Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Optimist and Pessimist

There is a wonderful story told of two children with polar personalities. One was an an optimist in the extreme. No matter what the circumstances, even when things went wrong, she always had a smile. She was sure things would only get better. The other was an extreme pessimist. Nothing made her happy. She always assumed, even in the good times, that bad was sure to follow. Their parents decided to put their dispositions to the test. The pessimist was put in a room full of the most wonderous toys, everything a child could dream of having. The optimist was put up to her neck in a room full of manure. Each had the door locked on them.

In two hours the parents returned. To their amazement when they opened the door on their child the pessimist in the room full of toys, she was sitting in the corner crying. She explained, "All these toys are great. But soon the batteries will wear out and the springs on the wind up toys are sure to break. Its only a matter of time and I will not be able to play with them anymore." And her sibling the optimist, up to her neck in manure, when they opened the door on her she was giggling and splashing in the filth. She said, "I know with all this manure there has to be a horse in here somewhere!"

This Shabbat is Shabbat Shira. We read of the great miracle that occurred at the Sea as Israel was, once and for all, saved from their Egyptian taskmasters. On their deliverance they sang the "Oz Yashir" the song of praise and thanksgiving, a song so filled with holy inspiration that it is included in the Torah and recited each day in our morning prayers.

The sages are clear, Israel, even the most common among them, had an inspired vision at the Sea greater than the prophet Yechezkail. The Torah gives context to the Song with the prelude "And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant".
Their intense belief gave rise to expression in the Song of the Sea.

But the story is puzzling. Those of us who learn Daf Yomi, the daily page of Talmud, only this week studied the text in Tractate Areechin that tells us that of the ten testings of the Divine in the wilderness, two occurred at the Sea, and one of those was after the Sea split and they crossed on dry land! The Talmud tell us "Israel lacked faith". After the miraculous crossing they feared "Just as we crossed perhaps so too did the Egyptian army and they are yet coming after us but from another place on the shore."

How can the Talmud teach that the people lacked faith, even after the crossing, until they saw the dead bodies of the Egyptians wash up onto the shore when the Torah tells us they "believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant". The Torah is clear that the song was triggerred by the power of their belief. Yet the Talmud takes them to task for precisely that, a shortfall in belief.

Moreover we might wonder. If they indeed had the strong belief as the Torah affirms how is it that only a few days later, when they lacked water, they complained bitterly and inappropriately. And, only a few weeks after that, again they complained, this time about their diet. They had the audacity to question whether they would not have been better off had they never been redeemed.

How do we make sense of all these contradictory dimensions of the psychic and spiritual health of our ancestors?

I think the answer may be something we alluded to in the story with which we began.
When the Torah tells us "And they believed in Hashem..." they did! The People had faith at the sea, an uprecedented faith. But faith is one thing and trust is another. In Hebrew we distinguish between 'emuna' and bitachon'. Undoubtedly the Israelites knew G-d in an intimate way. They had the vision of the prophets at the Sea. But trust is another matter altogether. Trust or bitachon requires us to believe not only in the goodness of the Other, but in the worthiness of ourselves.
To trust we need to not only know G-d exists and to feel His presence. We need to know that G-d will do good for us because we indeed are worthy of His love.

The Israelites of the Exodus indeed believed in G-d. They had emuna. What they lacked was bitachon. And not because they thought G-d was not good. But because they felt undeserving. They did not trust that the good they received today would be there tomorrow. They were pessimists. And like all pessimists they lacked trust, not in the love of Hashem but in the worthiness of themselves to continue to know the blessing.

When the Talmud taught that the People were lacking in belief, I suggest the shortcoming the Talmud is inferring was a belief in themselves and in a G-d who will love them with their flaws. True the sea was parted for them. Yet they still were not sure the Egyptians didn't cross as well. After all, according to the Medrash, even the angels said at the sea "They are idol worshippers and so are they. Why save the Israelites?". We might assume our ancestors wondered the same thing. They had no doubts about the power of G-d. They simply lacked the trust in their own worthiness to be sure G-d would save them at the expense of the Egyptians.

