The Great Reconciliation: Or Was It?

This week Joseph and his brothers reconcile. Jacob goes down to Egypt and everyone has one big, happy family reunion. All’s well that ends well-or is it?

          The brothers’ first reaction to Joseph revealing his identity is to be shellshocked. While Joseph tells them not to be distressed, for he has been sent ahead to Egypt to ensure survival during the famine, the brothers don’t seem convinced. Next week, in VaYehi, they concoct a story: “Before his death your father left this instruction: ‘So shall you say to Joseph: forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your brothers who treated you so harshly.’”[1] For the brothers to react in said manner must indicate that they have apprehension that all is not well, and Joseph will exact vengeance against them.

          Furthermore, when the brothers do Joseph’s bidding, telling Jacob that he is alive, “Jacob’s heart went numb; for he did not believe them.”[2] He doesn’t believe Joseph is alive until he sees the Egyptian wagons with choice goods. Next week in VaYehi, Jacob will excoriate half of his sons on his deathbed for their behavior. It does not seem that Jacob has forgiven his sons for their behavior. In addition, when Pharaoh asks Jacob “How many are the years of your life?”[3] he replies, “The years of my sojourn are one hundred and thirty, Few and hard have been the years of my life.”[4]

          It does not appear there is a Hollywood ending to this story. While Joseph does not exact vengeance, there are hurt feelings, uncertainty, 3030and apprehension. With our own families of origin, we might feel similar things. It is up to us, as we approach the secular new year, to try to get past our past and see if in the present day we can act to reconcile past estrangements. If we do not try, we will certainly not achieve and if not now, when?

[1] Genesis 50:17

[2] Genesis 45:26

[3] Genesis 47:8

[4] Genesis 47:9

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