It’s amazing how, in most cases, we need life or someone to shake us to react and change. We require an event, or strong words, or even some disappointment to understand that the path we have taken up to that moment was not the right one, or the one that would lead us to the best expected ending.
It’s not that we don’t want to improve. We probably easily give ourselves to the easiest situations. To the joy of what we have, be it little or much; to “not innovating”, due to that inevitable fear that the new structure, different from the one that previously existed in us, will not fully satisfy us, or will not be strong enough to sustain us.
Sometimes it’s none of this. Sometimes we just lose the deep horizon of what is best—or of what is important. Our own weaknesses and insecurities sometimes make us act as if everything in existence were ours or for us. As if seriously the rest of the world belonged to us now or, at least, surely in the future. And we can even come to assume that this also involves people, families, Communities, governments and we can grow in that assumption as much as our egotistical desire allows us.
I’m going to tell you a little secret. We are not original at all. What is happening to you or what you see happening to people around you has happened before.
It has already happened that someone believed themselves more than others just because they had a divine gift, or because they were more suitable for something. It has already happened that someone with power wanted to pressure another for their own benefit, or their own pleasure or their own whim fueled by egos or pretense of unlimited power. It has already happened that this same “someone” tried to turn the real story around, so that another person would be “the bad guy”, in the search for personal good and not for the collective benefit.
It already happened. And we think we’re brilliantly trying something new and better...
Yosef, in the story of this parashah, comes to understand his life blow by blow: he must be sold by his brothers and enslaved to get off the pedestal where he had put himself. He must face direct harassment from his employer’s wife to recognize that his task was off track. In his response to Potiphar’s wife: “...and how could I do this wickedness by sinning before God” (Bereshit 39:9), he is not feeling guilty about the situation he faced because there is a God who knows everything and rebukes him. Yosef suddenly meets his past in this painful moment he is living; he sees his origins, his lost family, his attitudes towards his brothers and his father. Yosef learns. Late... but learns.
It is in prison where he shows that he is ready to “see” and interpret the dreams of others and not only his own. And this whole process was necessary to make him able to use his power for the good of others, both in Egypt and later, for his brothers and his people. It was fundamental for him to break off of his confinement in himself in order to be able to receive and forgive and give.
Sometimes we get lost on the way. Fortunately, for those moments we have the commitment of our tradition, our Torah, our halachah, the legacy of our family, the images of our childhood or family and community moments that show us that there are values that should not be lost.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier