Vayigash: Long Time No See
We met almost twenty years ago and immediately sensed that we were kindred spirits. We became very close friends, almost brothers, for three years, but somehow drifted away from each other. We reconnected for a few months, and then life’s challenges took control and we lost contact. We connected again and began studying together almost every day. I am writing this on the computer that he bought for me. He converted me from a PC to a Mac, and I began to write. I even dedicated one of the earliest pages of The Foundation Stone™ to him. We traveled together to Germany and, with a brilliant priest, shared unbelievable experiences in the oldest Catholic church in Europe. And then, you guessed it; we lost contact, for a year.
When I opened the door to my home and saw him standing there all the distance of time disappeared. Our hug bridged a year’s worth of time and hurt. It was as if we had never lost our connection.
I wonder what Joseph’s brothers felt when he revealed himself to them? Did they reconnect to their feelings the last time they saw him, when they wanted to kill him? Were they angry about all his manipulations since they came down to Egypt for food? Were they so “overwhelmed,” as the verse says, by the shock of his dreams being realized that they could not react? Did their guilt block their ability to reconnect? Or, were they able to hug him as I did my friend and allow all the distance and resentments to disappear? What did they experience in that first moment?
Joseph has to reassure them that he has not changed: “Behold! Your eyes see as do the eyes of Benjamin that it is my mouth that is speaking to you.” (Verse 12) Does Joseph want them to see him as Benjamin does, without all their confusing feelings?
They remain absolutely silent until, “He then kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; afterwards his brothers conversed with him.” (Genesis 45:15) I would love to have been a fly on the wall listening in to that conversation. The Torah does not seem to offer a clue.
What about Joseph? What is he doing with this long speech? He reveals himself and immediately begins a long list of instructions with no doubt that they and Yaakov would do as Joseph says. He doesn’t give them time to process all that has happened and wants everyone’s lives to pick up as if nothing happened. He sees that his brothers are overwhelmed and he still keeps on talking. He refuses to give them time to think or to process. He specifically wants to speak to them when they are in shock. Why?
“Do not become agitated on the way.” (45:24) Don’t argue about what happened. Don’t discuss all the details. Focus on what needs to be done right now.
I didn’t stop to think about all the ups and downs in my relationship with the friend I described above. I focused on that moment of connection – reconnection – I allowed the joy of the meeting to fill my being, and it washed away all of our complicated past.
Joseph was focused on what was necessary at that moment in time and history. He did not allow the brothers to process all their feelings because he knew that things were far too complicated and would be so confused that the brothers would be unable to move forward.
We often see people so wrapped up in their feelings that they are paralyzed. They stop functioning. The wounds are very real, but not as debilitating as the sense of being overwhelmed, Joseph saw that his brothers were overwhelmed and he taught them that they must first act. Their actions would help them heal from their many wounds.