Ani Yosef…I am Joseph
Ani Yosef…I am Joseph
Joseph Wept – Part One
Part of an ongoing series entitled Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface By Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin –
The Joseph Saga – from Vayeshev through Vayechi (Gen. 37:1 – 50:26)
“Ani Yosef”(I am Joseph)…what riveting, heartrending words…those and the words, “Joseph wept, “have been playing over and over in my mind since reading them once again in the last few Torah portions in the Book of Genesis. I have a special fondness for the Joseph stories, sometimes referred to as the Joseph Saga, and have been irresistibly drawn to them for as long as I can remember.
On a personal note, I cannot read these stories without weeping myself…along with Joseph and cannot help but wonder, why for the most part, is it Joseph who is weeping? With the exception of his younger brother Benjamin his brothers are not. Why? Perhaps you have had this same question in your mind?
Rabbi Ginsberg poses yet another question, “Is weeping merely a release of pent up emotions or does it signify something more?” In other words, was there a secret behind all these tears of Joseph? Ginsberg seems to believe that there is. He says that there are different types of weeping, but that “the most profound occurs when a mystery is revealed.”(http://www.inner.org/parshah/genesis-bereisheet/vayigash/the-secret-of-tears)
There is so much to consider here…so many hidden sparks beneath the surface. I invite you, my readers, to come along with me as we attempt to discover some of them and begin to answer these questions and more.
The story begins in the Torah portion, Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-2) with the words, “And Jacob settled in the land of the sojournings of his father, in the land of Canaan. These are the descendants of Jacob, Joseph being seventeen years old…” Why only mention Joseph and none of the other 11 brothers?
The story ends in the Torah portion Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) with the blessing of the beloved Patriarch Jacob over his 12 sons as he was on his deathbed, and is followed by the remorse and fear of Joseph’s brothers after their father’s burial as to what might happen to them as a consequence of their evil deed.
Joseph’s response to them is exemplary and represents pure forgiveness, compassion and empathy. Rather than condemn, the text states…” he comforted them and spoke to their hearts” (Genesis 50:21), promising to take care of them and bring them out of Egypt.
My hope is that as you read this article that he might also speak to your hearts through the text and the words that I have written.
The Emergence of the Divine Providence – the Yad Tova (Good Hand) of HaShem
Rabbi Hertz in his commentary on the stories of Genesis, and especially the Joseph story, speaks about how these stories are so very profound for they “touch and enthrall the human soul with their sublime simplicity, ” as they reach across the generations impacting the hearts and minds of the small child to the greatest thinkers who can continually find in them “fresh depths of unexpected meaning. ”They are, he states, “absolutely irreplaceable in the moral and religious training of children” (Hertz Commentary, Genesis XXXVII, pg.141).
Much has been written on the Joseph Saga, but I believe there is an additional compelling point that I have not seen explicitly addressed in Jewish writings, but one that I believe certainly deserves consideration before we leave Joseph and move on to yet another powerful saga…that of the Egyptian bondage and another deliverer Moses…whose story is recounted in the Book of Exodus, Shemot. But first, back to the basics.
Going back several chapters to the account of the jealous brothers in an attempt to rid themselves of Joseph and his fanciful dreams, we read of them throwing him into a pit, selling him into slavery and coming up with a devious plot to dip his coat in blood and bring it home to show to their father as evidence that his beloved son was attacked by a wild animal and killed. We have to wonder if they had actually considered the devastating effect this would have on their father.
We read the graphic heartrending words of Jacob upon recognizing Joseph’s bloody coat, “My son’s coat! A wild beast has eaten him! Yosef has been torn! Torn!” He then
rent his garment, put on sackcloth and wept saying that he would go down to his grave mourning (Genesis 36:33-35).
His sons and daughters tried to comfort him, but he was inconsolable and “refused to be comforted.” We will meet these exact words again later referring to the deeply moving emotions of someone else in the family who was very close to Jacob.
There are no other instances that record Jacob ever weeping again, not even with tears of joy when he heard that his beloved Joseph was alive and was finally reunited with him after years of separation, or when he laid eyes on his grandchildren for the first time! This appears somewhat puzzling.
Rabbi Hirsch provides us with some insight regarding this in his commentary when he states, “These little details reflect a profound truth. Through all the years of Joseph’s absence, Jacob had led a dull and monotonous life weeping for Joseph. All his emotions had been spent in mourning. Joseph‘s life in the meantime had been a most eventful one. As a result Joseph had had no time to surrender completely to the pain of the separation from his father. He was totally absorbed into the immediate present. But now, in his father’s embrace, he truly felt the emotional impact of this separation and relived the twenty years that had passed. Jacob had already become Israel, but Joseph was still weeping” (Hirsch Commentary on Gen. 46:29, Bereshith XLVI, pg194).
Joseph was still weeping…” The raw emotion of this passage got my attention. I remembered that there were other passages regarding Joseph weeping and I knew at that moment that I needed to find them…and read them all.
As I went through the texts one after the other, I was deeply moved and struck at how profound they each were, and became convinced that when read together, they would provide evidence of more of those “hidden sparks beneath the surface” just waiting to be discovered!
The “Eight” Passages!
Believe it or not, there are eight passages that refer to Joseph weeping! Perhaps they will jump from the page for you as they did for me.
(1) Gen. 42:23-24 –When the brothers were sent to Egypt by their father for food, as there was a famine in their land, they came before Joseph in Pharaoh’s court. They did not recognize him. In order to test them, he accused them of being spies. They denied this charge, began talking among themselves, and became fearful that they were being punished by their earlier crime against their brother. Joseph was deeply affected by their conversation. The text states, “And they did not know that Yosef understood them, for the interpreter was between them. He turned away from them and wept.”
