Friday, February 17, 2017

Parashat Yitro

    Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Yitro. Most famously the parasha of the Ten Commandments, it also gives a lot of insight into Moses’s domestic life. Yitro or Jethro, for whom the parasha is named, is Moses’s non-Jewish father-in-law, who shows great devotion to Moses and his people. As we know, at this stage in our people’s history, the covenant has mostly been through men. The Israelite men may take wives from other cultures, who are expected to take on Israelite practice and belief in the home. But Moses’s wife, Tzipporah, and her family appear to really embrace Moses’s God in a way the wives and extended families of our earlier Patriarchs didn’t. Tzipporah, on the way to Egypt, circumcised her son herself when Moses failed to perform this sacred task. And now, after the miracles of the Exodus, Jethro, a priest of Midian, a presumably devout follower of his native religion, declares how great Adonai is and offers a sacrifice to God.
    This scene happens at the beginning of the parasha, before the revelation at Mount Sinai and the receiving of the Ten Commandments, so the Kabbalistic resource, the Zohar, tells us from this we know that the Israelites were not fit to receive the Torah until after Jethro acknowledged the greatness of Adonai. Moses values Jethro’s opinions greatly, as we also see in this parasha when Jethro teaches Moses about the importance of democracy and delegating responsibilities. Although Moses was already willing to do as God asked, and although Tzipporah seems to have already long bought into the Israelite faith, they needed Jethro to sanction it as well. Jethro who was “the supreme priest in all the pagan world,” Jethro who was only Moses’s father-in-law and was not going to take on his daughter’s new lifestyle, Jethro who was Moses’s guide in many ways throughout Moses’s personal revelations as the leader of a new people, Jethro was the key to unlock a new standard for our people. The Midrash Rabbah, a collection of rabbinic stories and explanations on the Bible, explains that Jethro’s behavior in this parasha is the meaning of the verse from Psalms, “Better a close neighbor than a distant brother.” Jethro being the close neighbor, who responds to the great miracles of God and comes to join Moses as he sets out on this journey, and Esau being the distant brother who despite having the opportunity see the divine intervention on Jacob’s part, preferred to keep his distance from his brother and the Israelites.
    After making his sacrifice to God, and giving Moses some advice, Jethro still goes back to Midian and continues his life as before. The family does not get in each others’ ways. This is a good example for how families and communities of mixed faiths or cultures can work together. In the books of Ezra and Nehemia, the stories of the priests who reestablished the Israelite community after the first exile, there is a lot of condemnation of interfaith marriages, particularly between Israelite men and foreign women. This may even be the start of the practice of matrilineal descent, of refocusing the religious inheritance of our people onto the matriarchs of the families instead of the patriarchs, since it seemed that in the time of Ezra and Nehemia, men who married foreign women did not remain committed to their own cultures. While it is still statistically true today that moms get to choose the family religion, we in the Reform movement know that we can follow the models of our Torah patriarchs and embrace patrilineal Jews and interfaith marriages as well. The key, it seems, is to not try to dissuade each other from native faiths, but let each partner stay as fully immersed in their own culture as is comfortable. Why was Moses’s son not already circumcised in Parashat Shemot? Presumably because he was not trying to force anything onto Tzipporah or her children, until she decided for herself it was the right thing for their family. Why does Jethro not follow the Israelites, even after making a sacrifice? Because he still has his own life to live in Midian. Why is Moses so willing to follow Jethro’s advice on how to lead these people when he already has God in his ear? Because this is a family that respects each other. It is an important value to learn. People who share family and community must respect each other, no matter if they have different backgrounds or faiths.
    May we always be willing to acknowledge the divinity in each other, in our families, in our communities, and in our differences, as Jethro and Moses were able to with each other. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Parashat BeShallach and Tu B'Shevat

     Shabbat Shalom! This week is Tu B'Shevat, which is a traditionally Kabbalistic festival to celebrate God's presence in the natural world. In a Tu B'Shevat Seder, the Kabbalists walk us through four worlds, which correlate with a different emanation of God, a different season of our ecological world, and each is represented by a different kind of fruit (those with inedible outsides, those with inedible insides, and those which are wholly edible - in the last world we eat no fruit but take special note of our other senses alight at the Seder).
