Sibling Loyalty

Vayiggash By :  Allison Kestenbaum Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor Posted On Dec 30, 2016 / 5777 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Yes I am!
Yes I am!

When he’s pushed to the edge when he’s out on a ledge
Can I help him to think with his heart
When he’s wrong when he’s right I’ll be there to remind him
That he’s made in the image of God
When he struggles with troubles
He needs to know
That his mistakes don’t define his life
I’m a living example that there is a chance for redemption
On the other side

Am I my brother’s keeper?
Yes I am!

—“Brothers’ Keeper,” lyrics by India Arie Simpson and Shannon Sanders

This excerpt from the song “Brother’s Keeper” performed by India.Arie is a powerful statement about the mutual responsibility human beings have for one another. It also echoes a significant moment in Parashat Vayiggash. Joseph is overcome by Judah’s loyalty to his captured brother Benjamin. Joseph reveals his identity to his brother, leading to reconciliation of the long-estranged and fractured family (Gen. 45:1-3).

When Arie sings “Am I my brother’s keeper?” she references the question asked by Cain when confronted by God in Parashat Bereishit about killing his brother Abel (Gen. 4:9). The exclaimed answer—“Yes I am! / Yes I am!”—reminds us of the moral strength demonstrated by Judah’s courageous actions in Vayiggash (Gen. 44:33). Judah is in effect answering a question posed generations before, demonstrating significant growth in moral responsibility and maturity.

Arie’s song raises questions (and answers) about mutual responsibility in our time. When we remind someone of the power of their heart, their likeness to God, and the possibility of redemption, we choose to stand up for and empower others.