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After Joseph “finds” the cup (which he had placed) in Benjamin’s sack, Judah pleads with Joseph. In a surprising reaction, Joseph responds: “Do you have a father…?” (Genesis 44:19b). Although they had been estranged for many years, he still inquires as to the well-being of his father, of his family. He still feels a longing, an attachment. Perhaps Joseph is wistful about his youth, his former surroundings, his “home.”
Joseph had intermarried–although his relationship with his father and brothers is not what caused him to intermarry but were among the circumstances that perhaps nurtured his choice to marry someone not from his own background–and he and his father were separated by time and space. Often, this is what happens in families–new relationships cause dividers to be erected between family members. Kaddish may no longer be said but little else is said as well.
What should be said when a child brings home a soulmate from another faith tradition? “Welcome.” That is the only response that makes sense. Perhaps had Jacob not been separated from his son Joseph, he would have been able to welcome his daughter-in-law to the family from the very beginning. Instead, they had to make up for the years that separated them.
And so Jacob came to live in Egypt with the rest of his children–and with Joseph. And what happened as a result? They did not wither. Instead the text tells us:
“Thus Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings in it, and were fertile and increased greatly (Genesis 47:27).”
After all of the games, the text acknowledges that the families settled in Egypt and became part of the fabric of society.
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