Our Torah portion this week is from Leviticus, but my heart and mind are back in Genesis. I’ve been thinking about Joseph, the dreamer whose brothers sold him into slavery but who rose to be second in command to Pharaoh. I’ve been pondering how Joseph may have reacted internally when approached for grain by the ten brothers who had sold him to traveling merchants all those years earlier.
Joseph must have felt a flood of emotion! Surely, at some level, Joseph must have been surprised that they had arrived before him, curious whether they would recognize him, and eager to know the status of his father Jacob and his full-sibling Benjamin. But did Joseph also feel anger that they had betrayed him? Joy that those brothers were still alive? Sadness about the years they hadn’t shared? Hope that family ties could be mended? Regret that he had taunted those brothers with his dreams of them bowing down to him?
As Joseph stood there, did memories of his intervening experiences pass through his mind — as a slave, in prison, interpreting dreams, rising in Pharaoh’s ranks to become the leader who stood before his brothers? Can you imagine how each of those experiences must have changed Joseph from the lad that the brothers had betrayed? Was he still, even in any small way, the Joseph they had known??
Initially, Joseph speaks roughly with his brothers and, before revealing his true identity, Joseph tests them to see whether they would allow Benjamin, who now held title as Jacob’s favorite, to be taken as a slave. Joseph wanted to determine whether the intervening years had changed his ten brothers into men who cared enough about their father’s happiness to protect Benjamin. He wanted to know that they had grown to see the safety and happiness of other family members as being as important as their own safety and happiness.
And his brothers passed that test; they demonstrated their growth by risking their own freedom to protect Benjamin. They had learned, and they had changed.
But what about Joseph? How had he come to see himself in the context of his family and his life?
When Joseph revealed his identity, the text tells us his ten brothers felt panic — and who could blame them?? They had betrayed a man who now had the power to determine whether they and their families would live or die!
And although Joseph tested his brothers, he did not display behavior that suggested he was angry or jealous or vengeful. Instead, when he revealed his identity, Joseph asked his brothers to approach him and he told them that it was not them, but G-d, who had sent him to Egypt. He didn’t say simply, “I forgive you;” he said, “You should forgive yourselves.” He told them they had only carried out G-d’s plan. He “wiped the slate clean,” making it as if no wrong had ever happened.
Can you imagine????
I try to imagine having the kind of faith in G-d that would allow me to see others’ betrayals as “just part of G-d’s plan”… but that’s a BIG leap of faith!!
Even if, at any particular moment, I feel absolutely certain that I am at the place G-d intended me to be in my journey . . .
and even if I can accept that I would not be in that place I am meant to be but for all the events of my past (including the negative ones) . . .
. . . to so freely absolve others of guilt because they had only been creating the path that G-d intended for me . . .
Is it possible to be that faithful?
If we’ve no way to test others to see if they have changed, or if their remorse is genuine, would such faith be only foolish?
If i could be that faithful, if I could wipe the slate clean for others in that way, how might it change me or my relationships with others?
I don’t have any answers. I just thought I’d share what I’ve been thinking about, to see if anyone else had thoughts to add to mine. If you do, please share in the comments.
Praying we all find blessings (and forgiveness!) along our paths, jen