Joseph and his family

Parshat Vayigash

Genesis 44:18-47:27

This dramatic Torah portion describes Joseph’s revelation to his brothers.  Joseph is no stranger to revelations.  He is a dreamer and a visionary. Throughout his life his dreams have revealed the future even when others haven’t wanted to acknowledge or hear about them. Joseph is prophetic.  When he was a young boy he dreamed that his brothers would bow down to him.  And that is exactly what has unfolded. He dreamed of the cycle of  plenty and the cycle of famine that would strike Egypt and that is exactly what has unfolded.
But now not in a dream but in his own house his brothers are before him, bowing and pleading.  And the revelation this time comes not in a dream but in reality.

“I am Joseph your brother,” he says to them.  Again, there is great disbelief. He doesn’t look like Joseph their brother. He is an Egyptian lord.  He is Egyptian royalty.  This is a revelation that no one was prepared for, not Joseph, not Benjamin, not the other brothers, and not the Egyptians.  Tears flow freely.

Joseph who has become an Egyptian for all intents and purposes over the course of time straddles the world of his past and the world of present.  He brings his family to the Land of Goshen and resettles them; being able to reunite with his beloved father, Jacob.

Joseph becomes their protector and ensures that Jacob and his tribe thrive in the new land.

Joseph is surrounded now by both his family of origin and his family of choice!  He tries to integrate and translate between them and the cultures.  He instructs his brothers what to say to Pharaoh. His own children are adopted by his father perhaps in an effort to make sure that his Egyptian children understand and come to know the traditions of Joseph’s origins. Joseph becomes the protector of his family. Joseph is father to his father and father to brothers as he “sustained this father and his brothers, and all his father’s household with bread, down to the little ones.” (Gen. 47:12).

In this holiday season when families gather together let us be reminded of the story of Joseph and his brothers that even though they had difficulties through the years they do come in the end to be reunited.  That is the goal of family. For Joseph it took many years but it was possible with forgiveness, reconciliation and faith in God.

2 thoughts on “Joseph and his family

  1. I love this story. This is a wonderful piece of literature, artfully told, and speaks so much of God’s grace through the tenderness, compassion and reconciliation of human beings.

    My question: in reading portions of the Torah throughout the year, how do you cut this lengthy story up into “digestable” segments? It is so long it is sadly neglected in many Christian church readings (only a little piece of the reunion of Joseph with his brothers). — Dan Hooper

    1. Hi Rev. Dan! We divide this story over several weeks. It is the way the division of our Torah portions work. You would understand this as the lectionary reading. The five books of Moses, the Torah, is divided into weekly readings beginning with Genesis and reading through until the end of the Deuteronomy. We even have a holy day to celebrate the end of the reading of the Torah and the immediate starting over of the reading cycle-it is called Simchat Torah. The rejoicing in Torah! This happens in the fall just after the Jewish New Year.

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