Vengeance vs. Conciliations
Joseph's first dream comes to realization in this week's parsha. His
brothers come down to Egypt and prostrate themselves before him. The dream
of the sheaves of the brothers bowing to Joseph's sheaf is at last
fulfilled. But strangely, Joseph does not feel himself satisfied. It is
human nature that the expectation of the realization of events is always
greater and more exciting than the fulfillment of the realization itself.
No vacation or event that we plan for ourselves can live up to our
imagination and expectation regarding it. And Joseph is further burdened
by the enormity of what has transpired. He has the brothers, who sold him
as a slave and were deaf to his shouts and tears and pleas for mercy, in
his hands. But what is he to do with them now? And what of his beloved
father, the old man, broken in grief, whom he has not seen or communicated
with for twenty-two years? Are the brothers telling him the truth about
his father's condition? And what about Benjamin, his younger brother? Is
he like the other brothers in attitude and belief or is he different? Does
he mourn for his lost brother Joseph or is he sanguine about his fate, as
his ten older brothers seem to be? All of these questions plague Joseph at
the moment of his seemingly great triumph when his brothers are in his
power and abjectly bow before him. His triumph therefore seems somewhat
hollow to him at that moment.
Joseph comes to the great realization that his ultimate triumph over his
brothers lies not in punishing them - though he will certainly cause them
great anguish on their road of repentance - but rather to eventually
conciliate them. Vengeance is momentarily more satisfying than is
conciliation. But in the long run, vengeance lies not in human hands. And
it will only continue to widen the rift within Jacob's family. Joseph's
greatness and heroism lies in the fact that he chose the road of healing
and conciliation rather than that of punishment and vengeance. Joseph, out
of all of the avot and the brothers is called tzadik - righteous and holy.
This is certainly due to his behavior in escaping from the clutches of
Potiphar's wife. But Joseph's righteousness and piety is exhibited not
only in that incident. It is apparent in his treatment of his brothers
after his dream of their bowing down to him has been realized. He will
protect his brothers from the Pharaoh and the ravages of Egyptian society.
He will support them physically, financially and spiritually for the rest
of his life. He still weeps at the gulf of suspicion that yet exists
between him and the brothers. Conciliation is a long and difficult road to
traverse. But Joseph realizes that it is the only hope for his family's
continuity and purpose.
In the rough and tumble of Jewish and Israeli politics, organizational
life and competitive societal forces, the temptation for excluding others
and even punishing them is very strong. But the lesson of Joseph should
remain instructional to all of us today as well. A Jewish society that can
cast away old hatreds and feuds and truly attempt to be conciliatory one
to another will certainly be stronger and holier in purpose and action. In
this respect, we should all profit from and attempt to emulate Joseph's
wisdom and course of behavior.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org
Visit www.rabbiwein.com for a complete selection of Rabbi Wein's books and tapes.