The Wonder Years

“How can I go up to my father if the youth is not with me? (Genesis 44:34).

Judah pleads with the viceroy of Egypt (he does not yet realize this is Joseph) to free his younger brother Benjamin and allow him to return to Canaan. Otherwise, he explains, the heart of his father Jacob will be broken.

Many commentaries have proposed ways of reading this verse figuratively.

We all hopefully mature in life and grow past the simple pleasures of childhood. Perhaps we’ll trade in our marbles for chess pieces or our dolls for deeper artistic endeavors or spiritual growth.

But there is something precious about our youth that we should never lose. Our open curiosity and fascination with everything. Our joy and zest for life. Our purity…

On a symbolic level, the verse might be saying: How can I go up to my Heavenly Father if my youthfulness has left me?

According to R’ Yitzchak Meir of Gur, the Chidushei HaRim, the verse can be seen as a hope that one has not wasted precious years of their life. Our younger years are a time of incredible potential when we have few outside responsibilities and a tremendous amount of energy to make great strides in personal growth.

How can I go up to my Father in Heaven if the years of my youth are not with me? If those years were largely wasted, I will tragically have to see the distress that it will bring to my Father in Heaven.

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