The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Completion of Actions

Towards the beginning of Parshat Vayeshev, we read about the infamous plot of the brothers to take Yosef's life and to tell their father Yaacov that he was killed by a wild animal. We know that in the end this plan was not carried out, but instead it was replaced with Yehudah's idea to sell Yosef to merchants who were passing by on their way to Egypt. Rashi (38:1) tells us that this sugges-tion was the beginning of Yehudah's down-fall, which is why the next portion of the Torah tells us about his sin with Tamar. However, we must ask the following question: What was so terrible about what Yehudah did? He may have put forth the idea to sell Yosef, but at least he saved him from being killed! Why do the Torah, and Chazal, speak in harsher terms about Yehudah than they do regarding the rest of the brothers, who were seemingly just as, if not even more, responsible for what occurred to Yosef? Yehudah at least did something!

The answer to this question is one which gives us a life message and life lesson, which we must always remember. It is true that Yehudah began the process of saving Yosef by stopping the brothers killing him, but he did not finish the process. As Rashi (38:1) tells us, after the brothers saw how distraught their father Yaacov was over the reported death of Yosef, they said to Yehudah: “You told us to sell him. Had you told us to return him, we would have listened to you!” Yehudah took the initiative to do something about the situation with Yosef that he saw unfolding before him. However, when a person acts he must make it his business to finish that which he begins. Yehudah was a leader among the brothers, and as a leader he was completely correct in taking control and insisting that Yosef not be killed. But a true leader also knows that seeing things to their completion is a virtue. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 85:4) warns us about the harsh punishment that comes to a person who only does things in a halfway manner, based on this episode of Yehudah and Yosef. Yehudah may have done the right thing in saving Yosef, but he did not finish the job.

This lesson is not only applicable in the realm of doing mitzvos. Striving to be an “adam hashalem”, a complete person, demands that we try to make all of our actions and pursuits “complete” as well. This means learning to stick with things until they are completed, and not to abandon them in the middle in order to begin other schemes, which in turn we might not finish. Taking things one at a time, but fully completing them, that should be our goal in life!

By Sammy Epstein

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