The last four portions of the book of Genesis are the most emotional of the Torah. The story of Joseph and his brothers makes us shed tears, indeed the same tears we shed when we yearn for God’s love as our sole redeemer.
Joseph is the keystone that maintains the unity of Israel in their coming down to Egypt and their consequent slavery under Pharaoh’s rule. Joseph reaffirms his prophecy of God’s deliverance: “God will surely remember you.” (Genesis 50:24).
Our Father surely remembers us not only in times of affliction and ordeals, or as a fact in the future, because He always remembers us. The time of our individual and collective redemption depends on our own initiative, by choosing the blessings and not the curses that we face every day in life.
How long is going to take us to recognize Joseph, our brother who represents love’s ways and attributes? What does it take to choose love over ego’s negative and ephemeral fantasies and illusions that cause us pain, suffering, disillusionment, separation, isolation, sadness, depression and everything that causes affliction in life?
The story also reminds us that Love is the subject in the relationship of Joseph and his brothers, and love is also the object of our relationship with the Creator. Israel’s connection and unity with God are based on His Love. Also through Love we relate to our Father in the return to our true home with Him. We said many times that we acquire knowledge through trial and error, true and false, right and wrong; and through this experiential process we learn to discern good from evil.
In this predicament we must integrate goodness into our consciousness and discard the negativity derived from falsehood and evil. This is the fundamental message the Torah teaches us in its words. Our sages explain that God’s love is the cause of Creation, and we have to embrace and experience love in order to know our Father.
In this final portion of the book of Genesis Jacob blesses all his children with words full of symbolic meanings that are not easy to understand. This difficulty is explained by several reasons, being the most complex the divine context of these blessings we can’t fully grasp, for Jacob’s words for his sons were uttered by divine inspiration.
Our sages teach that some of the blessings are related to the near future of Israel as a nation and the conquest of its enemies. The symbolic meanings of the Tribes (lion, snake, wolf, ox, gazelle, gate, ship, etc.) represent not only human traits, skills or qualities, but also deeper dimensions and potentialities of Israel in his connection with the Creator. Hence Israel’s mission is to know and to be aware of his relationship with Him through Torah study and good deeds, as the dynamic process of learning His ways and attributes.
Let’s take a look of parts of these blessings. “Shimon and Levi are brothers” (49:5). Our Sages quote Jacob saying to them: “You were brothers to Dinah, but you were not brothers to Joseph” (Midrash Rabbah). They ran to defend their sister’s honor (after she was raped in Shechem) because it was also their family’s honor. But they did not comprehend that acknowledging Joseph’s spiritual prevalence and leadership in the family was also a way of defending their honor and paying respect to their father’s will. “Instruments of violence are their weapons” (49:5). Our Sages also explain that these are not Israel’s instruments to fulfill his mission commanded by the Creator. These are Esau’s, as his father Isaac said to him: “And by your sword shall you live” (27:40).
The negative potential aspects of our consciousness — represented by Esau and the Canaanite nations — are the instruments of violence and affliction to us and our fellow man. Israel is destined to conquer them and subjugate them. This means that all aspects and dimensions of consciousness must be subservient to love’s ways and attributes. “Cursed be their anger” (49:7).
In anger our vision is lost. Our sages teach that living in anger is equated to idol worship, because it is like living in one of ego’s illusions (as well as pride, envy, lust, greed, indolence, etc.) instead of living in the truth of God’s ways. Hence anger must be cursed and vanished from our consciousness.
Let’s see now a part of Jacob’s blessing for Joseph: “(…) from the God of your father, and He will help you, and with the Almighty, and He will bless you [with] the blessings of the Heavens above, the blessings of the deep, lying below, the blessings of father and mother.” (49:25). God’s love is indeed in every dimension of life and in every aspect of consciousness, never separated from us.
At the end of this portion again Joseph is not recognized by his brothers: “And when Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph will hate us, and will pay us back the evil which we did to him’?” (50:15), “And Joseph wept when they spoke to him” (50:17), “And Joseph said to them: ‘Fear not; for am I in the place of God’?” (50:19).
God is the place of the goodness of love, the place that we have to know, to recognize, to embrace and to cherish. Love is the place that also yearns for us to be with Him, weeping sometimes loudly and sometimes quietly.
The haftarah for the last portion of the Torah makes a parallel between Jacob’s final blessings and David’s blessing to Solomon, before he died: “That the Lord may continue His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in Truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you’, said He, ‘a man on the throne of Israel’.” (I Kings 2:4). This is love’s promise and love’s manifestation when we cleave to God’s love.