Master of Memory IV

Dec 23rd, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“And he said to them, ‘No! But the land’s nakedness have you come to see’ (Genesis 42:12).” The viceroy of Egypt simply rejects their words. It is a terrible feeling to be ignored, as in, “They could not speak to him peaceably (37:4),” and, as in the story of the sale of Joseph that does not include a single word from the main character! Joseph was completely ignored. His words did not matter.

“And they replied, ‘We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the son of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father and one is gone’ (Verse 13).” They mention, for the first time, the twelfth brother. Joseph successfully triggered their memory of ignoring his words. They repeat, “the son of one man,” because they also reconnect to the moment when they ignored Jacob’s words when he rebuked them for what they had done in Shechem. The brother’s were not listeners. “Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us and we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has come upon us (42:21).” They acknowledge that they were not good listeners.

Interestingly, the moment they acknowledge that they were not good listeners, “Reuben spoke up to them, saying, ‘Did I not speak to you saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy, but you would not listen!’ (Verse 22).” Now, all of them are beginning to recall moments when the others did not pay attention. They had been claiming to be brothers, but at this moment, they realize that they had not been behaving as such even to each other.

Joseph had realized this, and had even spoken of it in his dreams: “Behold! We were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, when, behold, my sheaf arose and remained standing; then behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf (37:7).” Joseph dreams of his brothers as being unified. They were so bothered by the detail of their bowing to him, that they missed the point of his dream, which was they were united, just as they would be in his next dream!

Once again, Joseph is reframing their memories, having them play out his dreams in their heads so that they could rethink Joseph’s words as he said then, as good listeners,’ rather then as the poor listeners they had always been to him and, to Jacob, and, to each other.

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