When I woke up this morning I found all the lights, inside and out, were on. The kids, who went to sleep after their parents, did not turn off any lights, did not put on the alarm, did not wash their dishes or even put them away. Being the kind and compassionate father that I am, at least in my mind, I waited until the children got up to discuss their responsibilities. Big mistake.
The waiting wasn’t the mistake. It was a mistake to believe that I could discuss what happened with them. Neither one was at fault. Each was convinced that the other was the sinner. I should have known better! My kids have a Teflon coating; nothing is ever their fault. They have an unbelievable capacity to explain everything away. It’s as if nothing can stick.
I used to envy their coating. They never feel guilty. They seem to never do anything wrong. If I had the same Teflon coating, I wouldn’t be so bothered when they explain how everything is my fault.
“No wonder your computer broke, you left it on the floor!” “It was your fault; you were learning in the living-room and I wanted to be close to you without disturbing you.”
“You didn’t finish shoveling the walkway.” “You didn’t tell me to finish. You only told me to shovel. Plus, you told me to be careful, and I thought I would hurt my back if I shoveled everything.”
Oh, how I could use some Teflon coating!
Then I realized, that their confidence in their perfection is, just like their coating, only on the surface. They may explain absolutely everything as my fault and even walk away with a sense of righteousness, but I am convinced that the germs of guilt permeate their coating and slip deep inside of them. I worry that one-day they will realize that they may have actually made at least one mistake and won’t have the skills to deal with their realization.
The portion begins with Judah “approaching” Joseph. I wonder whether Judah and his brothers only approached Joseph but never actually dealt with their responsibility for selling Joseph into slavery. The Torah never describes the brothers discussing what happened with Joseph or their father Jacob. The father waits until his deathbed to mention what they did to Joseph. No one asks Joseph why he never sent a message to his father that he was alive and well.
They “approach” the issue but never openly deal with it. They all have the same Teflon coating. The pot was actually quite dirty. We have been haunted by the sins of the brothers for generation. We associate the Ten Martyrs with the sale of Joseph. When the prophet speaks of the sins of Israel, we automatically think of the sale of Joseph.
The Teflon coating prevents their “approach” to ever develop into an actual connection. The family was haunted for generations. The brothers are convinced that as soon as Jacob died that Joseph would avenge his sale. All these issues, approached but not dealt with, weigh on the family and they are stuck.
Teflon coating is not always a blessing. “Approaching” a problem is never enough.
Someone answered a question I presented in a shiur – lecture- last night. I asked him if he would have been satisfied if I had given that answer. He said, “No, but I would have accepted that you as a rabbi was right, and I would have accepted the answer.” I heard him say that he too is Teflon coated. He is more uncomfortable expressing his dissatisfaction with an answer than he is with accepting that he should not ask all his questions. I fear that his Judaism and learning are Teflon coated. It is as if he is “approaching” learning but not really connecting. Is it worth it? I think not.
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