     The first world is Assiyah, Doing. This Shabbat's Parashat HaShavua is Beshallach, the crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Our Torah tells us that when faced with the sea, the Egyptian army catching up with the Israelites, Moses prayed to God and God asks Moses what the heck he's doing praying because it is time to act. Our sages tell us that the sea didn't really part until Nachshon walked all the way into the sea up to his nose. Nachshon is not meant to be a leader, he bears no formal responsibility for the Israelites, but damned if he's going to stand around and wait for someone else to act. Each one of us must know when it is time to act, to take a first step on our own, to Do. In the world of Assiyah, may we be Nachshon, walking right into seas of uncertainty up to our noses, prepared for danger, for the sake of freeing our people.
     The second world is Yetzirah, Formation. In Bereshit, when God created the world, God separated the waters from the earth and sky on the second day, and separated the waters of the earth from the dry land on the third. As the Children of Israel walked through the Sea of Reeds on dry land, the water standing up on all sides of them, they had a glimpse of creation, of the formation of the world, of the great and mysterious power of nature. In the world of Yetzirah, may we take note of nature, reflecting on the waters and dry lands that make up our Earth, and pledge to protect both.
      The next world is Briyah, Creation. This Shabbat is also called Shabbat Shirah, the Shabbat of Song, because of the songs the Israelites sang as they crossed the sea, and because the Haftarah for this parasha is the story of Deborah, a great judge and prophetess whose prophesies led to an important military victory which she celebrated with a song. In the world of Briyah, may we acknowledge the importance of our creative powers, how art, literature and music can move our souls to do great things, how they guide us through difficult tasks, how they help us process complex emotions.
      The final world is Atzilut, Nobility. Although the Ten Commandments are given in the next parasha, Parashat BeShallach does include a commandment to honor Shabbat. Even in all their wanderings through the wilderness, they must keep camp for the whole of the seventh day. The Israelites, the mixed multitudes, and the animals alike must rest on the Sabbath. Rabbi Heschel referred to Shabbat as a "Sanctuary in time," reiterating a more ancient idea that Shabbat is a small portion of paradise. "The Sabbath," he said, "is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization." In the infinite world of Aztilut, alongside God's ineffable nobility, may we give thanks for Shabbat, for our communities, for any breaks we allow ourselves from the outside world.
Chag hailanot Sameach!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Parashat Bo

Shabbat Shalom! In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Bo, we see the last three plagues and the people of Israel prepare to finally leave Egypt. First come the locusts, which eat up everything in sight and then fly off again by a great wind of God so that the Egyptians have neither crops nor crunchy locust snacks to eat. Then comes the darkness.
The rabbis of the Midrash Rabbah ask: “Why does God send such utter darkness over Egypt?” They answer themselves: “Because there were transgressors in Israel who had Egyptian patrons and who lived in affluence and honor, and were unwilling to leave. So G‑d said: “If I bring upon them publicly a plague from which they will die, the Egyptians will say: ‘Just as it has passed over us, so has it passed over them.’” Therefore He brought darkness upon the Egyptians for three days, so that the [Israelites] should bury their dead without their enemies seeing them.” Chidushei Harim, an early and influential Hasidic rebbe of 19th century Poland, commented on the same passage of this parasha, “There is no greater darkness than one in which “a man did not see his fellow”—in which a person becomes oblivious to the needs of his fellow man. When that happens, a person becomes stymied in his personal development as well—“nor did anyone get up from his place.”
Throughout history, as Jews have been oppressed, enslaved, forbidden to practice their religion, subjected to unfair laws, the objects of pogroms, and forced to endure any number of indignities, there have been “Court Jews.” A term that appeared in the Enlightenment era, it was retroactively also applied to positions throughout the Medieval Ages, particularly in Europe. Court Jews were primarily bankers or merchants who provided the royal families with food and wine and riches, but they also often served as the money changers the monarchy charged with the distasteful position of collecting taxes, evicting serfs who could not provide their King his due, and generally doing the financial dirty work of the kingdom. All the while, the court Jews would enjoy special privileges, even occasionally given the honor of being dubbed nobility themselves. Yet, while they climbed the social ladder and sat in the lap of material luxury, they did nothing to liberate their people and free their co-religionists of their masters’ tyrannies.
