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Sibling Rivalry

Thursday, 29 December, 2011 - 11:59 am

A Word From The Rabbi's Brother

By Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman Director of Chabad of Peabody and Certified Mohel

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I sit here at Toronto International airport returning from a quick trip to Toronto to perform the brisim (circumcisions (plural)) for my sisters' twin boys. It was a big honor to be able to perform these brisim and certainly got me thinking. Kids, boys, siblings, usually translates into a lot of excitement, hopefully positive, but often not so much.

Many kids usually equals many problems. If anyone thought that sibling rivalry was somthing unique to their family, they need not look farther than this week's Torah portion and the drama of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph is giving his siblings a run for their money for having sold him into slavery and telling their father that he must be dead.

Now, no matter how ugly any of our personal family disputes may have ever gotten, (and beleive you me, I come from a family of 11 so we had our fair share) I think one would be hard pressed to match the drama that took place in this week's Torah portion. Selling a brother, only after deciding that it was better to do than to kill him for "no profit." And then when the younger brother ascends to power, he plays games with them frightening them, imprisoning them, holding one hostage until the youngest sibling is brought down to Egypt all in the name of getting them to appreciated the gravity of their sin that they had perpetrated years earlier.  

And yet, it is these final words of this section that always gets me most "Now Joseph could not bear all those standing beside him, and he called out, "Take everyone away from me!" So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers

The story unfolds how Joseph makes his identity known to his siblings but cannot and will not allow for others to be present as he does so.

After all they had done to him, he could have had the "last laugh" and made them pay and tell his buddies, "watch their reaction when I tell them I am Joseph whom they sold into slavery." Instead, at the nadir of their frustration with him, he still wants to preserve their honor and integrity. "No one should be present" he declares "as I make my identity know to them... "

I think there is a very powerful message to behold here, we all have "issues" with our brothers, some biological, some of our fellow Jews and some fellow humans, but we have to constantly remember, that after all is said and done, they are our brother. And we aught not to add shame and ridicule on top of whatever existing problems exist. 

If we are big like Joseph, we will forgive them, and even that forgiveness we give with dignity. If we are not ready, or they are not ready for reconciliation, Joseph teaches us, to still protect their honor and dignity.

As we approach the NewYear, I propose we find just one of our "brothers" and forgive them, and start, as Joseph did, by turning a new page, and forgiving someone we never thought we could.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!

Rabbi Schusterman

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