One of the essays that made Jamaica Kincaid famous was “Charm” about the Ophelia DeVore School of Charm for young black women. “At some point, all this will become extinct. As black people integrate, they won’t want to do the special little things that they needed to do in an earlier time to get them across.” Ms. Devore was certainly correct, and her school is now extinct.
Still, there are a few people who can use her charm school. I am thinking about one person in particular: Joseph!
Joseph was a newly freed slave, an ex-con, who did such an excellent job interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams that he was appointed to be the second in command over all of Egypt.
People were willing to forget the slave and prisoner parts of his past, but not his being a former carnivore. He needed to rise to the occasion and learn proper court etiquette and practice. Joseph needed his own Miss DeVore School of Charm.
Perhaps this is the meaning of the Midrash that describes an angel spending an entire night with Joseph to teach him 70 languages. The angel had to teach Joseph how to act as royalty. He had to learn diplomacy, political theory, business management, urban planning, and a dab or two of Machiavellian theory. That’s a lot to learn in one night. The former shepherd boy also had to learn how to dress, walk, even how to eat.
It was too much even for an angel to teach in a single night. “Until one of the letters of God’s name was added to the now Yehosef.”
Joseph was limited as long as he was focused on himself – his success, even an angel couldn’t help him. However, when he was conscious of God’s hand controlling his life, he lived without limitation. Let’s say he was just like a small jar of oil that could burn for 8 days!
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