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Parashat HaShavuah: Shemot

This portion represents a transitional time for the Israelite people. We have just ended the book of Bereshit (Genesis). The Israelites have found hope in Mitzrayim against the famine of Canaan. Now in the first portion in the book of Shemot (Exodus), the hope is gone. First we hear about the descendants of Joseph, tying this section with the previous book. It only takes a few sentences, though, to change everything. In Shemot 1:5 we see the line that changes the trajectory of the Jewish people: “Vayikam Melech Chadash…A new king arose who knew not Joseph.” What happened in the generations since Joseph to take the Israelites from protected status to slaves? Perhaps we should listen to the silences as much as the text. Rights can disappear as quickly as they are given. People can change, as well as nations. Perhaps it is only with vigilance and attention to detail that relationships can be kept in balance.

Parashat HaShavuah: Vay’chi

We conclude the book of Bereshit, the first chapter in the journey of what will become the Jewish people. The family story of the children of Abraham and Sarah is completed with the death of Jacob, and finally Joseph. As with many parents, Jacob prepares his family for what is to come. He spells our their inheritance and their fates. If only all parents could foretell the future of their children. Would they be as honest as Jacob was?

When Joseph’s brothers learn of their father’s death, they are fearful that their now powerful brother Joseph will exact his revenge on them. After all, they had thrown him in a pit and sold him into slavery. But, Joseph says that they shouldn’t fear, and that they and their children will be sustained by Joseph.  In the end, Joseph was able to overcome his past anger against his brothers and move on. He chooses not to hang on to the internal muck of the past.

As we head into this New Year, can we be like Joseph? Can we heal broken ties? Can we more forward with grace and compassion? I pray that as we go forward, we can be more like Joseph.