Forgiveness when we ask
Torah Portion: Vayechi (And He Lived) B’resheet/Genesis 47:28-50:26
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 2:1-12
Tonight, we read the last portion of Genesis. This portion covers the end of Jacob’s life as well as that of his son Joseph. It is interesting that the name of this portion is, “And He Lived,” but then goes into great detail of Jacob’s last days. If you remember we saw this same thing in the portion about the death of Sarah. What point do you think is being made here in our portion and also in the one about Sarah? I believe the important point being made is how have we lived our life; how did we spend our days? I pray for each of us this urgency of living over-rides the death that comes to us all.
My question this week revolved around the interaction between Joseph and his brothers found in Genesis 50:15-20. Here we read of the brothers asking themselves, and then Joseph, to again forgive them for what had happened earlier in their lives when they sold Joseph into slavery. As you read these verses you can see they even resort to lying to Joseph about what their father had said to them. Why do you think they did this?
There may have been several reasons, some of which I want us to explore. One issue might have been the brothers own doubt. How could Joseph forgive them for such a terrible deed? Surely he was just waiting until their father died to take revenge on them. We have seen this before. Esau swore to kill Jacob as soon as their father died. This was the way the world worked at this time.
This reminds me of how we sometimes relate to our Heavenly Father. Often we judge ourselves and conclude that G-d could never forgive us for what we have done. It was just too terrible. So, we don’t ask for His forgiveness and even when we do ask, sometimes we don’t forgive ourselves. Thank G-d He does not look at us as we look at ourselves. G-d stands ready to forgive our sins. We must only repent and come to Him and ask for His forgiveness. He gives it freely to His children.
However, we must never look at it as a get out of jail free card. Repentance involves a change of heart, a new way of living, in a new and different person. In last week’s reading, we saw this in Judah’s life. He, when presented with a similar case, offered to give himself in place of Benjamin when he thought Joseph was not going to allow Benjamin to return to his father with the other brothers. Joseph saw a completely different person here. Judah was not the same man that had dealt with Joseph earlier when he suggested to his brothers to sell Joseph as a slave.
When we come to G-d and repent of our sin He expects to see that play our in our actions in life. We have become a new creation. II Cor. 5:17. We no longer do the things we used to do, we are a different person and are expected to not return to our prior sins. This is something we all need to hear again and again. Judah changed. Joseph saw that change and was able to forgive him.
Interestingly this is the first time in scripture we encounter repentance. Up until this time sin or grievances were handled by the method of covering the problem with a gift, like Jacob sent animals to Esau when they were about to be reunited. Also, sometimes a person offered themselves as a slave to repay a wrong doing. There was no forgiveness, just a covering of whatever had happened with money or some other gift. Thank G-d He puts away our sin when we repent, as far as the east is from the west and it is no longer counted against us. Psalms 103:12.
And as we say when we finish the book of Genesis,
Hazak Hazak V’nit’chazek!
Be strong, Be strong, and let us be strengthened