Though we don’t know what role the Israelites in the palace of Pharoah might have played, whether financiers, entertainers, or house servants, we can surmise from the commentaries quoted above that they, like the Court Jews of the Medieval and early Modern eras, lived in a moral darkness. They chose personal comfort over liberation, material wealth over the health of their communities. They allowed themselves to be oblivious to the plights of others, imagining themselves to be untouchable, and in doing so, prevented themselves from ever being whole people. Because those in power who favored the Court Jews still never saw them as anything but Jews. Moses may be an exception, an Israelite who was accepted into the Egyptian royal family as a son, but remember that he went out “among his brethren and saw their burdens,” which communicates that even he felt a sense of an outsider status in the royal home. Even when Court Jews were bestowed noble names and paid well, they were never seen as equal. Even after Emancipation, wealthy and educated European Jews who sought to work their way into high society were advised to be a “man in the streets and a Jew only in his home.” How can such a bifurcated identity ever feel whole?
This week there was a great darkness in our nation, when even vetted immigrants were detained at airports around the country. Those with approved visas and green cards, those attending American universities trying to return from visits to their home countries, those still living in far away lands who waited and carefully planned their visits to their immigrant children and their first generation American grandchildren, and so many other stories of innocent people held. Not just in the way that so many others have experienced since increased security in airports since 2001, but in inhumane conditions. Children handcuffed. People held for over 30 hours with no food, bed, or phone calls to let the families expecting their arrival know where they are. People fearing their loved ones were already deported or disappeared. And while thousands turned up at the airports in protest, shouting love and support for those in the holding rooms, lawyers offering free legal help to the families of the detained, Jewish and Muslim children sharing signs of solidarity and support, others turned their back on this crisis. Perhaps in the name of real concerns. Perhaps for reasons borne from personal experiences, losses from terrorist attacks, a closeness to the situation I cannot understand. But perhaps, for some, simply because of xenophobia. Perhaps from a lack of facts and data. Perhaps in a historically misguided view that if we, as Jews, support those in power at all costs, we will stay safe. Perhaps from a moral darkness that makes it so we cannot see our fellow. In a moral darkness that prevents us from getting up from our comfortable places and facing the darkness.
As Jewish Americans, many of us are here today because of the courage and strength of our refugee and immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents. Many of us have family members that escaped great violence, and many more bear the cultural scars of a people who carry trauma in their very DNA. We are a people who know what it is to seek refuge, to never fit in quite right in any country, to bounce from nation to nation looking for safety. We are the Sephardic Jews of Touro and we are the lost souls of the St. Louis. We are Emma Lazarus and The New Colossus and we are Emma Goldman and the Rosenbergs. We are the hope of freedom that this country has to offer and we are the fears and xenophobia, the mistrust and the assimilation. It is important that through all of that, we remain Jews. We hold on to Jewish values which teach us to love our neighbors, to welcome the stranger, to care for the poor orphan. If we lose those values, if we try to shed our Jewishness and assimilate entirely, if we try to be Court Jews, we will be lost in utter darkness. We may never find liberation in the arms of oppressors, but we can find it in working for the liberation of others.
Once the final plague descends and the Israelites living in the Pharaoh’s palace, refusing to leave, are killed along with the Egyptians, the Israelites spared in Goshen are finally free to leave. With them, go the “mixed multitudes.” Likely other lowly classes of Egypt, the poor, slaves from other conquered cultures, these are people who were ready to align themselves completely with our people. They came with us into the wilderness, embraced the unknown, followed the strict laws of a God they had no context for. They were willing to stand in complete solidarity with the Hebrew slaves of Egypt, and then ready to escape with them. They, and the leaders of the Israelites who took them in without question, knew that the liberation of all people is bound up together.
May we in this current time of difficulties stand up in the darkness, strive to see our fellows, work to hold on to our whole selves, and may we see freedom for our mixed multitudes soon.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Parashat Va'Eira

Shabbat Shalom! In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Va’eira, in which we begin to read about the Ten Plagues. The plagues grow increasingly worse: blood in the water for a week, a frog infestation, lice, swarms of arov (alternately translated as wild beasts or flies), cattle disease, boils, and fiery hail. Next week we will read of the horrors of a locust swarm that eats every last morsel in the fields of Egypt, the utter darkness that descends, and of course the tragedy of the first born sons of Egypt.
