The Wisdom of Compassion Valuable perspectives on dealing with rage, guilt, hatred and revenge even when they can be rationalized, are offered in this week’s portion – where Joseph meets his estranged brothers and the family of Jacob is dramatically reunited.
The text gives us a glimpse into the historic moments when Joseph, whose real identity was unknown to his brothers, suddenly reveals himself after 22 years of separation. Shocked and frightened, his brothers realize that the Egyptian dignitary standing before them is actually the adolescent they violently kidnapped, tortured and sold into slavery more than two decades earlier. Together with the realization of this unforgivable behavior, their cruel lying to their Father who had a special loving relationship with Joseph, was beyond comprehension and was now exposed.
While no one would blame Joseph for avenging himself at this moment, he never becomes bitter – demonstrating instead an inordinate amount of softness, warmth and sensitivity. He and his brothers cry, hug one another and never lower themselves by pointing fingers or trying to assess blame for the dark transgressions of the past. In fact, Joseph appeases their shame and guilt by saying that G-d meant for this to be so that he would save them at this time of famine.
Throughout the years, Joseph’s anger could have rightfully been magnified. Especially when he achieved a position of power and his dreams were actualized, he could have vented these feelings in many different ways. Instead, mindful of his connection with G-d, his exemplary compassion toward his brothers set an eternal standard for dealing with powerful emotions.
Joseph learned and taught through personal example that every act of life, even difficult and painful ones such as his abduction, were actually directed by G-d, and one should not become enraged at Divinely destined events.
Anger is compared to serving idols – because whatever happens to us is G-d’s will. Ultimately, the perpetrators of evil will be dealt with by G-d, but by acting in anger we indicate that we don’t accept what has been preordained for us by The Almighty. When we accept this with faith we can use every occurrence in our lives to fulfill a higher purpose.
Have a good Shabbos and a wonderful week,
Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar