Master of Memory III

Dec 23rd, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“They answered him, ‘Not so, my master! For your servants have come to buy food. All of us, sons of one man are we; we are truthful people; your servants have never been spies’ (Genesis 42:10–11).”

I always find it interesting how easily someone who lies can insist that he is truthful. The brothers had blatantly lied to the people of Shechem, and to Jacob about Joseph, and yet here they were, insisting that they were truthful.

The minute someone insists that he is truthful, I suspect that he is not. The Viceroy must have already been suspicious.

When they insist, “Your servants have never been spies,” they probably only increase suspicion. Why claim to have never been spies rather than simply say, “We are not spies”? Why do they describe themselves as, “sons of one man,” rather than as brothers?

Here they stand, accused of being dangerous, insisting that they are not. Once again, not a new situation for these men: “Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have discomposed me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land’ (34:30).” Simeon and Levi never acknowledged that their actions portrayed their father in a horrible light. At this moment, accused of being spies, something of which they had already been suspected by their late night attack on Shechem, the brothers recall that moment from their past, realize that no matter how justified their intentions, they may appear odious in the eyes of others. Jacob was right all along.

At that moment, they reconnect with their great father, “all of us, sons of one man are we.” But, if they reconnect with their father, they must reconsider the terrible lie they told him about Joseph. They insist, for themselves, “We are truthful people!” They even have to justify their behavior in Shechem by insisting, “Your servants have never been spies.”

So far, the brothers have learned that they could bow down to someone as great men, not necessarily subservient. They have reconnected to those moments when they stood by Jacob as his brethren. They have reconnected to their father’s foresight. They are confronting the moments when they did not stand by Jacob as brothers. They are confronting the moments when they lied to Jacob. They are reconsidering their actions in Shechem from their father’s perspective.

All of these thoughts will help them understand that their sin was not just selling Joseph; it was their response to him and his dreams, all along.

Joseph is taking the brothers back to their past, reframing their memories, and preparing them to connect to the way he had seen them so long ago in his dreams.

To be continued…

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