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Revenge is not the answer

פרשת ויגש

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Many claim that the moment the brothers of Yosef reunite with him is the most moving moment in the entire Torah. The true identity of the intimidating potentate who ruled over Egypt is revealed to be that of the long lost brother when he announces: "I am Yosef."
But how did Yosef reach this moment of incredible reconciliation? By virtue of a higher principle which guides him: Revenge is not the answer. Yosef had all the reasons in the world to take revenge on his brothers. They threw him into a pit, then sold and abandoned him. But, in his wisdom, he conceived a plan that extracted all of them from the pit of alienation and despair.
Yosef has risen to become the supreme ruler of Egypt when his famished brothers come to ask for food, but do not recognize him. He stages a scene in which he takes Binyamin as a slave, but then sees how his brothers suddenly demonstrate a sense of responsibility and concern for their youngest sibling. Yehuda even declares that he is prepared to take Binyamin's place in captivity. When Yosef sees his brothers' behavior as rectification for their sin -- since this time they will not abandon their brother -- he immediately reveals himself before them.
If he had revealed himself earlier, they would have been forever embarrassed and confused. But now it was truly possible to make peace and achieve final reconciliation after they proved that they had truly changed.
Although Yosef was hurt and betrayed more than once, although he could have chosen to cast himself as a pathetic victim, he shows incredible nobility of character in resolving the quandary in which his family is stuck. Our commentators call upon us to learn from him and the words that guide him: "It was to preserve life that God sent me before you."
Thus he explains to his astonished brothers what had really happened. It's as if he is saying: I was not abandoned; I was sent. Indeed, we are never abandoned, but are forever sent out to fulfill a mission. And therefore, wherever we may happen to be, we must search for how we can be a blessing in the lives of others.
Shabbat shalom.


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