When we left the last parashah, Benjamin had been found guilty of stealing the cup from Joseph, and the brothers followed Benjamin, under arrest by Joseph, back to Joseph’s house.
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Now, Judah comes before Joseph and relates how important Benjamin is to Israel and that if he doesn’t return, his father will likely die of a broken heart, having already lost his favorite son earlier. Judah says that he guaranteed the safety of Benjamin and begs Joseph to take himself as the bondsman, allowing the boy to return to his father. for there is no way that Judah could return to Israel without Benjamin to watch his father suffer.
At this final show of concern and self-sacrifice, Joseph is no longer able to contain himself and after having the Egyptians leave him alone with his brothers, he reveals himself to them. After a moment of complete surprise and disbelief in what they heard, they do recognize Joseph, who tells them not to be afraid or angry at themselves for what they did to him because it was really God directing their actions so that Joseph could come to the position he is in, now. He tells them to bring his father and all their belongings to Egypt because the famine will go on for another 5 years.
Pharaoh is told that Joseph’s family is coming, and after they meet with Pharaoh he gives them the best pasture land in the country, the land of Goshen.
We are now told the lineage of the 12 tribes up to that point so that we know the total number of people in Israel’s family that entered Egypt. At the end of this reading we learn how Joseph was able to make Pharaoh not just ruler, but the owner of all of Egypt- the land, the people, and all they owned by having the people trade their property, possessions, and eventually themselves to Pharaoh in exchange for grain when they were completely out of money. Thanks to Joseph, the land of Egypt belonged to Pharaoh, and all the people were sharecroppers.
To me, one lesson from this parashah is obvious: God has a plan, and whether we have a life of joy and peace or one with suffering and abandonment, it is all for a reason. Joseph went from favored son to slave, wrongfully accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned unjustly, but later raised to such a high standing in the land that he was revered and admired by all.
And why Joseph? What did he do that was so great? In truth, he was a little snitch, reporting on his brothers to their father and getting them in trouble, then being so naïve (or was it prideful?) to tell them that they will one day bow down to him? Really? These are the acts of a wonderful leader?
No, of course, they aren’t. Perhaps that is why Joseph had to suffer as he did, not as punishment but to smelt away the dross so that the pure gold could come out. The one thing that was great about Joseph, pretty much from the moment he was enslaved, was his faith in God and his honesty. He showed merit and moral strength, and later he came to understand (as he told his brothers) that what they did for evil, God turned to good.
Much of the world is celebrating a holiday today that is designed to give glory to God and thanks for sending the Messiah. There are those who feel that this holiday is sinful because of the date we celebrate it, which used to be a pagan holiday. Be that as it may, it is never wrong to give thanks to God.
This is supposed to be a happy time of the year, with all people desiring peace, goodwill towards others, and joy. However, many people are depressed and saddened because they don’t have family, or can’t afford to buy presents, and some have a diagnosable seasonal disorder that brings on feelings of depression and gloom.
Suicides are usually higher during this holiday season than at any other time of the year!
I believe the reason is a lack of faith. Even those who profess to believe in God and the Messiah feel depressed because of their worldly situation. This year, 2020, has seen the past 9 months with the world in turmoil and fear from the COVID-19 virus epidemic, and some states in the U.S. have actually outlawed Christmas, in a way, by ordering people to stay in their homes and gatherings to be limited in number.
Just like Joseph, we are enslaved unfairly and in prison, feeling alone and abandoned. That is why we need to take this other lesson from the parashah: God is in charge, and even though we can’t see why this tsouris is happening, we must maintain our faith and continue through with the moral dignity, honesty, compassion for others, and fearlessness that Joseph showed until we are released from this situation.
The bad news is that we may not find that release soon, or it might even get worse. We may be “COVID-ed” for the rest of our lives, having to wear masks everywhere and not being allowed to have a party or go to an event if there are more than 10 people there.
But I don’t think that will happen: I believe that this coming year, 2021, will see more freedom to socialize. Not because COVID will be cured (the truth is it will never go away), and not because people will get fed-up with all the drek and mismanagement of the pandemic, which they pretty much are, already, but simply because nothing of this world lasts forever. The political party that will be in charge will have to do something to bring the economy back and relieve the tension felt throughout the country, and that is when we will all sit back and say, “Remember when we had to…”
Maintain faith in the face of adversity and trust that God will bring you through it, and in the meantime, even though we are up to our mouths in muck and mire, we must keep ourselves honest in all we do.
One last lesson from Joseph is that no matter where we are, or what is happening to us, or how long we suffer tsouris in our lives, we must always strive to be who God wants us to be, which may not be visible until after the dross is washed away.
Thank you for being here, please subscribe and share these messages. For those celebrating this holiday season, may you be blessed with the peace and joy that God has for all those who glorify and honor his name and the name of Yeshua ha Maschiach.
Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!