Do we know who Joseph was?

We were discussing the idea that the descendants of Yaakov became “pulled in” to the Egyptian world and became fairly comfortable in Egypt. This was the process that made the eventual slavery almost inevitable. Over 120 years, from the time they entered until the slavery began, they tried to assimilate (the Egyptians weren’t interested) and become at ease and welcomed in Egypt. One needs to remember that Egypt was the great Empire of its time, with all of the scientific progress in the world coming from Egypt.

Aaron Parker was at the class and made an interesting point. He pointed out that when the Torah begins the story of the enslavement it discusses Pharaoh “no longer knowing Joseph”. He wondered if that is a fully accurate description. Or can one truly say that “The Jews no longer knew who Joseph was”.

Once we forgot who we came from and what he stood for, it was quite easy for Pharaoh to do the same.

“Knowing Joseph” doesn’t mean knowing that he was a great Egyptian leader who helped during the famine. It also isn’t about knowing about his “coat of many colors”, those are biographical details. Knowing Joseph means understanding who he was spiritually and what he taught us.  

There are four main points every Jew needs to know about Joseph.

·        He had incredible faith in G-d, even as he went through the most terrible times in his life.

·        He wore his faith on his shirtsleeves; he let everyone know that it was G-d who gave him his abilities, not his own talents.

·        He resisted the incredible temptation of Potifar’s wife.

·        He had every opportunity to take full revenge on his brothers and didn’t.

We need to make sure we know who Joseph is. And for that matter who our forefathers are. If we don’t know who we are and who we came from, it is hard to expect the rest of the world to appreciate our accomplishments and importance.

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