This week’s Torah portion describes Joseph’s encounter with his brothers in Egypt. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers who were jealous of his relationship with his father. In Egypt, while still captive, Joseph interpreted one of Pharaoh’s dreams about an upcoming famine. So impressed was Pharaoh by Joseph’s ability to save their country from the famine, he awarded Joseph the position of Counselor, second in authority to Pharaoh.
Joseph’s brothers appeared at the Egyptian Royal Court pleading for help for their family in Canaan. They were suffering from the famine that plagued the land. Joseph recognized his brothers at once, but they did not recognize him. After placing something valuable in Benjamin’s, the youngest brother’s , pack, Joseph had him arrested for theft. Judah appeared before Joseph to plead for his brother’s release. Judah cried that if he returned home without his brother, it would kill his father, Jacob.
Finally, Judah asked Joseph to allow himself to switch places with Benjamin and remain as a slave in Egypt. Joseph felt heartened by his brother’s transformation. Joseph revealed to Judah that he was Joseph, his brother, and that both Judah and Benjamin would be safe and could return home together.
Pharaoh heard of this and met with Joseph and his brothers. Pharaoh was in agreement with Judah and Benjamin returning to Canaan. Pharaoh showered them with food and wagons to help bring the entire extended family to live in Egypt. They were given Goshen, a piece of land separate from the Egyptians. What happens later is another story.
So, why did Pharaoh not only agree to have these foreigners settle in Egypt, but give them provisions and transportation to return to Egypt? Possibly it was to make sure Joseph, a great asset to Egypt, remained in Egypt and continued to serve as his counselor. Joseph saved Egypt from famine and established policies to relieve the land from future famine. Pharaoh did not want to lose such an asset.
What about Joseph reconciling with his brothers who sold him into slavery? Was Judah’s offer to change places with Benjamin and remain in Egypt just a ploy? To say how if he and Benjamin did not return home, it would kill their father? Did he mention the word “father” numerous times to try to remind Joseph about his father, (not knowing he was speaking of the same person)? Was it Joseph who missed his family so much, that he was willing to forgive the past just to reunite with them? OR did both Joseph and Judah transform their inner selves to become more giving and more accepting human beings?
There are so many questions with no one answer. I would like to believe that both brothers realized the importance of kindness and their familial bond that it was time to put the past behind them and reunite in love.
For us today, regardless of the reason, maybe we should take notice that we can forgive our “brothers” for any reason. It does not matter why, just we forgive our fellow man. As we approach the secular New Year, why not make one of your resolutions to forgive just one person? Stored resentment and anger is harmful to ourselves. Reconciliation removes that anger, unburdens our souls and brings us inner harmony and peace.
We wish all of you a New Year of health, happiness, prosperity, safety and forgiveness.