Rashi’s Plan for Peace

Rashi’s plan for Peace
From Vayigash (see Rashi to Genesis 45:24)

After Joseph discloses himself to his brothers, he sends them off with gifts to return to Jacob and the rest of the family in the land of Canaan.

Joseph’s last words to his brothers are “. . .do not become agitated on the way” (Genesis 45: 24). They got a load of goods, their brother has become a holy man, (it was not you who sent me here, but G*d,” Genesis 45:8), and they are going home to reunite their family. What do they have to become agitated about?

Rashi the poet pauses long enough over Joseph’s words to offer three interpretations: 1) do not occupy yourselves with a matter of halakha (law), 2) do not take long steps, 3) do not quarrel along the way about the matter of his (Joseph’s) sale. Rashi calls this the pshat (the plain sense).

This is how I have come to understand Rashi the poet’s visionary plan for peace:

1) Don’t get theoretical. Stay away from general principles. Make peace out of relationships, person to person, not theory to theory.

2) Take small steps, one at a time, make peace manageable. Peace will take time. Start with a treaty. Start with a cessation of hostilities.

3) Peace starts now. Stay out of the past, out of guilt, recriminations, who did what to whom, begin the peace now. Stay away from blame and shame. Let the peace begin.

Why not peace? Why not a plan?

I parsed Rashi’s poetic plan for peace on parshat Vayigash, and many Shabbosim since, then I wrote it up, not as a poem, but as a plan, with a prayer.

Because I imagine it.

Barukh Atah Ad*nai
Eloheinu Melekh Haolam
Holy Muse
Imagining Peace.


rabbi jsg