Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
A girl from a religious home once told me how difficult it is for her to separate between resentment she harbors toward her religious environment and resentment toward the Torah itself.
Many people have a score to settle with their milieu, with the religious sector in which they grew up – with teachers, with neighbors, with parents. Sometimes the experiences they endured were truly terrible. But then they decide to throw away everything, the whole package, including the Holy One Blessed be He.
Yosef, in this week’s Torah portion, had all the excuses and good reasons in the world to leave his family’s faith and turn his back on God. His brothers hated him, threw him into a pit, and sold him to a passing caravan. He could easily have decided to cut himself off from everything connected to his past. He could have posted irate messages, with justification, about everything that had been done to him.
But Yosef chose otherwise. Despite the trauma he had suffered, he did not give up the essentials: his identity, his faith, his Judaism. He did not forget his father and mother, who were exemplary figures. Neither did he forget the great story of which he was a part and to which he would add another chapter. Even if his brothers assaulted him, he was still the son of Yaakov, the grandson of Yitzchak, the great-grandson of Avraham, and the fate of future generations depended on him.
The more his situation deteriorated, the higher he elevated himself, and his direct connection to God only got stronger. Instead of becoming angry or seeking revenge, he lived in Egypt as an openly believing Jew, visibly connected to God, so that everyone who met Yosef knew exactly who he was and what his values were.
Our background, our sociological group or religious sector, isn't everything. Ultimately, the people around us, whether in childhood or beyond, are not responsible for who we are and cannot hold us back from what we can be. People, after all, are more than prone to make mistakes. But the truth is unmistakable and Yosef, for one, regardless of the mistreatment he suffered, would never abandon it.