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December 22, 1995 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Joseph's Story
And Its Lessons

ANNIE FRIEDMAN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

he sedrah portion for this
week, Miketz, which means
"at the end of...," is the sec-
ond act of the story of
Joseph in Egypt. Last week being
the first and next week being the
final act.
This story of Joseph has cap-
tured the imagination of many
people—even the playwright An-
drew Lloyd Weber, who has writ-
ten a musical about Joseph. It also
has been interpreted in many dif-
ferent ways, especially as concerns
the personality of Joseph.
In act two, we are shown
Joseph's talent as an interpreter
of dreams that eventually reach-
es the ears of Pharaoh. By
interpreting Pharaoh's dreams
successfully, Joseph became the
chief economic planner for Egypt.
Sold into slavery at age 17, Joseph
at age 30 is now Pharaoh's valued
adviser. Joseph, the cocky young
fellow of Canaanite days, is now
a mature man in Egypt.
As Joseph predicts, famine
comes to Egypt and the sur-
rounding areas including Canaan;
and Joseph's brothers must come
from Canaan to Egypt for grain
(food). Joseph, of course, recog-
nizes his brothers, but they do not
know who he is. This is when
Joseph begins to test their char-
acter; he needs time to figuie out
his own feelings at seeing his fam-
ily after 20 years. Is it a feeling
of joy and excitement, or a feeling
of vengeance?
There are three important
themes in the Miketz:
1) Dreams, and what to do with
them; 2) Human choice between
revenge and caring 3) The choice
between death and survival.
Joseph proves that he know
what to do with dreams; he is not
just a dreamer. It is his ability to
listen to a dream, to conclude what
the dream means, and to imple-
ment a course of action as result
of the dream. This is what made
Joseph the great person he was,
a person of action.
Joseph eventually makes the
choice of forgiveness of his broth-
ers rather than revenge. There
are many interpretations to this
part of the saga. Did Joseph care
about his brothers and his aging
father? (The elderly are a family
and community obligation that
is sometimes difficult to fulfill,
but a must in Jewish tradition).
Was Joseph still angry about
what his brothers had done to
him? Was he going to make them
suffer for what they had done?

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Annie Friedman is educational
director at Temple Beth El.

Did Joseph want revenge or rec-
onciliation? (You shall not take
vengeance or bear a grudge..."
Leviticus 19:19).
The third theme, Jacob's deci-
sion to allow Benjamin to go with
the brothers to Egypt and may be
lost to Jacob, was a matter of sur-
vival for the whole family. The de-
cision was made as they were
running out of food and based on
compassion for all his children and
grandchildren. According to Bashi,
Judah tells his father Jacob "Is
it not better to let go what is doubt-
ful and snatch what is certain?"

Shabbat Miketz:
Genesis 41:1-44:17
Numbers 28:9-15
7:42-47
Zechariah 2:14-4:7.

In reviewing the story of
Joseph, there is another aspect
of this man that is important to
think about. Joseph is the first
Hebrew to live in the Diaspora
(Galut). He becomes a complete-
ly assimilated man who adopts
all the Egyptian customs. He
dresses as an Egyptian, swears
by Pharaoh's name as an Egypt-
ian (Genesis 42:15) and marries
an Egyptian woman. Even
though outwardly Joseph looked
and acts as as an Egyptian, in-
wardly God was with him. His
first-born is named Manasseh
"because God has made me for-
get completely my hardship and
my parental home" (Genesis
41:51). Of course, Joseph never
forgot and eventually brings the
whole family to Egypt to live in
Goshen.
Today, we all live assimilated
lives in the Diaspora. We are all
Americans living a very good life
and trying to balance with that
our wonderful Jewish heritage.
We have an obligation to hand
down to our children a good sec-
ular education in order to con-
tinue the good life we have in the
United States. Along with this,
we have an obligation to teach
our children Torah, mitzvah, tra-
ditions and the Jewish way of life.
We have to continue to keep God,
Torah and Jewishness in our
lives even though we have all the
outward appearances of the non-
Jewish community. Just as
Joseph did, we must continue "to
teach it diligently to our rhildron"
as we recite daily in our Sh'ma
prayer. ❑

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