It seems that every parasha I read has more than I could ever write or speak about in less than a tome.
On Fridays I always go through the readings: first I read, then I glance through, and finally (if I still need to) I scan. I read comments in my Chumash and wait for the Ruach to reveal something to me. Today what I feel I want to talk about is not a specific part of this reading, but a generic lesson we can learn from the story of Joseph’s life:
When you always do what is right, and do them wisely, things will turn out right for you.
Joseph showed a divine wisdom when he was older, but as a child I think we can question his common sense because he went to his brothers and told them his dreams, dreams in which he announces they will all be subjugated to him. He even tells his father, Jacob, that he will bow down to his own son. Jacob chides him for even thinking such a disrespectful thought. We can also wonder if he was a dutiful son or a tattle-tale; we are told he gave a bad report about his brothers, so if he did that once can’t we assume it wasn’t a singular event?
I think he was a bit of a spoiled brat, myself. Why? Well, let’s look at his father and grandfather- Jacob was a Momma’s boy, as was his father, Isaac, before him. Isaac was the favorite of his father and Jacob was the favorite of his mother, Isaac lied about his marriage (“my wife is my sister”), Jacob lied about himself (“I am your son, Esau”- right!), so why not think that Joseph, noted in the Bible as Jacob’s favorite (coat of many colors and all) would follow in the footsteps, if you will, of his ancestors?
I am not being disrespectful here, at least, that is not my intent. The Bible is not a fairy tale book where the hero’s are perfect in every way. Joseph did what was right in reporting on his brothers if they did, indeed, screw-up royally. However, it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, and the telling of his dreams was just plain stupid. I mean, really- “Hey guys, I know you hate my guts, but I had a dream and one day you will all bow down before me. Ain’t that cool?” Sheesh- where were his brains?
So, Joseph is setting himself up for a fall and it comes when he is all alone in the desert with those that hate him. Reuben plans to rescue him later, Judah also helps to keep him alive (remember what Shimon and Levi did, so there was a real threat to Joseph’s life) but God intervenes and takes Joseph away from his brothers and sets him on the path to salvation. Not his own salvation but the salvation of God’s Chosen people, even though there were only about 70 or so of them. At that time, though, that was all of them and they were a nation not yet a nation.
Doing the right thing the right way was the lesson Joseph learned, and it started with his life of slavery, lasting throughout the rest of his days. Evidently he learned from the way his brothers treated him that being right isn’t always the end-all of it. I had been told once, and this is one of the most valuable lessons I was ever given (which I am still trying to learn to use), that what I said was almost always the right thing, but I just never said it the right way. Essentially, I may have been right in what I said about things but because I didn’t use wisdom in how I said it the point was lost in the emotional “stir” I created by the way I said it. Joseph seems to have learned this lesson. It is shown in how he gained the trust of Potiphar, how he addressed the Baker and Cup Bearer, and in how he talked to Pharaoh. I like how Joseph suggested to Pharaoh that Pharaoh should find someone with wisdom to run the collection of food, while here he is, telling Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams that no one else can interpret. That’s like saying I am obviously the only one here who can handle this, and you should find someone who is capable of doing what I am doing to run this program I am designing.
And it worked. His wisdom in telling Pharaoh about the dreams, the solution to the problem, and how Pharaoh should approach it pretty much assured that he would be appointed.
Finally, Joseph did the most proper and forgiving thing, demonstrating his fullness of faith, spirit, and compassion, in that he forgave his brothers because he understood that God runs the show, and that what they did for evil God turned to good because He can! Joseph learned that doing the right thing, the right way, and always accepting that God is behind everything, led him from slavery to the second highest position of power and authority in the known world at that time. Yet he remained humble, respectful and compassionate.
They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, if and when that power is based on human activities. When we think we are the source of our power, it will corrupt us. Joseph teaches us that power does not have to corrupt when we realize the source of that power is God, that God put us where we are, God is really the powerful one (we are nothing more than a conduit: empty inside, so that His power can flow through us) and God is in charge. He can take that power away in a heartbeat (remember Nebuchadnezzar? He went from the most powerful ruler in the world to eating grass like a donkey.)
Do what God tells us is right, always. Ask God to guide you with His Ruach; do what you know He wants you to do, in a Godly way, and even if you are in slavery (whatever kind of “slavery” that may be) you will accomplish great things for God. Who knows who we can save, who we can influence, or who we can lead to salvation simply by obeying God and always doing (well, always trying to do) what is right in His eyes?