Over and over through the wilderness journey when Israel sins the root of the sin is not a lack of belief in G-d. Rather the root of the sin is a lack of bitachon caused by a feeling of inadequacy and a fear that G-d will not rescue them from their predicament because they are undeserving. Israel's sin was a prevailing pessimism.
It is not that we were in fact deserving. On the contrary, relative to our own merits we indeed had reason to be pessimists. But G-d loves us, with our lacks. He does only good for us no matter our inadequacies. His love is unconditional.

I dare say, the struggle of our ancestors with bitachon is not theres alone. Who of us has not fought the feelings of pessimism from time to time. Perhaps we have been hurt in a relationship and struggle to trust again. Or pehaps we have failed in projects we have undertaken and now we are hesitant to try yet again. The root of our doubts, like those of our parents of the Exodus, is a lack of self worth. If we believe we are deserving we will be optimistic even when things did not turn out as we hoped. When we expect the worst it is typically because we feel we don't deserve success.

What we need to realize is that our success and belief in it is not really about us.
We may well be more right than the optimist. We are undeserving. On our own we have no right to assume things will get better. But trust is about G-d and our relationship to Him. Trust in the good is our conviction that He will always do what is best for us. In the words of Rabbi Akiva, even when that which seems bad happens to us, it is to say "Gam Zu l'tova", "This too is for the good".
We don't invest in the future with optimism because we are confident in ourselves.
We invest because we know G-d loves us and whatever the results it will be for the good.

To be an optimist, to trust again in the face failure, is a spiritual challenge.
We are called upon to believe in G-d's unconditional love for us. There is no room for a prevailing sadness in life. To live as a person of the spirit is to be ready to invest and invest again.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Peace of the Whole

It is now eleven months since the horrific murder of the Fogel family in Itamar. You recall Ruti, Hudi and there three young children were brutally stabbed to death by Arab terrorists on Friday night as they slept in their beds. Last night in my neighborhood shule, where Ruti's father, Rav Ben Yishai most often davens the afternoon and evening prayers, the Rav of the shule asked him to say a few words between Mincha and Maariv. You see, with the end of the eleven months, Rav Ben Yishai, who has been saying the kaddish for his family, will stop reciting the mourner's prayer. He, Rav ben Yishai, will no longer take his place with the others who grieve the loss of a loved one to chant the traditional kaddish.

Rav Ben Yishai is a modest and unassuming man. While I do not know him personally, his dignity is evident in the way he carries himself. He is defferential to others, even though in many cases he is both older and more learned than they.He speaks in a quiet yet firm voice. What he says comes from a place deep within. It does not need to be shouted or repeated to be heard. He had but a few words to convey to the small community of men he has davened with now for near a year each evening. But what he said was compelling. In essence he said that his children died 'al kiddush Hashem', sanctifying the great name of G-d. Their place in heaven could not be higher. He said that he draws comfort in knowing that there sacrifice is an inspiration for all of us in our committment to the love of the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel. Their death while hugely tragic was not empty. It served to make the ideals in which we believe, ideals which are often abstact, real and alive for us. Through them and their sacrifice our Judaism is renewed and deepened and given much more veracity.

Have you ever wondered why it is that when we pray, even our most intimate prayers, like the 'amidah', the silent sh'moneh esrai, we frame our talk to G-d in the plural form rather than the singular. We almost never use "I". Instead every request, blessing and praise is put in the form of "we". Even when we perform a very personal mitzvah, like putting on tefilin or lighting Shabbat candles, we say "blessed are you L-rd our G-d etc..who has commanded us". We do not say "who commanded me" ! Why? Why does tradition insist that we use the plural and disdains the more personal singular form.

