Friday, December 19, 2014
Miketz- Forgiveness is Not Forgetting
Ul’Yoseif yulad shnei vanim b’terem tavo shnat hara’av asher yaldah-lo Asnat bat-Poti Fara kohein On. Vayikra Yoseif et-sheim ha’b’khor M’nasheh ki-nashani Elohim et-kol-amali v’et kol-beit avi. V’et sheim hasheini kara Efrayim ki-hif’rani Elohim b’eretz anyi.
And Joseph bore two sons in the year before the famine arrived that Asnat, daughter of Poti Fara, priest of On, bore to him. And he called the name of the oldest Menasheh, because Elohim made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house. And the second he called Ephraim, because Elohim has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. (Breishit 41:50-52)
Joseph’s experiences in Egypt are interesting. He arrives as a slave, seemingly the lowest of the low. Bought by Potiphar, he quickly rises to a privileged state in his household; only to be thrown even lower than when he arrived by unfounded accusations made by Potiphar’s wife. In jail he again rises to favoured status, not only among the prisoners, but among the guards as well. When Pharaoh’s butler leaves the jail, Joseph seems forgotten. Then come Pharaoh’s dreams, and Joseph finds himself in royal attire, wearing Pharaoh’s own ring. In all this he acquires a wife and has two sons.
Joseph’s story in Egypt seems the stuff of epic fairytales. He has gone from being hated brother and a slave to Pharaoh’s right hand. Under his administration so much grain is collected for Egypt that he stops counting. He is blessed in Egypt. So much so that Joseph says, “I have forgotten my toil and my father’s house.”
Joseph has always been praised for his righteousness in realizing his tribulations were necessary. He was able to perceive a purpose for his suffering. How is it then that he could “forget his father’s house?” I believe this forgetting was what allowed him to discern the need in the negative. It’s not that he truly forgot. It’s that he forgave. He forgot the hurt and the anger, the frustration and the envy, not the familial connection or obligations. Perhaps he forgot the haughty attitude that he was meant for more, and instead recognized he was no better than others. Whatever it is, Joseph remains connected. His children bear Hebrew names. Although he leads Egypt just under Pharaoh, he recognizes that he is still a slave. While blessed, he is still in the “land of my affliction.”
Joseph’s righteousness comes from his ability to put his past behind him. He is blessed in his ability to pull himself out of the depths, and to recognize blessing even within the suffering he must bear. May we all be blessed with the gift of perspective.