Beyond Excuses

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
An adolescent girl from a religious home told me this week how difficult it is for her to separate between claims against her religious environment and claims against 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 G-d. The people closest to him hated him, threw him into a pit, sold him to a passing caravan. He could easily have decided to cut himself off from everything connected to his past.  He could have written a book, filmed a documentary series, and interviewed with newspaper reporters, generating gigantic headlines concerning his abandonment.
But Yosef chose otherwise. Despite the trauma he had suffered, he did not give up the essentials: his identity, his faith, his G-d.  The more his situation deteriorated, the higher he elevated himself, and his direct connection to G-d only got stronger.  He wound up in Egypt, but instead of becoming angry or seeking revenge – he lived there as an openly believing Jew, visibly connected to G-d, so that everyone who met Yosef knew exactly who he was.
Sociology, a particular religious sector, people – they are not really all there is. Beyond people, who are more than prone to make mistakes, there is also unmistakable truth, which Yosef would never abandon.

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