I will tell you another story...also one that happened yesterday. I live across the street from the Yeshiva Mercaz Ha'Torah. One of the outstanding Rebbes of the Yesiva, Rav Aryeh Greenwald makes it a personal priority to reach out and learn with men and boys in the community and to offer the marginalized Shabbat hospitality.
He has been learning daily with one elderly and compromised man for some two years. Yesterday they made a siyum on completing an order of the Mishna. If this man, had made a party, say to celebrate a significant birthday, I am not sure he would have ten people to invite. Here, with Rav Greenwald, he made a siyum in the Yeshiva and 40 young men were present. They knew him a bit since he came to daven on occasion when he ate with the Greenwalds. On this day, these young Yeshiva boys were his community.They sang and danced with him. They celebrated his joy. They gave him a sense of belonging and helped him to feel the worthiness of his achievement in his Torah study.

We live in a time that emphasizes the development of the individual. Western society has long put the focus on the "I" over the "we". Just note what I wrote. "I" is capitalized always; "we" never. Self actualization is the priority. Success is measured in personal success. But is that a Jewish perspective. Does our tradition support emphasizing the "I" above the "we"?

I think not! I think we are misguided in taking on the prevailing values of the culture that sorrounds us. In Torah perspective the "we" needs to be given precedence.
Who we are as individuals matters. But not as much as the whole to which we belong.
The Sages taught us that by dint of the way we express ourselves to G-d. No matter how noble our act of devotion or heatfelt our prayer, we can only speak to G-d as part of the community of our People. No "I", no matter how significant, learned or holy, can supplant the "we". It is only in the context of community that an individual has enduring meaning and stature.

That lesson was clear at the siyum where a man with no friends, isolated and alone, had a sense of belonging and meaning through the "we" of the unlikely community of Yeshiva boys 50 years his junior. And it is true for Rav Ben Yishai and his family who grieve. The only solace to be found in the brutal murder of his children and grandchildren is to see the Fogels not as a private family brought to a tragic and untimely end. But rather to see the Fogels as a part of the Jewish People living our nation's story in which their sacrifice, horrific though it was, enhances the character of the whole to which they belonged.

The truth evident in the stories above is equally true for you and me. No peace can be had for the indvidual as an individual in this world. Life is tragic. We all fail, and even when we accomplish, our accomplishments when standing alone, hardly matter. We all die and barely leave a trace for having been. No, the only peace to be found for the individual is as part of the whole. As part of the whole we transcend. As part of the whole we prevail. As part of the whole we contribute to a perfection that is impossible to us as individuals.

My sense is that in our practice of our faith we miss the mark. We are so busy worrying about our personal devotion and its level of excellence that we fail to see ourselves as part of the community. Our emphasis so often is on "how am I doing" relative to the expectations we and tradtion puts on us. Rarely do we consider how we are performing as part of the ensemble that is the Jewish People and if we are contributing our limitted yet important part to the whole.

This Shabbat we read of the Exodus. So many of the commandments we are given both this week and throughout the Torah are "to remember the exodus from Egypt".
What are we meant to remember when we perform mitzvot? What is recalling the Exodus
supposed to invoke. Surely we might answer "gratitude to G-d over our redemption".
But may I humbly suggest that perhaps we are meant to recall that even when we perform the most personal mitzvah we are part of a people. We do not do mitzvot as indiviudals isolated and alone, no matter how holy we may be. In keeping a mitzvah even as an individual, even in the privacy of our home, we need to see our act as belonging to the story of our People and connected to the Exodus that was a national not an individual event.

Peace for the individual is impossible. We can only know peace as part of the whole. Perhaps we need to alter our perspective and worry less about the individual we are and more about the body we are a part of and how we are doing our share for its wellbeing. Perhaps our focus should not be on becoming a spiritual hero but rather on becoming a good team player!

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Do We Owe G-d?

