Posted on March 23, 2011
by Hadar Schwartz, IGB Rel/Ed Committee 2002, 5763
Now, I must admit that, though I love my siblings dearly, I have fought with them many times. I know that everyone else with siblings would agree with me. Brothers always choose to take the head off of your favorite Barbie doll and sisters seem to keep yelling for hours, keeping you at that same task for just as long (this is, of course, my own female bias). But, as I said before, you gotta love ‘em.
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with Torah? Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers — the Torah loves sibling rivalry. In every generation this nasty habit that got one patriarch in trouble, propels that patriarch to favor one of his sons and to revive the tradition. Sadly, this sibling hatred causes Joseph’s brothers to betray their brother by selling him into slavery.
I see, in Parashat Vayigash, a glimpse of a brighter future though. In vs. 14-15 of Ch. 45, the JPS narrative reads,
“With that he embraced his brother Benjamin around the neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; only then were his brothers able to talk to him.”
After years apart and so much heartache, Joseph and his brothers can reconnect but they had to reach rock bottom first (or whatever the bottom of pyramids was made of). Maybe it took this experience to bring the brothers of the Bible back together and to finally get them to speak. Now I am not preaching sibling love and harmony. If it didn’t work FOR the patriarchs, it sure ain’t working on me. And no hugging and kissing required. However, I could feel in these verses such regret. Joseph’s brothers didn’t know him; they didn’t recognize him. I could almost hear Joseph telling me to call my sibs, find out about their week. Why wait, right? I don’t want to be thirty and in charge of a bustling country before I give them a call. Funny thing though, Joseph also told me not to forgive my brother for the Barbies or the broken carriages. I guess you can only go so far.