Happy New Year! May the coming months bring each of you good health, peace, prosperity and joy.
During the High Holy Days, as we celebrated the Jewish New Year and observed the Days of Awe, we spent much time reflecting on the idea of forgiveness—the granting of it and the asking for it. As we welcome a new secular year, this may be a good time to revisit that theme of forgiving, especially as the first portion we read this year is Vayiggash, “And he drew near.”
In this parshah, Judah, one of Joseph’s brothers, approaches the unrecognizable Joseph, who has now become second only to the Pharaoh, to plead for the release of their brother, Benjamin, whom Joseph falsely accused of theft and enslaved, and offers to take his place if Benjamin can be set free. When Joseph witnesses this showing of brotherly loyalty, he reveals his true identity and his brothers are filled with shame, remorse and the fear of retribution. After all, due to the brothers’ envy of Joseph, they had left him for dead in the desert many years earlier.
Joseph now holds the position of vizier to the Pharaoh, via which much power resides in his hands. What a perfect opportunity to repay his brothers for their jealousy and wickedness! Instead, however, Joseph treats them with compassion, understanding and forgiveness. When the brothers’ guilt is palpable, it is Joseph who tries to comfort them. There had been a terrible famine in the land and Joseph had been placed in charge of managing the limited available grain so that the region might survive. “It was not you who sent me here,” he tells them, “but G-d…to preserve life.”
How many of us could be so forgiving? These brothers had not only mocked Joseph continually, but placed him in a cistern under the hot sun to be devoured by the elements—or worse. His faith in G-d’s plan and his ability to forgive were, truly, beyond measure.
Joseph is known for being the dreamer of dreams, and instructs us in their inherent value, but he also has much to teach us about humility, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. This is a new year; 2020 has arrived! May it be filled with myriad opportunities to forgive and with all the dreams your hearts can hold.