For several months now I have been troubled by a theological question with practical implications. In so many of the sifrai musar, the traditional works of the great rabbis of the past on issues of ethics and personality development, we find that the core ingredient necessary to being a true servant of Hashem is 'hakarat hatov', gratitude for the good G-d has done for us. So much of all we do, from blessings before eating to public expressions of thanksgiving on personal deliverence from illness or danger is based on this fundemental sense of gratitude. When asked how we are, the traditonal response is "Baruch Hashem, Praised be G-d, good". We bless and, in essence, thank G-d for everything from our being able to wake in the morning to a bowel movement.

But I ask you why the great debt of gratitude? I understand that if someone does me a kindness I owe them thankfullness. After all they put themselves out in some way, no matter how small, for me. True G-d does us the greatest of kindnesses. He gives us life renewed each day. And indeed G-d performs for each of many great acts of deliverance. But do I really owe G-d for what He does for me? It takes no effort for G-d to do even the greatest thing. It costs G-d nothing to be kind to me. He expends no energy, no time, no resources. G-d's gifts are what the Talmud calls
"ze nehene v'ze lo chasair", "this one benifits without any cost to the other who provides the benifit". In the case where one can be gifted with no cost to the benifactor it is considered a great evil not to give! All G-d gives us is at no cost to Him. If He would not give us He, by His own ethic, He would be doing evil. Why then do we owe Him gratitude? Why am I considered wayward and held culpabable if I don't keep His Torah. I don't owe G-d any more than I owe rent to a landlord whose house I live in when he could not rent it anyways. And according to the Talmud indeed I do not owe rent to the landlord in that case!

After struggling with this issue for some time I am going to tell you a truth I came to know that at first blush is surprising. Neither you nor I owe G-d for kindnesses received. He didn't put out from His self to give to us. It cost G-d nothing. Hakarat hatov, the foundation of our relationship to G-d, is not paying back a debt owed. Rather hakarat hatov is a personal character trait that feels gratitude for that which is received regardless of the expense of the giver. Hakarat hatov is our appreciation for blessings we are given. It is a feeling engendered not by the sacrifice of the donor who provided us our gifts, but by the gift itself we receive and the relationship it infers between us and our benefactor.

This week my wife and I were sitting together and I mentioned how much I thought I owed her for all she has done for me over the time of our marriage. Lindy said to me, "You don't owe me anything" and she went on to explain that she did not like the idea that my commitment to her was based on debts owed. If I was grateful to her for the love she showed me and felt a desire to show love in return that was great. But she did not warm to the idea of giving out of indebtedness. In the course of our conversation it became clear that yes, I owed her. After all she made effort and sacrifice for me. But in the ideal my response to her would not emerge from the bottom line, that of debts owed. Rather in the ideal my response to Lindy would come instead from a love and gratitude felt in response to her love.

In human relations we indeed owe debts for kindnesses done. Our obligations to honor and care for our parents certainly emerges from our indebtedness to them. Even if we do not love them we are debt bound to show them respect. After all they made effort to put us in the world and raise us. With G-d however it is different. G-d made no effort. Our service to Him cannot come from a debt.

Truth is if our obligation to keep Torah and tradition would eminate from a debt we owe G-d, then Non-Jews should also owe a similar obligation. How can they repay such a huge kindness with a keeping of the minimal seven Noachide laws. And if keeping those laws would be enough to repay our debt to G-d for his kindness then why are we be held liable for 613 commandments?

The answer is that ultimately we are obligated to keep the Torah because of a covenant we accepted at Sinai. The Covenant binds us. We committed ourselves at Sinai to G-d and His Torah and for all generations.
Neither we nor the non-Jews of the world are called to pay a debt to G-d.
Yet, we do have a higher calling. We are challenged to love G-d and to experience His gifts to us as personal kindnesses and invitations to relationship. We are called to gratitude for our blessings so that we may serve Hashem not due to contractual committments but out of love. The feeling of hakarat hatov raises the character of the act of devotion to G-d from obligation to an act of love and relationship. We are not punished for a lack of hakarat hatov. It's not the basis of our requirements to obey the Torah. The feeling of hakarat hatov when serving Hashem offers us an opportunity. When we perform mitzvot out of the feeling of hakarat hatov we are transformed. In the process we become holy. Through the sense of appreciation for our gifts received our service to G-d binds us in love to him, even as it binds husband and wife and all of us in relationships where giving comes out of appreciation rather than indebtedness.