Now, I have to admit that blood in the water is pretty disturbing to me, but I saw an interesting d’var Torah that an acquaintance shared on Facebook earlier this week that she found the first three plagues paled in comparison with the later ones. I actually think frogs are cute, so I had to agree with her on that one. Sure, it would be a nuisance to have them in your bed and on your head, in your chairs and in your hair, frogs leaping about everywhere! But, it hardly stands up as a terrifying plague of the Almighty in the same way as fiery hail or the Angel of Death. So what was the purpose of the earlier, sort of mundane plagues?
Rabbi Simcha Bunim, an early Polish leader of the Chasidic movement, played with the Hebrew in this parasha to give us some insight. At the beginning of the parasha, before the plagues begin, God gives Moses a series of promises: “I am the Lord your God, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgements. And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be Your God … I will bring you into the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a heritage.” Rabbi Bunim changes the Hebrew for “burdens” - sivlot - to the word for “patience” - savlanut. The people of Israel have been slaves for so long that they have become complacent with their oppression, and God needs to work to bring them out of their patience as much as out of the oppression coming from the Egyptians themselves. The frogs, and the other early plagues that may seem benign in comparison with what’s coming, are not meant to immediately encourage the Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go. The people of Israel themselves are not ready to go yet. They must see the wonders of God, be shaken out of their patience for Pharaoh’s nonsense, be ready to move when the time comes. The frogs are warning signs. They are hints for what God really has planned. They smuggled messages to the crushed people of Israel to communicate what God may be capable of once they are ready to believe in real miracles.
In our own lives, there will be signs of what’s to come if we pay attention. Warning signs for the horrors that await us if we harden our hearts like Pharaoh, and signs of hope and faith that liberation are around the corner if we’re ready to work for it like the Israelites. We must be vigilant for these signs and we must be willing to act on them. Seize a career opportunity if it arises. Stand up for rights that feel threatened. Profess your love to someone. If you have the inkling that change is coming, if you feel in your gut it’s time to act, do it. See the signs, have faith, and be ready to make moves. May we all have the strength of spirit to shake ourselves out of complacency, may we find smooth transitions, may we respond to the warning signs in our lives, and most of all, may we find freedom waiting on the other end of that shift. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Parashat Shemot

Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Shemot, the beginning of the Book of Exodus. In it, we read about the birth of Moses, his upbringing as a Prince of Egypt, all the way through his life in Midian with his wife Tzipporah and his command by the Burning Bush to return to Egypt and ask Pharaoh to let the Israelite slaves go free. The Torah skips a large part of Moses’s life. One day, he is a baby found in the river, and then: “It came to pass in those days when Moses was grown that he went out to his brothers.”
So a young adult Moses is walking among the Israelite slaves, which the Torah identifies as his brethren, though we don’t know if Moses actually is aware that he himself is a Hebrew at this point. You may know what happens next in the story: Moses sees a slave master beating a slave and his compassion and empathy is stirred. Perhaps because he identifies with the Hebrew slave or perhaps just because he knows slavery and violence is wrong, Moses intervenes. In doing so, he kills the Egyptian slavemaster. Many versions of the story depict Moses immediately running away after that. However, the Torah tells us that before getting involved in the situation, Moses looks around and sees that no one else is nearby. The Midrash Rabbah, a big many-volumed source of rabbi’s tales about the Torah, says that Moses was looking for someone else to stop the violence, and saw that there was no one but him and so it was his unique responsibility to act, as difficult as it was. But after the Egyptian is dead, it is also clear that because there was no one around, Moses thought no one saw the deed. So he doesn’t run away just yet. The next day, Moses goes out again among the slaves, and he sees two Israelites fighting with each other. The Torah says, “He said to the wicked one, ‘Why would you strike your fellow?’” The wicked one responds that it’s none of Moses’s beeswax, and asks, “Do you intend to kill me too, as you killed the Egyptian?” From this Moses knows that indeed someone did witness his manslaughter the previous day, and THAT is when he runs away.
