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Don't Get Lost Along the Way

12/23/2020 03:28:27 PM


This week’s Torah portion describes the dramatic resolution of the Joseph story. Judah offers an impassioned appeal to save little brother, Benjamin, and Joseph is so moved that he drops his Egyptian disguise and reveals his true identity. By the end of the portion, the entire family has been reunited in Egypt; a happy ending, at least for now.

When Joseph sends his brothers to Canaan to bring back their father, Jacob, he feels the need to offer them a warning “Al Tiragzu Baderech” - do not be upset along the way. Ramban offers a practical explanation: they can feel secure along the way. Thanks to Joseph's power, the brothers have no need to be fearful of bandits attacking them along the way. The Talmud (Ta’anit10b) fancifully interprets the text to mean that they should not be so distracted by conversation of issues of Jewish law and lore that they lose sight of the way. 

Rashi, in addition to citing the Talmud’s reading, also offers a point that bears some reflection. Throughout their encounters with Joseph, the brothers have engaged in recriminations, debating whether perhaps in some way their suffering at the hands of the Egyptian overlord was a punishment of their previous misdeeds. That discussion served an important purpose. The brothers would never have been forgiven by Joseph if they did not admit their error and use that admission to change their ways. Now, even though the crisis has been resolved, they might continue to cast blame, and Joseph warns them not to engage in pointless recrimination.

Constructive criticism and self-criticism are essential parts of life - we cannot learn from our mistakes if we do not accept and analyze them. However, there can also be the temptation to beat a dead horse, or to continue harping on a problem long after it has been resolved. Joseph reminds us that for every issue, there is a time to discuss (and sometimes even assign or admit blame!), but then there is a time to let go so we can focus on the journey ahead.

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784