Once again, we come to a portion that demands attention on so many levels. This is the portion that Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. The drama and passion in the portion and the texts cannot be understated. Joseph’s immediate concern is not one of ego or triumph, but a simple question, born of longing, “is my father alive”? Despite his rise to power and influence, his Egyptian wife and children; Joseph seeks the knowledge that Jacob is OK.
Many would assume that in a similar situation; faced with meeting the very people who betrayed him, cast him into a pit and his imprisonment, Joseph would have sought revenge. But the pull of family and the healing power of time, like Jacob and Esau a few weeks ago, turned reunion into something positive. The text also introduces another theological perspective. This was all part of a master plan! In Genesis 45, Joseph reveals to his family the fact that all that happened was part of God’s plan. All that took place was in order to “save life”. It was because of God’s plan that I am now able to save lives because of the famine. As many have said and many believe, “everything happens for a purpose”.
Does this Torah portion ask each of us what our purpose is? Is one of the messages that of having, as we mature and are tested by time and circumstance, the wisdom to not be stuck in what was, but to focus on what can be? In asking about Jacob, does Joseph reveal his own personal and spiritual growth? “When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he also reveals himself to himself. At this moment of truth, Joseph perceives his life and identity in a whole new context.” (“Wrestling With Angels”: Naomi Rosenblatt. P. 368))
Finding one’s place with a family is often fused with challenges and underscored by change. Joseph in his maturation, is reminded that he is part of something greater than himself. He finds his purpose within his context, seeing the larger picture that transcends the immediate.
So this portion asks, have we found our purpose? Are we part of a master plan? And if so, whose plan is it?
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.