In the Talmud, robber/gladiator-turned-wise sage Resh Lakish comments on this interaction between Moses and the “wicked” Hebrew slave. He points out that the Torah immediately identifies one as wicked, without sharing with us the details of the altercation, and that Moses uses future tense for the verb “hit”, which tells us that probably no punches were yet thrown, but one is man is being more obviously aggressive toward another. Resh Lakish says that one who “lifts his hand against his fellow, even if he did not hit him, is called wicked,” as it is written: “He said to the wicked one: Why would you hit your fellow?” rather than “Why did you hit," indicating that though he had not hit him yet, he was termed a “wicked one.”
In my second grade classroom, occasionally students like to pretend hit or kick each other, or tease about wicked things. I’m sure many of our religious school students who have joined us tonight have done the same at some point in their lives. Maybe they’ve even hit a brother or sister, not in pretend but out of anger and frustration. Doing such things on occasion as a young kid doesn’t automatically make you wicked. You probably didn’t mean to hurt anyone, and I hope if you have hurt someone by accident, you apologized immediately. Saying sorry is an important Jewish value to learn, and we all make mistakes and act impulsively sometimes.
Sometimes, though, we need an adult, a strong leader, someone with an outside perspective or an ability to look through multiple lenses to help mediate such situations. When such a person comes in and tries to help, it is best not to respond as the wicked Hebrew slave did. Don’t be rude and defiant, but accept help. Take a moment and look at your scene from that person’s eyes. Explain why you were frustrated to the point of raising your fist. Not only is it the right thing to do, because hitting is wicked, but you might find that the outside person, the authority figure, the adult, is able to understand your frustration as well, and help you resolve the issue entirely.
There may come a time when you are that outside person, a more mature viewpoint, a reasonable and strong leader as well. When you happen upon a situation that looks like it might get violent, may you have the courage to step in. A good leader is someone who knows how to mediate and bring peace between people. A good leader knows that violence, even the mere threat of it, is wicked. A good leader is brave but clear headed and able to look at a situation from multiple angles. That’s why Moses was such a strong leader for the Israelites. Although after this incident, he ran away and he was reluctant to come back and put himself in the spotlight again, thanks to the harsh words of this wicked slave, he was still always willing and able to do what was right. He had grown up a prince of Egypt, but was a Jew at heart, and had spent many years as a Midianite shepherd. These varied life experiences helped him know how to talk to different people in different ways, and get his message heard best by the widest range of people. It wasn’t always easy. The Israelites wanted proof that God sent him, and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He had many people who weren’t always sure of his methods. But in the end, he secured the liberation of the People of Israel and the mixed multitudes and he led over a million people to freedom.
May we learn non-violence, may we preach non-violence, may we lead in non-violence. May we lead in strength, grow in courage, and find freedom for all. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Parashat Vayichi

            Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Vayichi. In it, Jacob gives his final blessings to his sons and the sons of Joseph. He prophesies what will become of the men as their families develop into the tribes of Israel. In the Talmud (Ta’anit 5b), there is a midrash on this:
Rabbi Yitzchak said to Rav Nachman: “So said Rabbi Yochanan: Our father Jacob did not die.” Asked Rav Nachman: “Was it for no reason that the eulogizers eulogized, the embalmers embalmed and the buriers buried?” Replied Rabbi Yitzchak: “I am only citing a verse. It is written (Jeremiah 30:10): ‘And you, my servant Jacob, fear not, says the L‑rd, and do not tremble, O Israel. For behold, I shall save you from afar, and your progeny from the land of their captivity.’ The verse equates Jacob with his progeny: just as his progeny are alive, he too is alive.”
From this we see that the parasha is very fitting both for a Bar Mitzvah weekend and the Shabbat before Martin Luther King Day, and we just so happen to find ourselves in both situations. Just as Jacob passes the torch on to his progeny, so too do we hand off new responsibility to Jewish learning and community to a young member of our community. We foresee a great future of love and respect for Judaism and that this Bar Mitzvah will bring honor to the Tribes of Israel. As long this young man lives by Torah, Judaism and our people are kept alive, as Jacob lives through his descendants.
            By the same logic, those who continue to fight for the civil rights of all Americans keep alive Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As long as we continue to advocate for the freedom and dignity for all people and ensure true equality in this country, we are the spiritual progeny of Dr. King, and as we live, he lives too.
