Parshat Vayigash: Solving the Jewish identity crisis (III)

Jacob was fully aware of the honor and also the obligations of the Covenant his fathers had with their God. Hence Jacob’s vision for the family that he forged, knowing that it would become not only a nation but the chosen people to fulfill God’s will for this world.

Jacob also knew that the diverse traits, qualities and talents of his children would shape the Jewish identity the Torah later would refine for them. Building not only a nation but a legacy for the Jewish people in order to turn it into God’s will for the world has not been an easy task.

We have mentioned in other commentaries on this portion of the Torah, that diversity gives sense and meaning to human consciousness as the starting point to live life in its different facets and expressions. This sense and meaning is framed with the ethical principle inherent in goodness.

Thus we realize that all kind of diversities, traits, qualities, abilities, trends and talents must express themselves under the regency of goodness. Not only goodness is meant to be the unifying bond behind them, but the driving principle to make life the place where God wants to dwell in our midst.

We can fathom the anguish and frustration of Jacob in view of what happened to Joseph, according to what his sons told him. All his efforts to build the strong family needed to fulfill his mission were fading without the unifying and strengthening link represented by Joseph.

Our Sages debate on Joseph’s relationship with his brothers, and his role in the family before being sold and sent away from his family. Some of them believe that Joseph’s presence was then a separating and not a unifying factor, regardless Jacob’s clear signals of being the opposite.

The Torah’s narration tells us that jealousy, envy and hatred were the true separating traits that led to Joseph’s uncalled for fate. The debate still continues, but the Torah later points out to us who were right.

“And now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5)

Joseph emerged as the liberating and unifying qualities inherent in goodness. Thus we understand that goodness is the true preserver of life. It was not about surviving where there is plenty of material sustenance, as the verse may suggest, but about maintaining the source from which everything is sustained.

As we have indicated, goodness embodies an ethical principle that gives its sense and purpose. In this context, Joseph as the unifying factor had to correct the negative traits and trends that led his brothers to act the way they did against him.

“And God sent me before you to give you a remnant on the earth, and save you alive for a great deliverance.” (45:7)

Once we begin letting goodness remove the dividing, conflicting, undermining and destructive traits from our consciousness, we also begin to unify, harmonize, enhance and exalt the positive traits, qualities, abilities and talents, represented by Joseph and his brothers, to guide them towards the great deliverance promised by God in His final redemption.

“And one would have said in that day, ‘Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him and He has redeemed us. This is the Lord, we have waited for Him. We exult and rejoice in His redemption’.” (Isaiah 25:9)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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