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Reframing Tragedy into Triumph

ציור: נעמה להב
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
This week’s parasha brings one of the most famous stories in the Torah to a surprising conclusion. After 22 years of separation from his brothers, after they threw him into a pit and sold him to a passing caravan, Yosef meets up with them again, having since become the most powerful man in Egypt. It would be natural to expect that he would explode with rage and hurl all sorts of accusations at them for what they did, but this does not happen. Yosef reveals himself to his brothers and, despite the history between them, succeeds in uniting the family by putting a positive and optimistic spin on the brothers’ seemingly unforgivable deeds. He addresses his brothers with these words: “But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you. . . And now, you did not send me here, but G-d.” Don’t be sorry, he is saying, because in the merit of my coming here before you, I have been able to save all of Egypt and our own family, too, from starvation. Yosef demonstrates an ingenious facility not only to erase terribly tragic events from the past but to derive positive messages going forward from what occurred. Is it better to complain, seek revenge, and hold a grudge or to find a blessing within the curse? He chooses to adopt a perspective that can also be of benefit to us, regardless of the situation in which we may find ourselves: “G-d has sent me here to preserve life.” If I have been confronted with a challenge, regardless of the hardship involved, I need to consider how to derive benefit from it – not only for myself but for others as well.”


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