Shabbat candles: 4:12 p.m.
Torah: Gen. 41:1-44:17
Haftarah: I Kings 3:15-4:1
Havdalah: 5:14 p.m.
Joseph’s brothers were unable to recognize Joseph while Joseph had no problem recognizing them. Rabbi Berel Wein explains that Joseph recognized that his dreams had come from God and so was looking for his brothers, while the brothers — who resented his dreams rather than believing in them — could not have imagined that their younger brother Joseph could now be second only to pharaoh.
Rabbi Wein goes on to link many of our problems to the inability of many of us to fully believe the dreams that we once, as a people, had shared — even the dream of returning to the Land of Israel.
God had promised Abraham that He would give the Land of Israel to Abraham’s descendants, in eternity. First, however, they would be strangers in a strange land. They would be persecuted, and eventually freed by God who would punish the nation that had subjugated and oppressed His people, and the Israelites would go out with great wealth.
I wonder how different the story of Joseph and his brothers might have been if at some time, between the brothers’ sale of Joseph and their arrival in Egypt during the famine, they had been able to look upon the situation in a different light? What if, after their resentment subsided, even one of the brothers had suspected that perhaps Joseph’s dreams did, indeed, predict the future? What if the thought occurred to the brothers that perhaps they were traveling to a strange land as a step in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? Could they then have become even slightly curious about pharaoh’s viceroy singling them out for interrogation, even his strange curiosity about their old father and younger brother? Could they have put the pieces together to glimpse the larger picture? If the brothers had been looking for Joseph in Egypt, as he was looking for them, could they have spared Jacob the fear and worry about the fate of his beloved Benjamin and reunited Jacob with Joseph sooner than actually happened?
The lesson of the brothers is a lesson for all of us, throughout our lives and our history. Things happen that we do not understand. In retrospect (although it may take generations to become clear) we can be given the opportunity to see, as Joseph’s brothers must have seen, that what had appeared as threatening, hurtful and confusing was actually a part of God’s plan for us and for the world. Perhaps they could have seen that God implanted within Joseph’s dreams the vision of Redemption. But it seems the brothers did not see the dreams in that light.
Our dreams reflect who we are, where we are at any given time in our lives. In order to truly appreciate the goodness that God bestows upon us, we must learn to recognize it, as Joseph did. Although it must have been extremely difficult for him along the way, having been betrayed by his brothers, then as a slave to Potifar, and then as a prisoner, his faith in God allowed him to rise above it to become an instrument in the fulfillment of God’s plan.
We ourselves live with the hope and anticipation of being the generation that will witness the Redemption. Do we take conscious steps, searching our own behavior, praying to God, looking for signs in our daily lives that can make Redemption a reality? Do we dream the dreams of our people and recognize the hand of God in our lives?
We learn from the holiday of Purim that Hashem and His ways are usually hidden in the “olam,” the world, whose root word is alam, “hidden.” Nevertheless, it is our job to be constantly on the lookout for signs from God that Moshiach, who will herald our Redemption — is on the way, even if it seems as far off as Joseph’s salvation seemed when sold by his brothers, or in the dungeons when falsely accused. It is our faith in Hashem, our emuna sheleima (complete faith) that enables us to navigate the unknown with joy and optimism in the future, knowing that the universe is controlled by the all knowing, all powerful and loving Rebono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe), HaKadosh Baruch Hu, may He be blessed.
Marilyn Golomb Selber, an attorney and former president of Women’s Branch of the Orthodox Union, is founder of K’eelu, Torah Theater,” employing playwriting, theater games and puppetry, in teaching Torah.