Friday, December 25, 2009

VaYigash II

Just some more thoughts on Yosef before Shabbat -
As I read the text describing Yosef I can't help but think of all the adolescent and post-adolescent Jewish kids who have separated themselves from the Jewish community.
Think about it.

  • He lives in Egypt, among the Egyptians.
  • He dresses like them, talks like them, marries the daughter of one of their priests, even names his firstborn son a name that means (according to at least some commentators) "the one who causes me to forget my background) and - according to this blog I was reading - isn't even a Hebrew name!
  • He has so carefully hidden his identity as a member of the family of Yaakov that his brothers don't recognize him even after more than one meeting and extensive conversations with him.
Is this the person one would expect to fulfill the role of savior of the descendants of Avraham and Yitzhak?  I wouldn't think so.

So maybe one lesson here is not to write anyone off - not the one who quits religious school the day after his Bar Mitzvah, not the one who refuses to join Hillel in college because it's not important to her, not the one who chooses a mate of a different religion.

Because if we look at the Torah, the text which defines us as Jews, it seems even the least likely candidate may come to play a key role in our future.

And if there is a lesson for us - as Jewish educators - perhaps it is that we need to go out of our way to create powerful emotional moments that remain a part of all who share them, since we can never be sure which of these moments will be brought to the surface at a time we least expect it.

After all, if Yosef hadn't become who he became, if he hadn't provided sustenance for his family during the famine, if he hadn't been willing to forget the harm and remember the good associated with his relatives, the story might have been quite different.

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