Blog Mikketz Kislev 28  5778 בלוג מִקֵּץ, כ”ח כסלו תשע”ח

The Torah teaches us that regular humans are chosen by the Creator for a special task. It doesn’t hide their human frailties and failures so that we can all relate to them. Abraham was called a man of faith and Moses was spoken to face to face by the Creator yet they were not supermen.  It is important to emphasize the humanity of our heroes to show us that even when we fail we can still make it right and return to Him. He never gives up on us.  We cannot deny that Joseph was intelligent and gifted but in his early years, he was a spoiled brat.  His father Jacob had created sibling rivalry among the brothers by giving Joseph such preferential treatment. His brothers hated him so much that they couldn’t bring themselves to speak him in “peacefully”.  The Torah teaches us that the consequence of sinat chinam, free hatred is destruction.

Joseph himself didn’t do much to help the situation; in fact, when he had his special dream he boasted about it to his brothers. It is important to see what the Torah actually says about Joseph rather than what we would like to believe about him. Although Joseph was an outstanding young man chosen for a special role, it doesn’t mean that he was perfect. He would have to go through a process of growing from a spoiled boy into a man of strong character to fulfil the role to which he was called. All these circumstances between Joseph and his brothers had to happen so that later Israel would be “cloistered” in Goshen, isolated from the Egyptians in order to develop into a nation with a purpose. In this process, they would gather to them other nations who were also enslaved with whom they would live and finally leave Egypt.

Joseph did not instantly forgive his brothers when he finally met them again rather he would make them suffer since he believed that they were the ones who sold him into slavery. The Scriptures are clear however, that although they did throw him into a pit, it was the Midianites who found him and sold him to the Ishmaelites.  Folklore is often quite different from actually happened. Reuben had it in mind to come back to the pit later and return Joseph to his father and Joseph had heard Judah say that they should sell him. This was all in his head when his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain. 

Joseph went through a process that would change his character from being stuck up to being humble; first as a slave in the home of Potiphar where he was falsely accused of sexual harassment by Potiphar’s wife and sent to prison. It was there that he interpreted the dreams that would later bring him into the presence of Pharaoh. He had boasted about his dreams to his family and here in Gen 40:8 we see a more humble Joseph who asked the two servants in the prison to tell him their dreams. Yet he was still taking a little credit for himself. However in Gen 41:16, two years later, Joseph was far more humble when Pharaoh said that he had heard that Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph replied “Not I, God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 

There would still be a process that he would have to go through to be able to forgive his brothers. When he saw them he knew who they were but they didn’t recognize him since he was dressed like an Egyptian “god” and spoke to them through an interpreter. When Joseph heard their conversation, that they felt remorse and that they acknowledged that they had done wrong, he could have at that time revealed his identity but he still had to let go his need for revenge.

I have been teaching that it we need to confront issues. Here we learn that we should not hold a grudge against anyone. When we do, we are the losers.  It keeps us in a prison of hate. It is so important to forgive and let go. Joseph would have to learn this. Forgiveness can be compared to a scar which reminds us of what happened but we no longer feel the pain.  We don’t forget but it no longer hurts us.  We all have scars in life which help us to understand that we went through a difficult time but that we made it through. This can help others who go through similar situations.  As we go through these processes of change may we grow in wisdom with the desire to forgive and not hold anything against other people.

Let me ask you this:  are you holding a grudge against anyone? Is there something holding you back? Is there someone you would like to have disappear or even dead? If you feel like this, you are the one with the problem.  The other person is usually not even aware.  Are you able to understand that you don’t need to imitate the world to be accepted by others?  The youth today have many heroes from the movies, sports, music who they admire and copy without allowing themselves to be who they are. This is a mistake.  The Creator made us in a marvellous way (Psalm 139:13-14). We do not need to be like anyone else, just the best version of ourselves.  We will never be happy as anyone else. 

During his slavery, Joseph had a long time to get to know himself, to search his soul. This is called “cheshbon hanefesh” – הנפש חשבון – to make an account of our soul. What is inside makes us who we are.  Are you upset with the Creator for who you are, for what you look like, for where you are or your circumstances?  The more you accept yourself, the happier you are. True beauty comes from within and we need to learn to appreciate who we are and to stop comparing ourselves with anyone else. We are unique.   This is the true message of Hanukkah, not to be assimilated, alienated, to be someone else but to give thanks to the Creator for who we are.  We have so much to give. Be proud of who you are and give honor to the Creator who has a special role in mind for each one of us.