Does Time Heal All Wounds?
Yosef reunites with his brothers in Egypt more than twenty years after his sale. Those years were filled with trials and tribulations, but they end with a triumphant rise to power. Upon seeing his family again, what does Yosef feel? Is he filled with resentment or have time and good fortune allowed his anger to dim? Does he seek revenge or is he ready to forgive?
- Which of the above do you think motivates Yosef's Treatment of his Family upon their arrival in Egypt? How do you reconcile Yosef's harsh interactions and framing of Binyamin on the one hand, with his simultaneous bestowing of gifts and returning of his siblings' monies on the other?
- How much truth is there in the adage, "time heals all wounds"? If you were in Yosef's shoes, could you put the past behind you? Which emotions would be paramount for you?
Leaders in Exile
The narratives of Yosef, Megillat Esther, and the Book of Daniel all take place in exile and, unsurprisingly, contain many parallels one to another. See Yosef and Megillat Esther, Yosef and Daniel, and Yosef, Esther, and Daniel.
- What does each story teach about life under foreign rule and, more specifically, what it means to be a Jew in a position of leadership in exile? Are the challenges faced by the Biblical protagonists comparable to those faced by leaders today?
- Is it justified for a leader to compromise their Jewish values in order to maintain a position of power that will enable them to advocate for their nation? Should a leader's goal in the Diaspora be simply survival, or an active promotion of their beliefs and religion? How did each of Yosef, Esther, and Daniel answer these questions?1
- In both the stories of Yosef and Megillat Esther, Hashem works behind the scenes, whereas in the Book of Daniel, His miraculous intervention is explicit. What might be the reason for the difference? Do you think that Hashem's providence is generally less prominent in exile than in the Land of Israel?
Yosef the Righteous?
In Rabbinic literature, Yosef is frequently referred to as "יוסף הצדיק". Yet, some commentators have suggested that Yosef actually began to assimilate in Egypt. With which portrait do you agree? What evidence can you bring to support each position?
- To what extent was Yosef personally responsible for his brothers' hatred of him? Does he learn from his mistakes as the narrative progresses?
- Yosef names his son Menashe, "כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים אֶת כׇּל עֲמָלִי וְאֵת כׇּל בֵּית אָבִי". Does this suggest that Yosef actively decided to turn his back on his family and heritage? How (if at all) did Yosef's religious identity change over the course of his stay in Egypt?2
- What leads people to either stray from their faith or to return to it?
Man Playing God
- According to Ramban, Yosef's actions in Egypt were guided by a desire to fulfill his dreams. He contends that dreams are a form of prophecy and a person who is granted such knowledge is obligated to actualize Hashem's will. Abarbanel challenge this assumption, asserting that it is the responsibility of Hashem, and not man, to bring prophecies to fruition. With whom do you agree?
- Abarbanel himself claims that Yosef inflicted suffering on his brothers in order to help them attain penance for their sins toward him. Yosef wanted them to be punished in this world, to spare them a worse punishment in the World to Come. Is punishing his brothers any more Yosef's job than fulfilling prophecies?