            As Jacob is blessing his sons, he also takes the time to rebuke Simeon and Levi for their massacre at Shechem, and then he says that he too held the sword and bow there, though we know that the Torah tells us he did not join in the slaughter of Shechemites. A series of assorted midrash that build on each other clarifies this to tell us that when Jacob learned of Simeon and Levi’s misdeeds, though he did not want them, he still loved his sons dearly and wanted to protect them. So, he took up his sword and bow to stand guard at the gates of the city of Shechem to prevent any survivors from coming to kill Simon and Levi in retribution. Another midrash further explains that “sword and bow” in Jacob’s hands really means prayer and supplication. A third midrash expounds that we know that prayer is like a bow because the closer you draw it into yourself, the farther the arrow flies. So, too, the closer we draw prayer into our hearts, the greater affect it can have on our actions, the more so it can guide us to better the world.
            As our Bar Mitzvah grows and takes on the responsibility of being an adult in our community, may he find inspiration in these midrashim and in the legacy of Reverend King to all spiritual people. Our prayer, our values learned from Torah and God, are our greatest weapons. With them, we can truly fight inequality with great reach. Selling books to a second-hand store to help people struggling with financial stability still have access to books, and then using that money to help feed hungry children is a great start. I look forward to seeing how your tikkun olam grows and matures as you do. May everyone in our community, regardless of age, can take up this mantle of spiritual social justice. Amen, Mazel tov to tomorrow’s Bar Mitzvah boy, and Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Parashat Vayigash

            Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion of Parashat Vayigash continues the Joseph narrative. At this point in the story, Joseph’s brothers have come to Joseph looking for food but they don’t recognize him. Joseph decided to play tricks on the brothers to test out if they have learned any lessons or grown as people since selling him to slavery. Last week’s parasha ends with Joseph declaring he will keep the youngest Benjamin (the second son of Jacob’s beloved Rachel) as a slave in retribution for Benjamin stealing a goblet (which Joseph planted in his sack). He tells the other brothers they may return to their father in peace.  This week’s parasha opens with the brothers refusing to leave Benjamin behind. Judah in particular pledges himself in return for Benjamin. Joseph learns from this that the brothers have indeed learned their lesson and reveals himself to them. They all embrace and Joseph cries and they feast. Pharaoh allows Joseph to send wagons to fetch Jacob and the rest of the camp and family of Israel.
            I am often fascinated by the family dynamics in Joseph’s story. In these parashiyot Joseph and his brothers go through many changes in their relationship, both external and internal changes. However, this time around, I was struck by a different aspect of the story. In teaching this narrative to the second graders at Gesher Jewish Day School, we watched some of the recording of the play Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Today, as the scene showed Joseph’s elevation from imprisoned slave to Pharaoh’s number two, a student who has the entire score memorized, turned to me with her eyes glistening and said, “He went from the lowest person in the country to one of the most important!” It was clear she took great inspiration from this, and I took inspiration from her on that.
            In this week’s parasha we see the extent to which he is elevated. Not only does Pharaoh trust him to oversee the food storage, and all of Egypt defers to him for this reason, but even his own brothers do not recognize him in his finery. Judah consistently calls his brother “My Lord”, and even when he does reveal himself they are afraid of him. But Joseph does not allow this to go to his head, and he welcomes his brothers back into his life with open arms. His position in Pharaoh’s court allows for them to take over all of the land of Goshen and they live quite comfortably for the rest of their days due to Joseph’s kindness. I hope the student that gleans inspiration from Joseph’s social climbing also gleans compassion and forgiveness from Joseph’s embracing of his brothers.
            It’s fairly easy to let any amount of power go to your head, and even easier to hold a grudge against someone who has truly wronged you. I would say it would be completely reasonable of Joseph to not forgive his brothers. “After all,” as he sings in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s play, “they have tried fratricide.” In reality, it’s probably safer not to take people back into your life that have threatened so directly and physically. But if Joseph could do so and it all worked out for him and his brothers, all the more so can we learn to forgive people the normal every day offenses they commit against us. All the more so should we remember to treat all people fairly regardless of our positions of power over them. May we all find hope in Joseph’s story and shun despair in dire situations. At any moment, we may break free of our shackles and find ourselves in a situation to put ourselves forward. If such a moment comes, may we find in our hearts the compassion and forgiveness Joseph shows toward his brothers. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.