Redeeming the past
Torah Portion: Vayigash(And He came) B’resheet/Genesis 44:18-47:27
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 37:15-28
Tonight’s Torah section begins with one of the most dramatic scenes in Torah. It begins with Judah coming to Joseph and basically whispering in his ear. He relates how he is ready to take his brother Benjamin’s place and become a slave. He goes on to explain how taking Benjamin would be a death blow to their father Ya’akov.
At this point Joseph lost control and broke down in front of his brothers and spoke the words of 45:4-8 where he confessed that he was Joseph, the brother that had been lost all those years. In my question this week I mentioned Joseph’s account here in these verses of how he saw the past and how G-d had been in it in order to bring redemption for the family from the famine sweeping the area.
This is quite different than what we read last week in 40:15. There Joseph saw things very differently. His new understanding is reflected again in 50:19-20. In these verses he again expresses his new understanding of past events in his life. What caused his change of heart and what does it say to us? In the process from chapter 40 until chapter 50 we see Joseph’s understanding of his life undergo a vast change. We often hear the past is past and there is no changing it. This is true to a certain extent. It is true that events that happen to each of us cannot be changed. However, how we see them, our perception, can change. We see it here with Joseph and also with his brothers. He was able to bring G-d into what had happened and unlock a spiritual lesson from a traumatic happening. The facts remained the same but now he had the ability to see deeper than just the events that happened to him. I expect each of us have come through some difficult times. Because of that we may have lived our lives carrying around the hurt or even the hate until today. I think this Torah section gives us a clue of how to put those hurts down, to look at it with a different understanding, to see how G-d can use it to bring us to a deeper understanding of His will for our life. We see this same idea mentioned in the Messianic scriptures in Matthew 5:44. I have often wondered about this verse. How is it possible to love your enemies, bless those who curse you? Here we get a clue in our reading. Look deeper than the facts. What can G-d do in your life through what happened to you? Is it the ability to be more understanding with someone who you know has suffered in a similar way? You might be able to help another let go of the darkness and embrace what G-d can do in their life in the present. By what we do now in the present we can redeem the pain of the past.
Now I want us to shift gears a bit and look at these events from a different point of view. Let us look at the revelation of Joseph’s to his brothers and what it might say to us as believers today and our role in the world. As the brothers stood before Joseph, prior to his revelation, they probably felt as though their world was coming apart around them. Here they stood before, who they thought was a Gentile ruler, who held their fate in his hands to do with as he saw fit. It would have seemed as if G-d had abandoned them.
Think of the Jewish people around the world today, their present and past history. They have suffered at the hands of the Romans and the Greeks. They saw their beautiful city of Jerusalem burned to the ground and plowed under. They have suffered greatly at the hands of Christians for years. In the Crusades almost a third of the Jewish population of Europe died at the hands of Christians.
Fast forward a few hundred years to the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400’s where the entire Jewish population of Spain were given two choices, convert or die. All this carried out by their younger brothers, Christians.
Then of course the Holocaust happened where 6 million died. Now here in our country, almost daily, we read of yet another anti-Semitic act carried out by Americans. Just this last week, during Chanukah, a man entered the home of a rabbi and stabbed a number of Jews, leaving one almost dead.
I believe the time has come for us as believers to stand up for our older brothers, the Jews. Yeshua was rejected by his people in the beginning. Then we adopted Him but in the process we left His Jewishness behind. In fact, over history we have used Him as an excuse to hate and persecute these “Christ Killers.”
All of us must take a stand with Israel and the Jewish people, rejecting these views and prejudices held for centuries. Joseph was finally recognized by his brothers, so Yeshua will be recognized by His brothers as stated in Revelations 1:7 and Romans 3:19b and we will all be accountable before G-d for our actions.