In the portion this week of Va'aira and in the succeeding two weeks we read the story of the Exodus. So many of the mitzvot of the Torah are meant to be
performed "zecher lee'tzeeyat Mitzrayim", "in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt".
That G-d redeemed us from Egypt does not mean we owe him. The ten plagues, the drowning of the Egyptian army at the Sea and the rest were no effort for G-d. Bringing the Exodus about meant no more challenge to Hashem then leaving the status quo. Yet we were redeemed, and by G-d. That was an awesome gift for us. While we owe no debt we are called upon to remember and be grateful, to let the Exodus be an instrument to bring us to a love of G-d and a desire to be close to Him through keeping His commandments.

In actuality though we do not owe G-d for the kindnesses he bestows on us, His gifts to us are manifestations of his love for us. After all G-d does not have any personal need to get met in granting us His blessings. He could just as well withold as grant. If not for His love for us He could ignore our circumstances entirely. For His love for us we are grateful, and in hakarat hatov, we respond in kind with an expression of love for G-d.

You say to me...Okay so what...What's the point here?

As we mature we are called to have our faith mature with us. We need to be thinking about G-d and the nature of our relationship. I cannot love my wife, nor she me unless she and I are thinking about our dynamics and on a regular basis. That is true for you and your spouse as well. All relationhip, to be alive, requires reflection and intentionality. So too, our relationship with G-d needs to occupy our thoughts.

If our relationship with Hashem is to be alive we need to be thinking about its fibre and impact and with regularity. I will tell you this on a personal level.
Once I realized that I don't really owe G-d and my love for Him emerges from a sense of appreciation for the blessings I am given, a whole new world opened up for me.
While it may not change what I do,my new perspective changes the meaning and intentions of my devotion. In the world of the spirit, meaning and intention is everything.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From Zusha to Moshe

There is a well known Hassidic story of the Rebbe Reb Zusha. He was known for the simplicity of his lifestyle and his inspiring humility. He once told his disciples, "When I die and face my judgement I do not fear the angels will ask me why I was not as spiritual as Moshe.I will simply tell them Moshe was a soul so much greater than my own. Nor do I fear they will ask me why I was not as kind as Avraham. If they do I will tell them Avraham was unique in his capacity to do hesed. How can you expect so much of me. Nor do I fear they will ask me why I did not compose songs to G-d as David. If they do I will say how can you compare me to the "sweet singer of Israel". But what I do fear if that they will ask me "Zusha, why were you not Zusha?" and for this I will have no answer!."

I thought of that story as I reflected on the opening parsha of Sh'mot in this the second book of the Torah which we begin this week. In the course of the reading we are told of the selection of Moshe to be the instrument G-d will use to bring an end to our servitude in Egypt and to our great national suffering. Moshe is told by G-d at the burning bush that he is to bring about the Exodus. He is charged with perhaps the greatest role in the history of humanity. Yet Moshe's response is to graciously yet persistantly decline the mission. Over and over he refuses his call. Only when he is partnered with his older brother Aharon does Moshe relent and take on the charge.

So I thought, isn't this odd. Here in the famous tale of Reb Zusha Zusha only worries that he will get to heaven and his failing will be that he was not Zusha, that he did not realize his full potential in his lifetime or worse that he took a wrong turn and became someone other than he was meant to be. Yet Moshe, of whom Reb Zusha spoke in his self reflection, given his preference, is ready to opt-out of being Moshe. Though G-d himeself tells him he is meant to be the one to facilitate the Exodus Moshe says " please send someone else". Why wasn't Moshe worried that when he got to heaven they would say to him "Moshe why were you not Moshe"? How could he have declined his mission and failed to realize his personal destiny?

