Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Time Magazine published an end-of-the-year cover with a red X over the number 2020 and the following message printed underneath: “2020: THE WORST YEAR EVER”.
This is of course a wild exaggeration. Only four times in the past has the magazine put an X on its cover: when Hitler died, when Saddam Hussein died, and when the terrorists Al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were killed. Just for comparison, more than 60 million people were killed in World War II. Yet Time Magazine did not put an X over any of those years, but marked Hitler’s death with an X. In the past, the world still knew who the enemy was and how to struggle against him. Today, unfortunately, part of the media has lost the capacity to recognize an enemy and thereby lowers our spirits.
The perspective in this week’s Torah portion is completely different. Yosef appears as a major historical figure on the world stage despite his difficult past. He has plenty of reasons and excuses to be bitter and disappointed and angry. He is transformed from a beloved son to a hated brother who is thrown into a pit, sold to a passing caravan, taken to Egypt, and sent to prison. But Yosef finds meaning and significance in each of these events, reaches out to help others all along the way, and does not put an X over anything that happens to him. At the end of his journey, when he reunites with his brothers, he addresses them with his positive message: “For it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you.” In the face of every hardship and challenge, Yosef always remembered that G-d had sent him on a special mission – to increase goodness and preserve life.
This perspective will allow us to put an X over Time Magazine’s X and see 2020 as not only about loss, but also about compassionate caring that helps to preserve life.