“With that he embraced his brother Benjamin around the neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck” (Genesis 45:14). This emotionally evocative description of Joseph’s reunion with his brother Benjamin contains a curious quirk in the Hebrew: the first usage of the word “neck” is in the plural, rather than the contextually-appropriate singular. For the early rabbis, for whom no jot or tittle was out of place, this discrepancy was actually historical foreshadowing.
The Tribe of Benjamin would later settle on the area around Jerusalem, home to the first and second Temples. Plural. The hug between brothers in this week’s Torah portion was thus understood to express shared sorrow over the Temples’ future destruction at the hands of Israel’s enemies. While a seeming interpretive reach, it conveys an essential point we have yet to internalize in the Jewish community. Our enemies are strong enough, and determined enough, that we cannot remain focused on internal divisions for long.
– Rabbi Aaron Meyer