This parashah begins with a heated discussion between Yosef and his brothers. They never thought that when they were addressing the governor of the country, in fact, they were addressing their own brother. Yosef accuses Binyamin of theft by means of a trick and threatens to keep him in his service. Then Yehudah intervenes, offering himself in Binyamin’s place and making very clear that he is ready to fight in order to save Binyamin. To justify his ferocity on this matter he explains to Yoseph that he is Binyamin’s guarantor vis-à-vis his father.
There is a rabbinic discussion regarding the role of the guarantor or the collateral. According to Rav Chisda, the guarantor’s liability is limited to a financial commitment. On the other hand Rav Huna believes that the guarantor is engaged without limit, as Yehuda stated: “I am bound by a powerful bond with the threat of being banned from two worlds.” This explains his desire to accept upon himself his brother’s trouble
In regard to Rav Huna’s opinion and the principle of “Kol Israel aravim ze la ze “(All Jews are guarantors of each other), we understand the principle that a Jew can free another Jew of a certain mitzvah, although the first Jew has already fulfilled the mitzvah and it is forbidden to do a mitzvah twice. This means that the obligation of one Jew also lies upon another Jew as guarantor.
It is interesting to note the origin of the Hebrew word guarantor, erev, related to meurav (mixed). This means that one Jew is mixed to another, thus forming one single entity, and also to the source of the soul, which is the same for us all at the level of “Adonay Echad,” the divine unity. In the material world we are all different from one another. This is an indispensable condition to exit. One’s qualities complement the knowledge of the other.
The classical sources compare this to the relationship of their limbs to the body. The rabbis observe that the body depends primarily on the presence of each limb and organ. Also, all of their faculties are complementary, each using the skills of each other, to achieve a coherent whole.
This unity, or Sh’lemut, can only be achieved when each member does not consciously feel like an independent entity compared to the other members, but rather as part of the body. Yes we are part of everything, as R. M. Kaplan noticed in his commentary to the Barchu (page 56). Life becomes infinitely more meaningful and worthwhile when we become aware, through our participation in public worship, of a common life that transcends our individual selves.”
This is also true for the unity of the Jewish people. Its fullness depends of the presence of each Jew and the identification of each Jew as a member of the people.
Unity can only be accomplished when one benefits of the skills and participation of the other. But the real union depends on our ability to feel what we share with the other, what’s common to all as members of the same group, which is the source of our soul. Now we can better understand the assertion that the way to achieve the true love of our neighbor is to consider the relationship between soul and body. Then Yehudah’s words “I am bound by a strong bound” acquire a deeper meaning for us.