Sustaining Our Families: A Nod to Joseph

One of the great dramas of our tradition is the Joseph cycle found in Genesis. The highlight, to me, of the cycle is the section of the cycle in which Joseph is reunited with his brothers, reveals himself to them and begins the process of bringing his family together. A rarely quoted verse appears in Genesis 47 that says that Joseph “sustained his father, his brothers and his entire household with bread” (47:12f). As I was looking at this verse and the word bread, I could not help but think of the symbolic possibilities of the word. Bread is sustenance. I think an idea that can be taken from this verse is the power of caring for someone, it is an act that can sustain and nourish the soul of another human being. The caregiving imperative that surrounds us is one that will become an even greater part of all of our lives.
As I write this, I am reflecting on two calls that cam win this morning. Both brought news of serious illness of friends. Both involved discussions on aspects of caregiving that now face a family. We are of an age when these calls become all too familiar. That is why the discussions in Washington have taken on extreme importance for our generation. The economics of our own aging, a subject that we have, and will continue to explore, impacts almost all of us and will impact our children and grandchildren. Who pays for care and how that payment is achieved is not theoretical; it is very real to many of us.
The New York Times of Thursday January 5 carried a series of editorials and op-eds that examined some of the potential issues that now face the country. Our Jewish tradition is filled with very valuable and practical insights in caregiving; all based on the understandings of the 5th Commandment. Yet, this verse from the Joseph cycle seems to speak to this as well. We can nourish our families and loved ones, our friends and those special to us by the presence of our caring and our caring presence. Now more than ever do we need to teach this to our congregations, our families and our communities.
Rabbi Richard F Address

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