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Halt: Private moments ahead

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

We are living at a time when it is acceptable to reveal almost everything for public consumption. Whoever documents and shares personal information - whether between friends, between family members, or even between you and your God - is considered "courageous" and receives accolades and "likes." Rabbi Chaim Navon writes about this subject as it pertains to the meeting between Joseph and his brothers.

"Yosef finally reveals himself to his brothers, after being completely cut off from them for 22 years, as follows : 'Now Joseph could not bear all those standing beside him, and he called out, "Take everyone away from me!" So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept out loud, so the Egyptians heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard.'

Yosef removes everyone from his presence before he reveals himself to his brothers with loud weeping. Why? He does not want any outsider's gaze to desecrate this intimate moment between him and his brothers, a moment so special and yet, so difficult.

Awareness of an outsider's gaze does damage to intimacy, since during our most private moments, we predicate our behavior on how we will look in the eyes of others, what they will think of us, and what they will say. If someone writes about intimate experiences on social media, he is likely to plan his next such experience based on how he will describe it for public consumption.

And yet, not everything that happens must be an oppressively kept secret either. It's possible to learn from Yosef who, even while he removed everyone from his presence, did not make a special effort to prevent others from hearing his sobs. He lived his private moments deeply and full of sincerity. In such a moment, he would include only those truly close to him, while still not being ashamed that others would be aware of his emotional response to such a meeting. It's possible to minimize both our secrets and our shame, while increasing our determination to protect our private, intimate moments from prying eyes. This is the lesson I learned from Yosef HaTzadik.


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