When the vice is tightening around us, when the world is rejecting us, when problems are arising even within our communities (conflicts and injustices), we often tend to identify ourselves with Joseph. It is good to read that there was someone who had suffered similar harms, someone who was pushed into the pit by his own brothers as we are sometimes ourselves. Our identification with Joseph is, however, often illegitimate and dangerous. In last week’s parasha teaching, we were talking about Joseph as the prefiguration of Christ. In addition, among the prefigurations of Christ, Joseph was the purest and closest to the holiness of the Messiah. Joseph was one of the most devoid of human instincts. It is better to be very vigilant when we compare ourselves to such a character, because we can easily mislead ourselves. Joseph has no sin to his credit, at least according to the biblical account. From our side, we can rarely say so. The bad news brought to his father were also commanded by the Almighty and there is no question of fault or any abuse of power in his case. Only human “goodness” and humanism in itself are at the origin of the doubts and accusations against Joseph just as in many other cases of other characters in the Bible or the Jewish people itselvef throughout history. In a world so human and egocentric that the one we are living in now, it is the spirit that is ceaselessly seeking mitigating circumstances in order to legalize sin and trample on the Commandments of the Lord who is trying to make Joseph appear as a vulgar snitch perpetually committing the sin of the bad language (Lashon HaRa).
When we get into trouble, we usually identify ourselves with Joseph instantaneously as if to strengthen our supposed innocence. It is nevertheless most often to Jonas that we should compare ourselves. Because indeed, if we are in danger or insulted it is most often because of our insubordination to the Lord. When darkness surrounds us, always think whether it is really Joseph’s tank or rather simply the belly of the fish where Jonah found himself when fleeing his destiny. For in Jonah’s case, it was because of his disobedience that the sailors threw him overboard. It is good to clarify the situation otherwise we risk to be blocked in spirit without being able to advance, because we do not have the humility to see our faults in order to free ourselves by imploring the Grace of the Lord. We always would like to be compared to Joseph, because we feel his purity and aspire to it ourselves. We especially have trouble confessing our mistakes and it is easier to identify with the winners. But in most cases, we should be content with Jonah’s more modest title in order to move forward and look a little more like the coveted Joseph. Jonah had to suffer the consequences of his fault. He was truly a man of the Lord, a great prophet, one of the leading characters in the Bible, yet he also had some things to put in order in his relationship with the Lord.
All this naturally does not exclude us from being subjected to cowardly and unjust persecutions from time to time. Problems do not rise only when we are rebellious. We’ve been given the heavy promise of having to suffer persecution because of our faith in Christ. We are often falsely accused by our neighbor and we must suffer this in silence. We must also avoid falling into the other extreme and constantly judge ourselves, always trying to find something wrong with us, even what is not true, just to please the Lord and our own spirit of religiosity. It is wise to first prostrate before the Almighty thinking that we are like Jonah so that He occasionally reassures us that it is because of our purity and in His name that we are rejected by others. May He always be the only one to have the right to name the nature of the evil remaining in us.
Humility does not stop here by the way. Because we have our own Joseph. We can never know who they are and when and how we push them to the bottom of the pit. We often think to be Josephs although we are simply one of the brothers of the one we believe to be.
zeev shlomo 29/11/2013