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18/19 Dec: Parsha Vayigash

Shabbat comes in 3.37pm; goes out 4.47pm
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In my class on superheroes this past week, I talked about how many superheroes come from  backgrounds of trauma — losing a parent or loved one. Villains turn their past into justification for lawlessness, but heroes see the injustice done to them and say — no one else should have to suffer what I went through.
It seems that Joseph is going to the “dark side” — punishing his brothers for what they did to him, until Judah starts to speak. Judah, the one responsible for selling Joseph as a slave years earlier, now intercedes on behalf of Benjamin. His speech reveals sincere feelings of regret for the past events, as well as tenderness for his young brother whose life is bound up with his father’s. Judah’s mediation is not only conceived here as an act of mercy toward Benjamin, but also as one that is capable of amending the injustice suffered by Joseph in the past.
Only after hearing Judah’s sincere words does Joseph abandon his delusions of grandeur and stop playing with his brothers’ lives; Judah’s words are like a magic spell that brings Joseph back to reality. In that reality Joseph is capable of seeing who he really is, and only then he manages to turn his revenge into compassion. Only then he feels the urgent need to reveal himself to his brothers, as if he was recalling his true identity: “It’s me, my brothers! Don’t you recognize me? I am Joseph. I was oppressed and expelled from my own land. I know the heart of the stranger and therefore I cannot tolerate oppression anymore. Please be welcomed in my new land.”
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Paul Arberman
December 17, 2015