For all of us who have mused over our life's choices and questioned whether we became who we were meant to be I think the answer to our riddle can be most instructive. What was Zusha really worried about in not being Zusha? And, in contrast, why was Moshe so unconcerned that he might fail his destiny.

The answer is that Zusha never was worried that he might have failed his destiny in choosing the wrong life role, occupation or interest. He was not worried that maybe he should have been a doctor instead of a carpenter or a shoemaker instead of a teacher. What made Zusha anxious was not that he made the wrong choices in the details of his life, no matter how important they may appear. What bothered Zusha was that perhaps he had failed to realize the self he was meant to become. Perhaps
he was meant to become more open to difference and more loving to those who wronged him. Or perhaps the opposite, the Zusha he was meant to become was to be more able to set boundaries and assert expectations. Zusha was worried that while his fame and reputation was for being humble and unassuming maybe the Zusha he was meant to become was assertive and bold. He could not be sure he had become the Zusha he was meant to be. The externals did not matter. It didn't concern him the form his life took. It was the self that troubled him. Zusha was not sure he had become Zusha.

Moshe knew who he was. He was the man willing to stand alone in the face of injustice and at great personal risk. He killed the Egyptian who was beating the Jew at great danger to himself as the story showed. As a consequence he had to flee the wrath of Pharaoh. A refugee, and a stranger in a foreign land, again in the face of injustice he risks to save those in distress. We read just after the story of Moshe slaying the Egyptian that he came to Midian and immediately rose to the defence of the daughters Yitro to save them from the harrassment of the local sheppards. It's clear, Moshe was Moshe. In fact it is because he was Moshe that G-d chose him to redeem his People. When Moshe declined the mission G-d called him to he was not compromising his ability to be true to the self he was meant to be. No matter his life circumstances Moshe was going to realize his personal greatness. Indeed he already had. What Moshe did not want was the role. He begged G-d to send someone else. Whether Moshe would have been the redeemer or remained a sheppard, he would have been true to the realization of his self.

Most of us make the error of spending the bulk of our energy trying to decide on the externals of our life. We worry over carreer choices and where we should invest our energy. We fear we will miss our call, make a mistake that compromises our self and destiny. And when we feel we made an error, sometimes not til years later, we rue our decision and lament our life. Whether we chose the wrong life mate, husband or wife, or whether we chose the wrong carrer path, we become morose over what we feel was a wasted life, that we did not live the life meant for us.

The message I glean from Moshe and the story of his willingness to reject his call is that our focus on the form of our life is misguided. True we may be disappointed. Perhaps we squandered wonderful opportunities that would have been far better for us.
But they are not telling as to the quality of our life. In the end what matters is not what happenned to us or even what we made happen, but rather who we have become.
Is the me I am now the me I was meant to realize? Have I become myself? And if not what need I do to realize the Zusha that is me.

Each of us has a life journey that is unique. To take the journey we need a map. Moshe and Reb Zusha teach us that the map we need is not the map of the world without. The circumstances of our life while important are not defining. The map we need is an inner map, a map of our self. Our life's journey is to come home to our self. For that journey we are not prisoners of our past and it is never too late!

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cheap Grace

Last week at kiddush I asked someone about a mutual friend I had not heard from in some time, ever since he moved up from Jerusalem to the North of Israel. I was shocked to learn that my friend, one I had felt particularly close to, was no longer in the country. In fact, where he was was in Jail in the United States. And that was not all. It turned out that so much of what I knew about my friend was untrue. Even his name was a lie. He was a fugitive from justice and came to Israel six years ago on a false passport. He created a false identity, as a single man, though he was married and with children. His ruse was so successful he even managed to get Israeli citizenship, under his assumed name.
So, you might ask, if he had managed so well for six years to escape justice, how did he wind up back home and in prison? Was he extradited? Did he get caught? No
not at all.

