Try as I may, I can't get away from my 21st century perspective when I think about Joseph. No matter that the traditional commentaries understand him as a tzaddik, a righteous person, my perspective is less sure of his status.
We all know the history - how he was apparently singled out by his father for special consideration, his brothers' jealousy, his time in jail in Egypt, his rise to power, his eventual reconciliation with his family.
- Did he really need to gain ownership of the entire gross national product of Egypt in the process?
- What kind of favor did he do his family by setting them up with special privileges in Goshen?
- Why is it so important to Joseph that his father know what a big shot he has become - and why is he comfortable ignoring the unpleasant fact that he has not made any attempt that we know of to contact this same grieving father for all the years of his absence from Canaan?
- Is it possible to read the Biblical account without addressing these questions?
- Does being a believing Jew require us to accept that in this case the end justifies the means?
- or does being a believing Jew require us to ask just this sort of question and come to answers that satisfy us in the context of our culture and society?
- How is Joseph an example of the kind of person we hope our Jewish children will grow up to be?
- How is he not?
- How might the narrative here have laid the groundwork for later events in Egypt?