God is Within Me
by Rabbi Noam Sendor
Rabbi Noam Sendor studied at Yeshivat Hamivtar from 2008-2011 and received his rabbinical ordination from the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary. He is currently the rabbi at Blake Street Hebrew Congregation and a teacher at Leibler Yavneh College in Melbourne, Australia.
The scene is incredible. Eleven brothers standing in front of the Egyptian viceroy, the most powerful man on Earth, who at any moment could enslave all of them, or worse, for an apparent theft. When things seemingly reach the height of absurdity, Yehuda stands up and challenges the despot—“And Yehuda approached,” putting his own life at risk. At that moment, Yehuda had no idea that this seemingly cruel man was in fact his long-lost brother Yosef. And so we must ask, what was it that gave him this inner-strength to stand up against injustice and falsehood?
When Yehuda begins to talk to Yosef, he opens by saying “בי אדוני” which is some form of supplication, meaning, “Please my master.” However, Rav Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl (1730-1787) in his masterful Me-or Eynayim explains that this simple remark actually has a much deeper meaning. He says that the word אד-ני should really be read as the holy Name of God, and not as “my master.” Yehuda is saying,בי -WITHIN ME, השם – IS GOD. Yehuda had a profound moment of contact with his soul, an experience of self-realization that he is a revelation of Hashem’s Will. With the strength of this awareness, Yehuda could look into reality and say, “this is not right! I know and experience the truth of Hashem within me, and I know Him to be kind and just, and THIS is not Kindness and Justice!”
Although these words are simple to write, they are in some ways quite frightening to contemplate. Spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller Return to Love wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us the most.” Yehuda had to overcome his fear—not of the evil viceroy—but of the fact that he is truly powerful, and when he did so, he could step up and confront the evil that stood before him.
What does the individual who senses the presence of Hashem within them look like? How do they engage reality? An enlightened person of course carries themself with patience, tranquillity, wisdom and peace. But there is something else to it.
Rav Yehuda Shaviv, in his book “MiSinai Ba,” based upon the Abravanel’s insight that it would be impossible for a commoner to actually approach someone of Yosef’s stature, explains that when it states that “Yehuda approached”—he was actually approaching Binyamin, not Yosef. At the end of the previous parsha, Binyamin had been sentenced by the viceroy to jail on account of theft. As we open our parsha, as the seriousness of the situation became frighteningly real to Yehuda, he realised he had to stand up for his innocent, scared and oppressed younger brother. In this moment, as Yehuda puts his own life on the line and stands up for his vulnerable brother, Yosef understands that his brothers had repented from their earlier sin of callousness and cruelty towards him and he reveals himself in dramatic fashion.
As we emerge out of a challenging year and hopefully closer to a cure for this awful pandemic, we must still recognise the past year’s events as a wake-up call. A wake-up call for us all to step more deeply into ourselves, to use our precious days and moments meaningfully, and commit ourselves to the path of seeking a deeper connection to Hashem; to know that Hashem is truly within all of us and that we are more powerful than anything we can possibly imagine. But when we know that Hashem is within us, we must also know that He is within everyone else, as well, and as such, we are obligated to stand up and support those around us, especially the most vulnerable. We must always remember that the greatest expression of how close one is to God is how one treats God’s Creation.
In the merit of Yehuda who fixed that which was broken, may we sense Hashem’s Presence within all of us and use our inner-strength, power and courage to help those around us, bringing us all one step closer to the redemption, may it come speedily and in our days.