What's just as surprising as the story of my friend's charade is that my friend, of his own accord, went back to the US and turned himself in. He could have lived his lie forever. Yet, saying no goodbyes to all who knew and loved him here in Israel, he simply went home to face his accusers. The question I ask is why? Having successfully eluded serving time, and no small amount of time, why go back?
Indeed we might ask why do so many fugitives from justice seem compelled at some point, perhaps years and years later,to turn themselves in?

To understand this phenomena we might well look at an intriguing passage in the portion of this week, that of Vayechi. After Yaakov died and the brothers and Yosef returned to Egypt we find an fascinating development, a kind of post-script to the story of Yosef and his brothers. The brothers, now all these years after the reconcilliation, became fearful. The Torah reads " And the brothers realized that their father died and they said 'Perhaps now Yosef will hate us and he will pay us back for all the evil we did to him.'" They go on to create a lie telling Yosef that Yaacov, their father, before his death requested of Yosef that he hold no grudge, and that he forgive his siblings and not cause them harm. Yosef, one last time, tells his brothers not to worry. All that happened was the will of G-d.

When the Torah records the fear of the brothers it uses the term in Hebrew "Lu".
Rashi points out that 'lu' usually means 'hopefully'. But it would be odd that the brothers were saying "'Hopefully' Yosef will hate us etc ". Therefor Rashi tells us that here in this singular case in the Torah the word 'lu' means 'perhaps'. So the verse then reads "Perhaps Yosef will hate us..." And 'lu' here is synonomous with the term 'ulaiy' or 'maybe'.

Yet,Freudian that I am, I still might wonder. Why did the brothers then
not say "ulaiy", which always means 'maybe'. Why did they (or the Torah) record their fear with the use of the term "lu" which in every other case means "hopefully". Is there perhaps a double meaning intended here?

I suspect the answer is a resounding "yes"! The brothers, perhaps unconsciously, did indeed want Yosef's wrath at them for the harm they caused him. Else how could they ever come to closure with their past. It would remain hanging over them. They knew they did wrong. They knew that all actions have consequence. True Yosef gifted them with his forgiveness but unless they paid for their wrongdoing they could never feel clean with him. He was magnanamous, but the relationship would be amongst unequals.
They would forever feel shame in his presence. They needed his vengance. They needed to face justice.

The story of my friend, the story of all who escape justice, the story of all of us who wronged another, be it spouse, parent, child, or friend, is that until we pay for our wrong-doing even the generosity of the other will not free us. It does not matter that there is no Javere pursuing us. The book won't feel closed for us. We will struggle to feel an equality with the one we wronged. The relationship will suffer. Could it be that the historical struggle between Judah and the ten Tribes of Israel, dominated by the tribes Menashe and Ephraim that emanate from Yosef, has its roots in the unfinished issues from the sale of Yosef centuries earlier, a sale that never was never adequately healed.
Until and unless we face our misdeeds and atone for them we will feel shame and a relentless anxiety. Yes we need forgiveness...but not forgiveness granted by our victim as an act of grace and generosity. We need a forgiveness earned. Only in earning our atonement can we be healed.

My friend, the one we spoke of at the outset, at one time read this blog. He remains dear to me. I want to be in touch.
If you are reading this now...please let me know how to support you. I hope I will hear from you. I care deeply.

I pray that you and I, unlike the brothers of Yosef, will have opportunity to right our wrongs and to know true healing from shame. Cheap grace is no real gift. Healing and wholeness in the face of wrong-doing needs to be earned.

Please feel encouraged to buy "The Torah and the Self" as a book. It is available at Pomeranz Books in Yerushalayim and online at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon.
I am most appreciative.

Shabbat Shalom