2017-12-20 / Religion Column

Reframing our lives and finding transformation

RABBI LARRY SERNOVITZ
Nafshenu, Cherry Hill

Parashat Vayigash
Gen. 44:18-47:27

Life is not always so easy. Yes, there are plenty of simchas, of joys in the world. We celebrate the birth of a new child, or grandchild. We watch the little ones take their first steps, unsteady as they might be. We watch with anticipation as they hit certain milestones and grow into little people, each with their own character and personality. The same goes for our own lives. We think back upon our first jobs, our first loves, and our first homes. I believe my first job was working at a Blockbuster Video store as a teenager. Remember them? But, very much like Adam and Eve, none of us have the privilege of residing in the Garden of Eden forever, even though many of us relish in the opportunity.

We are all very well aware that life is also filled with disappointment and sadness. There is sickness, either our own or a loved one. We lose the jobs that we thought were our dream jobs. Those first loves, which we feel would last forever, sometimes end up in separation and divorce. The rose colored glasses we wore as kids don’t seem to be working anymore and we see that the world is not such a pleasant place to live and to raise children. We lose hope that anything can be done about it.

As Jews, we have an eternal hope within our hearts and souls. This is what faith is all about. This week, we read Parashat Vayigash from the book of Genesis. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers for the first time, only after he believes they had matured, as represented by Judah standing up for the youngest brother Benjamin. You can just imagine the look in their eyes when they realize that the brother they had thrown in the empty pit and sold into slavery years ago was alive and standing in front of them!

Joseph says in Genesis 45:5, “Don’t be grieved, nor angry with yourselves that you sold me here. God sent me before you to preserve life.” In essence, Joseph says to his brothers that all of this was meant to be. It was as if he was saying, “Yes, it is true that I didn’t enjoy the suffering and being separated from my family for all these years. But, I realized that out of suffering and crisis comes opportunity and growth.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the UK, puts it this way, “Joseph had reframed his entire past. He no longer saw himself as a man wronged by his brothers. He had come to see himself as a man charged with a life-saving mission by God. Everything that had happened to him was necessary so that he could achieve his purpose in life: to save an entire region from starvation during a famine, and to provide a safe haven for his family.” What if we were to reframe our lives this way as well. All of our lives we have lived to this very moment. What have we been called to do?

We can be upset about what has happened to us in our lives or we can rise up and reframe our lives, searching for that deep sense of meaning and purpose. From Joseph, we can improve our lives, our marriages, our jobs and the relationship with our kids if we reframe the way we see them. It just takes a little growing up on our parts, and a lot of faith. 

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