Men Can Cry

Joseph is the first creative personality and the modern character described in the Torah. The preceding patriarchs were not presented as stiff, one-dimensional figures because Torah is a magnificent novel. It combines the nail-biting plot and the characters which come truly alive. The invisible narrator skillfully weaves together the dialog and the moments where we can delve into the inner reflections and intentions of the characters.

However, with Joseph’s narrative, the power of storytelling leaps free. It is both an ultimate “rags to riches” story and a deep investigation of the character’s development as a human being. Joseph is incredibly emotional, also a clear sign of modernity in writing.

Deciding to reveal himself to his brothers, he gets a powerful verse from the narrator, ” וְלֹֽא־יָכֹ֨ל יוֹסֵ֜ף לְהִתְאַפֵּ֗ק לְכֹ֤ל הַנִּצָּבִים֙ עָלָ֔יו “. Then he sobs aloud. The rabbis have been quick in explaining that Joseph the courtier does not want “to lose face” in front of the assembled Egyptians. Only Radak, uncharacteristically modern for his time, thought about something else.

“…the repeated references by Yehudah to the mental anguish experienced by his aged father proved too much for Joseph to maintain his composure. It kindled his sense of compassion also towards his brothers so that he could not restrain himself from weeping”.

Too much to maintain his composure because men can cry too.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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