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Have you heard?

12/09/2021 12:42:59 PM

Dec9

As social creatures, we are quick and eager to share news about the world and our experiences, even more so if it is news about someone else! We are naturally curious to hear what others have been up to, and especially intrigued when they relate something unexpected. Perhaps this is a means of uncovering any dangers or threats that others have encountered. After all, we know that gossip can spread like wildfire, and that bad news travels faster than good news. 

There is a poetic read of Parshat VaYigash that echoes this sentiment. As the Joseph story culminates with Judah’s passionate speech to protect his step-brother Benjamin from accusations of theft, Joseph abandons his charade, reveals himself to his brothers, and cries. Despite sending everyone but his brothers out of the room, we are told that “his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace” (Genesis 45:2). Then several verses later, we read, “the news reached Pharaoh’s palace: ‘Joseph’s brothers have come.’ Pharaoh and his courtiers were pleased” (Genesis 45:16). Initially, when Joseph is crying, I can’t help but imagine that his tears became the talk of the town. While they indeed were tears of relief and reunion, the Egyptians who are not in the room don’t know this. Perhaps they assume the worst, and they gossip that the second-in-command of Egypt is crying for negative reasons. This is cause enough for concern and thus it quickly spreads throughout Egypt and especially reaches Pharaoh’s palace. Later, as the positive grounds for the tears become public knowledge, it too travels throughout Egypt, but seemingly with a lesser sense of urgency. Bad news travels faster than good news. 

In this age of technology where posts and tweets can be shared and amplified more easily than ever, it is also true that bad news travels faster than good news. Incomplete and incorrect opinions, that often are focused on fear, get propagated as facts. Subsequently, they are shared again and again with others because we seek out and like to share bad news. And even though we know that this opinion might not be the full picture, even though the Egyptians knew that there are indeed good reasons for tears, we still spread the news on the off-chance that the bad version is true. Good news or more authentic facts struggle to catch-up. Are we able to take responsibility for correcting the record when we learn something new that alters our initial perception of something? Can we do better at sharing news that is honest about the shortcomings of its reasoning and conclusions? If the Egyptians of the Bible can do it, then surely, we can too. 

Shabbat Shalom

Mon, June 27 2022 28 Sivan 5782