Shabbat Vayechi 5774–Adat Shalom Shabbat Torah Study–Joseph’s Generosity or Revenge?

Following Jacob’s death, the brothers fear Joseph will finally get his revenge, that only respect for their father kept Joseph from exacting punishment. The brothers even make up a story that on his deathbed, Jacob had instructed that a message be sent to Joseph asking him to forgive his brothers and not take revenge. “Dad said to tell you to forgive us.” Genesis 50:17. Once again, Joseph reminds his brothers that it was God’s will that he ended up in Egypt where he saved the world—and his family– from the ravages of famine and starvation. The brothers offer to be Joseph’s slaves. Maybe the brothers actually did want some punishment. After all, God’s plan or not, does that mean the brothers did not sin? Should there not be a punishment of some kind?

Nevertheless, Joseph did not take revenge….or did he? Rabbi Dov Halevy Soloveitchik believed there was actually “sweet revenge.” Joseph tells his brothers not to fear, that he will sustain and provide for them. Genesis 50:21. The brothers will now spend the rest of their lives relying on Joseph for their food, clothing and shelter. They will live lives constantly being reminded that they are dependent on the “dreamer” they threw in the pit, Dad’s favorite who done good. As the great Jewish philosopher Tevye said, “It is no shame to be poor, but it is no great honor either.” Their bondage was not one of servitude to Joseph, but one of dependency. Joseph did not punish them physically, but there may be punishments that are worse. Could that really have been Joseph’s intent? Is it possible that supporting someone does them a disservice?

There is much to learn from this week’s Torah portion and this Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Rachel Shere. It is always interesting to learn with her. 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat shalom,

Paul

By the way, I should remind you that I prepare these drashot as part of my own personal Torah study. While I am delighted to invite and encourage learning at Adat Shalom’s wonderful weekly Torah Study, the opinions and thoughts I express are mine. I am a volunteer like many members of our Adat Shalom community. If you like these drashot, feel free to forward them and let me know if someone would like to be added for this weekly distribution. If you would like to be taken off this distribution, please tell me that too.

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