Parshat Miketz: Finding Forgiveness

Ezra Pittman
Ezra Pittman (Courtesy)

By Ezra Pittman

What is a time when you felt wronged by someone close to you? I want to tell you a story about one of our ancestors in this exact situation. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. His brothers were understandably jealous, but things got out of hand. They were going to kill him, but one of his brothers convinced them to sell him into slavery instead. Despite this, Joseph eventually was appointed second in command over the Land of Egypt.

Years later when the brothers came to Egypt looking for food, Joseph imprisoned Simeon and tried to imprison Benjamin, even though he knew that Benjamin did nothing wrong. This must have been very stressful for Benjamin. He was not involved when the brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Additionally, Joseph caused his father Jacob much pain. His elderly father worried about Benjamin, and did not think he would ever see Simeon again. This must have been very hard for an old man.

The rabbis have much to say on this topic. Rambam, a medieval commentator, said that Joseph was trying to protect Benjamin. He stated that Joseph was afraid that the brothers would have the same feelings about Benjamin as they had had for himself after he was gone. Or HaChaim, a prominent Moroccan commentator, thought that Joseph simply wanted to see if the brothers truly felt bad about what they did to Joseph by putting them through a similar situation with Benjamin. Chizkuni, a 13-century rabbi, asked why Joseph didn’t reveal his identity to the brothers. Chizkuni thought that in not revealing his identity to his brothers, Joseph was keeping his father safe because if he revealed himself the brothers would be scared and run away instead of getting food for the family.

I think that the commentators were not being harsh enough. Personally, I think Joseph was being a little selfish, vindictive and angry. I think that Joseph was simply mad at his brothers and did not care who was caught in the crossfire. I do not think he gave much thought to how his father would feel, with another son gone and being asked to send his favored one. Joseph did not begin to calm down until he saw Benjamin, and his anger was not completely abated until he saw him a second time, when he revealed his identity. It is understandable that Joseph was angry, and eventually he did forgive. But it took him too long to do this. We have to understand that the people we argue with are people too and make mistakes.

Forgiveness is not just for the sake of the person being forgiven, but also benefits the person doing the forgiving. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing harm that may have been done to you. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean making up with someone who caused you harm. But forgiveness can bring a kind of peace, happiness and healing that allow you to move forward and grow.

Ezra Pittman is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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