Healing & Transformation

Parashat Miketz teaches us about teshuvah and forgiveness.

Print this page Print this page

A New Attitude

When the brothers return to their father in Canaan, a significant transformation has occurred. The first indication is their report of their time in Egypt: the brothers demonstrate a newfound sensitivity to their father's feelings, sparing Jacob some of the more disturbing details of their journey. Modern Israeli commentator Nehama Leibowitz points out, for example, that they omit Joseph's original plan to keep all but one of them in Egypt (42:16) and the threat of death (42:20) (New Studies in Bereshit/Genesis, undated, pp. 471-2).

Then, in the face of their father's fear for Benjamin's life, Reuben offers his own sons' lives in pledge for Benjamin's (42:37). This is an impulsive and ill-conceived gesture-yet a marked change for the man whose idea it was to throw Joseph into the pit (37:22). Finally Judah, who had convinced his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (37:27), offers to take personal responsibility for the life of his youngest brother (43:9). Clearly, Judah is the brother who has matured and evolved the most.

He and his brothers have made peace with their father's favoritism. We might imagine that, after Joseph forces them to confront their guilt, they realize that their earlier violent response to their father's unequal love has not changed Jacob. Aware that hurting Jacob or Benjamin will not get them greater attention from their farther, they come to terms with Jacob's failings, choosing compassion over anger in their dealings with him.

This parashah ends mid-action, leaving us to wonder: Will Joseph really enslave Benjamin? How will the brothers respond? Will Joseph reveal his identity? The answers are not clear-because neither Joseph's motivation for putting his brothers through this ordeal, nor their commitment to ethical behavior, are fully actualized until the next parashah. Perhaps the Rabbis broke off the story here to suggest that our choices are moment-to-moment decisions, the path never certain until the time comes to act. This cliffhanger ending is also a signal of hope, because teshuvah is always open to us.

The product of fourteen years of work and the contributions of more than 100 scholars, theologians, poets, and rabbis—all of them women—The Torah: A Women’s Commentary is a landmark achievement in biblical scholarship and an essential resource for the study of the Bible. For more information or to order a copy, visit URJBooksandMusic.com.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Singer currently serves Temple Beth El in Riverside, CA as rabbi and educator.