Becoming Accepting of Others

(inspired by Rabbi Helen Cohn)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

10thTorah Portion, 10th in Genesis – Miketz

41:1-44:17 (146 verses)


            After twelve years in prison Joseph finally gets his opportunity. He successfully interprets Pharaoh’s two dreams and predicts seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh places Joseph in charge of food collection and distribution. Joseph marries Asenat, and they have two sons, Menasheh and Ephraim. When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy food during the famine,Joseph accuses them of spying. He holds Shimon hostage while the rest of the brothers return to Canaan to retrieve Benjamin for him. The brothers return toEgypt with Benjamin and for more food. Joseph continues the test, this time falsely accusing Benjamin of stealing and declaring that Benjamin must remain his slave.


            There was famine in the land so Jacob sends his sons to Egypt for food rations (Genesis 42:1ff.). Joseph’s brothers came into his presence and “bowed low to him, with their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them; but they did not recognize him” (Genesis 42:6-7). He recognized them, but they did not recognize him. Why is that? The simplest explanation is that when they were together they all had full beards. Now Joseph was clean-shaven, so they did not recognize him without his beard. This is a plausible explanation; but perhaps there is more to it than that.


            What does it take to be “recognized?”


1.    Identify someone from a previous encounter – Nope!

2.    To acknowledge someone (to be heard, for example) – Nope!

3.    To award someone (i.e. being “recognized” for an accomplishment) – Nope!

4.    To perceive or become aware of something about that person – I think so!


Perhaps for the first time Joseph was able to recognize his brothers as being brothers(#4). His brothers could still not see this in him; but he was able to recognize a connection with them that he should have noticed before.


Table Talk:

            We do not always have to accept everything about a person in order for us to have a relationship with them. We do not have to agree with everything they believe in order for us to work together. We simply need to recognize the person as a person whom we value as a person. Even if that person has valuable relationships with others (and not with us), we can still recognize that.


1.    Everyone has their own path that is right and true for them. How do we come to understand that others do not have to follow our path?

2.    We can still show love to others when we disagree with their way. How can we celebrate our differences?

3.    Rather than trying to change others, focus on you. Where in your own life could you be more accepting? Are you honoring your own path without being critical of the path others are following?