent may educate the child and guide him or her on the proper path in life. Yet, the Ba'al haTurim recognizes that there needs to be more than merely connecting these two pesukim by utilizing the unusual word in each verse. The Ba'al haTurim suggests that Yehuda is alluding to a necessary truth about education of one's child. The Adolescent is beginning to taste independence as he or she makes their way in the early stages of life. However, they still remain dependent on their parents. As a result, they tend to be attracted to אולת - or reckless/foolish behavior. They do not always make the right choices. The most productive way of helping the youth to veer away from wrong behavior and decisions is by enforcing the strength in one's bond with one's child. The continued connection that parents share with their adolescent is critical. The love, respect and constant contact the parent has with the child strengthens this bond, this "Kesher". Aside from the importance of cultivating a meaningful relationship with one's pre-teen/teenager, the more a youth is bound to his or her parent, the more likely that the bonds of אולת, of foolishness will be loosened. Additionally, while Yehuda demonstrates concern for the well being of his brother, Binyamin, he does not want to risk Yaakov being absent during these formative years of influencing the decision making and feeling the love and support of one's parent. Binyamin did not grow up with a mother. His full brother was, for all he knew, not alive. Binyamin needed his father. Yehuda, the clear leader in his family, was able to step forward and recognize this.

The Ba’al Ha-turim, therefore, puts forth this challenge for parents: Try to strengthen and tighten one's bond with his or her children. This is not about stifling one's child where he or she cannot foster some measure of independence. To the contrary, this is the moment in a child's life where being the guidance is necessary as more independence is granted to him or her. Aside from the benefit of the love and closeness in a relationship with a child, being there, in a cherished tie with one's child, creates the space for him or her to grow with the proper guidance and necessary support to guide them as they anticipate the next step in their lives, when going out on their own. At the same time, recall, however, that Yehuda said "Nafsho k'shura v'nafsho". Even though the Ba'al haTurim presents this idea as a proper and critical relationship for the adolescent. We must not forget that this is a symbiotic relationship. Yaakov would die, said Yehuda, if he does not have Binyamin with him. As much as this bond was critical for Binyamin, it was necessary for Yaakov. Yehuda appreciates that Yaakov lost out on guiding Yosef towards the end of Yosef's adolescence. Now, Yaakov would not be able to deal with missing out on this critical parental bonding time with Binyamin. Parents, of course, reap the benefit of cultivating a more profound and meaningful relationship with one's child as he or she matures. Even though there are clear challenges when raising adolescents, the experience of assisting children as they make their way through life cannot be seen as a burden, but, a privilege Hashem has granted us. May we be zoche' to see the growth of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to become Ovdei Hashem, Yirat Elokim, Anshei Emet, Zerah Kodesh baHashem d'veikim. Shabbat Shalom.

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