Parashat Miketz: The Bumpy Road to High-Drama Holiness

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Maggid Jhos Singer looks at Joseph’s reunification with his brothers as an example of the profound messiness of the Jewish concept of holiness.

Parashat Miketz. Creative Commons / Purple Slog

Creative Commons / Purple Slog

While waiting on the schoolyard the other day for my kids to get out of their classrooms, I was chatting with a little clutch of fellow parents, none of them Jewish, when the issue of my working as a Jewish Spiritualist entered the conversation. One of the parents said something like, “It must be nice being so, well, you know, holy, you know, so spiritual and everything, you must feel really, uh, so peaceful.”

I could feel my face take on a look of confusion and was aware that my head had slowly tilted, dog-like, to one side. I wanted to say, “Are you on crack?!” But, being so spiritually evolved, I managed to just grunt a little and then, mercifully, the bell rang and all chaos erupted in the form of children streaming away from their day of state-imposed confinement, effectively ending the conversation.

I’m so sorry to have to report that the dominant culture seems to equate holiness and spirituality with superiority, enlightenment, a sense of tranquility; it is also asserts that being close to God is the domain of a select and serene few. Most folks I talk to seem to think that they can’t be very holy or close to God because they are so screwed up, so imperfect, so, well, human. Being profoundly Jewish myself, as I listen to these ideas I usually feel a major sermon coming on, because I would contend that, at its root, my spirit path teaches exactly the opposite. This week’s Torah portion, Miketz (Genesis 41-44:17) is rife with examples of how our path twists and turns between moments of depression and elation, failure and triumph, betrayal and reconciliation, and that every step of the way is messy, but never the less leads us to high-drama holiness.