To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism
Parashat Vayigash is the story of the great reveal – Joseph tells his brothers he is alive and well, and the brothers reconcile. The bratty little brother who used to tell his other brothers his dreams of the sheaves bowing down did, indeed, let them come to bow down to their younger brother and ask for his help. Each year, when I hear this story read again, it brings tears to my eyes – to hear how the brothers reconcile, and how Joseph asks if his father is still alive.
There are so many real life lessons in this story. We all have someone we need to reconcile with – people – whether a friend, a relative, or an acquaintance we need to reconcile with, but perhaps have not had the chance to, or have lost it. This story shows us Joseph’s bravery. He could have punished his brothers and not given them any food to eat, and never forgiven them for throwing him into a pit and eventually selling him as a slave. However, Joseph did reveal his true identity. He did forgive his brothers, and asked the question he may have dreaded – after all these years, is my father still alive?
When one makes that leap to approach someone and reconcile, one does not know how it will be received. When you ask how someone is, often the hard answer could be that the person has died. Joseph was lucky: His father was still alive, and he was able to see his father again and make amends. Sometimes having those difficult conversations can be less difficult than anticipated and very healing. Pain we may have carried for years could be cleared up with a conversation or clarification. We never know how our words will be received. But we also do not know until we try.
Perhaps there is someone in your Sisterhood who you may have had a falling out with – yes, these things happen sometimes. Maybe it was a huge issue; maybe a small misunderstanding. However, you never know until you approach someone and say, “Let’s talk.” It is harder to bear a grudge than to reconcile. Let us learn from Joseph, to reconcile, to talk, to face those who we may think threw us into the ‘pit,’ but who perhaps gave us the opportunity to grow, as we saw Joseph grow from a young boy without a filter, to a slave, to a vizier in Pharaoh’s palace. May we all try to make amends, for, just as the words of Torah have many different interpretations, so do the words we speak, and how they are heard.