(2) Gen. 43:29-30 -“He (Joseph) lifted up his eyes and saw Benjamin his brother, the son of his mother, and said: ‘Is this your younger brother, of whom you have told me?’:…”And Yosef hastened for his feelings toward his brother had been stirred up and he wanted to weep—and he went into the room and wept there.” Speaking of Joseph’s compassion and deep emotions, the TEV (Transparent English Version) renders the verse very graphically… “His insides were inflamed toward his brother.”
(3) Gen. 45:1-3 – In response to his brother Judah’s gut-wrenching plea to allow Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin to return home to his aged father who had already lost one son and couldn’t bear to lose the other, Joseph was moved with compassion, and “could no longer restrain himself before all those who stood before him. He cried, “Everyone go away from me and go out!’’ And no one remained with him when Yosef made himself known to his brothers. He gave his voice free rein in weeping; Mitzrayim heard it, and Pharaoh’s house heard it.’ Ani Yosef; (I am Yosef) is my father still alive?’ The brothers could not answer him because they were bewildered in his presence.”
(4) Gen 45:14- When his saw his younger brother, the text states that “He fell upon the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept and Benjamin wept upon his neck.”
(5) Gen 45:15 – “He kissed all his brothers and wept in their embrace, and afterwards his brothers spoke with him.”
(6) Gen 46:29- “When he (Joseph) presented himself to him (his father Jacob) he flung himself upon his neck and was still weeping upon his neck.”
(7) Gen 49:33-50:1- “When Yaakov (Jacob) had concluded the blessings to his sons, he drew his feet back into the bed, expired and was gathered to his ancestors. Then Yosef threw himself upon his father’s face and wept upon him and kissed him.”
(8) Gen 50:17– “O please forgive the crime of your brothers and their sin, that they did evil to you. And now please grant forgiveness for the crime of the servants of the God of your father. And Yosef wept when they spoke to him.”
Upon their return back from Canaan to bury their father in the Cave of Machpelah as he had requested, the text records that the brothers became very fearful as to what Joseph might do to them now that they were no longer under the protection of their father.
One cannot help but wonder if on their trip they passed by, not once but twice, the very same pit that they had thrown Joseph into…if so their fears and pent up guilt must have been almost unbearable as their minds surely must have gone back to that dreadful scene. Perhaps they even had visions of Joseph taking his revenge and tossing them into that same pit as they had done to him years ago…yet still they did not outwardly weep!
What hit me so strongly is that in passage after passage it was only Joseph (with the exception of Benjamin upon their first meeting) who was doing the weeping. This last eighth time that he wept appears to be especially significant.
Obviously he was overcome with love and profound compassion and empathy each time that he wept, but perhaps there was something more that was building within him. Could it be that with each encounter, he more fully realized that the plan of G-D in his life was unfolding and coming to fruition.
The Divine Plan…The Yad Tov (Good Hand) at Work Behind the Scenes
Perhaps it was only after the death of his beloved father, that Joseph felt he could explain to his brothers that what they had meant for evil, HaShem had meant for good (Gen.50:20)…that it was HaShem and His Yad Tova working behind the scenes through it all… that it was HaShem who had sent him to Egypt, Mitzrayim, to save them and prepare the way to eventually bring them out and into the Promised Land. It was all a part of the Divine Plan…a secret, like hidden sparks beneath the surface, that could only be revealed when everything was in place…including the penitent hearts of Joseph’s brothers…for it was only then that Joseph, upon seeing their true teshuvah, was able to “speak to their hearts” and to offer them comfort, consolation and hope for their future and the generations to follow as had been his desire all along.
Perhaps it was then, upon hearing Joseph’s words, that all those memories began to flood the brothers’ minds and they could begin to understand all that had transpired…from Joseph’s special coat gifted to him from their father, to his dreams, their throwing him into the pit, selling him into slavery, deceiving their father, having to travel to Egypt to beg for grain only to find that the high ranking “Egyptian” standing before them was none other than their brother Joseph whom they had hated and treated disparagingly…and unbelievably, here he was…through his tears of pure compassion and love….acknowledging, explaining and tying together all these events that had led to this moment.
This is the final and eighth time that the text records Joseph weeping. We have learned that there is a special significance to the number 8. As we have seen in our past articles the number 8 is said to be representative of another dimension, a New Beginning which will one day be revealed to all of us…like a beautifully woven tapestry intricately designed with its lovely hues and its myriad of colors…a tapestry, which from the underside, appears to be a bunch of jumbled threads, tangled and knotted together, having no design or aesthetic beauty, yet it represents so much more…like a story within a story. There are so many hidden sparks that begin to emerge when we begin to really read the entire story and take it all in.
Was this the point at which Joseph came to clearly understand the story within the story that had been developing all along leading up to the New Beginning? Could he now see beyond the underside of the tapestry? What about the brothers? We know that HaShem had given Joseph the gift of interpreting or literally opening up dreams, as the original Hebrew text renders it, but was there more involved? Was this gift related to the secret behind Joseph’s tears that Rabbi Ginsberg suggested…a secret that would provide a clue as to the mystery of their inner meaning and their part in the coming redemption? I will leave these questions for you my readers to contemplate.
Baruch HaShem! May you be blessed on your journey Part Two of the Joseph Saga will be forthcoming very soon!
By Elisheva Tavor, 14 Tevet, 5782