I keep making the mistake of watching the news and reading several newspapers a day. It has become a challenge to keep one’s faith in humanity and sanity. It has become harder to have faith. In this week’s portion, Joseph continues his spiritual development as he rises to a position of power in Pharaoh’s court on the basis of his ability to interpret dreams. We follow Joseph’s path to power in Genesis 41. His ability to interpret and plan he attributes to God; but within this journey from prison to power is an element of faith. How meaningful, powerful or present is that issue of faith in our lives? Where does that faith come from?
I raise this question as I suggest that this issue of faith becomes more relevant as we age. Indeed, Joseph can serve as a symbol of our own maturation of faith for he moves from self-involved teenager to wise elder in the course of his Genesis cycle of portions. Yes, he knows how to “work the system”, but that would have been impossible if he did not have a sense of faith his own self. Joseph sees his faith as a gift from God, but let me suggest that this awareness emerges only after he confronts his own sense of self, resists temptation and begins his own self-acceptance. Many of us wait for a sign from God to have our faith jump-started. Faith in God emerges from faith in self and an acceptance of who we are, in all of our complexity. This is forged through life experience not through divine revelation.
Tolstoy wrote of faith that it is “the knowledge of the meaning of man’s life, as a result of which man does not destroy himself but lives. Faith is the life force. If a man lives, then he believes in something.” We see this test of faith every day. The challenges of the world are overwhelming; so overwhelming that is easy to lose faith in humanity, and our ability to find meaning. That is why our tradition reminds us that we need not save the world, just focus on our small part of it.
Joseph evolves as a human being. He does so strengthened by his faith in God but really, ennobled by his evolving faith in his own self and his abilities. His faith in God, his faith in a future begins with his acceptance of and faith in Joseph. As it is in much of life, our own growth begins inside our on soul—no matter what our age.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.