In one of her essays on the portion Mikeitz, “Then Let Me Bear the Blame For Ever,” Nehama Leibowitz* focuses in on Judah’s words to Jacob, as he prepares to bring Benjamin to Egypt (Genesis/Breishit 43:9):
“If I bring him not unto thee… then let me bear the blame forever.”
The Italian Jewish commentator Elijah Benamozegh (1822-1900), Leibowitz says, “derives a profoundly significant message” from this turn of phrase:
This figure of speech contains a valuable lesson, teaching us something not otherwise explicitly alluded to, in the Torah: that there is no punishment outside of the sin. Sin itself is its own punishment in the Divine scheme of judgement and serves the purpose of reward and punishment. This is the meaning of: “Then shall I bear the blame to my father forever” (44, 32) — (Em Lamikra)
*For more on Leibowitz, see Source Materials.
The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.