My whole family had sat down for lunch when the driver of the school van peeked through the door. This was a common occurrence in my house; we had Hebrew school that day. In order for the driver not to needlessly drive to a student who wasn’t going to school, parents would notify us and we would pass the information to the driver.

“Oh, yes! Nancy called and said the kids are not coming today,” I answered promptly. “Oh, really?” asked my father, glad to see that I was “responsible” enough to be part of the family communal work and relieved at the same time because Nancy’s house was the farthest away, and I had saved the driver a big shlep by notifying him before. I was 8 or 9 at the time.

I had a fight with Nancy’s daughter . . .

The only thing my father didn’t know was that a few days earlier, I had had a fight with Nancy’s daughter and didn’t want to see her again at Hebrew school, so I thought that I had found a good solution. Just one little lie can’t do much damage, I thought. But it could.

As soon as all the kids arrived at school, Nancy called my father, complaining that the school van never came to pick up her kids. It didn’t take long for him to realize what I’d done. I still remember his words and the shame I felt right there, next to the ping-pong table. “Because of you, two Jewish kids are not learning Torah today!” he rebuked me.

Nancy and her kids never knew the real reason for the incident; my father apologized and sent the driver back to their house. Nancy’s kids and I are friends to this day. Many years later, I reminded my father of that episode, but he absolutely doesn’t recall anything like it.

I don’t know if my father expected me to understand the importance of Jewish education, but I do know that that was one of the strongest lessons I ever learned.

The everlasting message of this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayigash, is similar.

The opening sentence begins, “Judah approached Joseph.” Jacob and his family lived peacefully in the Land of Israel until a great famine came and compelled the sons to go down to Egypt for food. Joseph, a son of Jacob sold into slavery by his own brothers, had risen to become second to the king and had storehouses of food, enabling the economy to survive and even prosper.

Jacob had sent his 10 sons to Egypt, but was insistent on keeping Benjamin, the youngest boy, at home. Joseph and Benjamin were the children of his beloved and deceased wife Rachel. Jacob had already lost Joseph, who was presumed dead, and dared not let his remaining son from Rachel be in any danger.

Judah was prepared to fight a war against the whole country

When the sons arrived in Egypt, Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize him. In exchange for food, Joseph demanded that they first bring their brother Benjamin—an extremely hard task. Jacob could not bear the separation, and he would literally die if he would not see Benjamin again.

“I guarantee his safe return, Father. Otherwise, I will have sinned to you all my life,” Judah said decisively. The shelves were empty, and after persuasion and promises, the brothers brought Benjamin down to the king. After a meal at the palace and after filling their sacks with all their needs, the brothers headed back home. Joseph instructed a servant to put a silver goblet in Benjamin’s sack, accusing him of stealing. He was found guilty, and as punishment was to remain in the palace as a slave, while all the other brothers were free to go back to their families.

At that crucial moment, Judah had no doubts. Something needed to be done—and fast. He was ready to do anything for his brother; he was prepared to fight a war against the whole country, and even threatened to kill the king and his viceroy if necessary, ready to sacrifice his own life for Benjamin.

Why did only Judah take a stance and approach Joseph with all his might?

“Because I’m responsible for him,” Judah told Joseph.

Well, we are called Jews after Judah.

Be responsible for a Jewish kid. Be responsible for your own kid. No one else will be. Be ready to fight for him. Be Jewish.