“By this you will be tested: By Pharaoh’s life you will not go out from here except if comes here your youngest brother.” (Bereshis/Genesis 42:15). Unbeknownst to them, Joseph is reunited with ten of his brothers. Not the most loving reunion, or is it?

The Tug-of-War Duel Between Love and Love

The parsha for this Sabbath is Mikeitz. In it, we learn about Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph’s interpretation of it and his ascent to Viceroy of Egypt. Next, the famine begins resulting in Jacob sending ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food.

Joseph knows he must do everything possible to bring about the fulfillment of prophecy as shown in his dreams so he treats his brothers harshly and requires them to bring Benjamin to Egypt. At first Jacob will not do so but the lack of food becomes so severe he has no choice. Finally, Joseph endeavors to find out if his brothers’ attitude has truly changed.

In this week’s parsha, we see the true nature of love. In last week’s parsha, when the brothers are faced with Jospeh’s privileged treatment they react by first plotting to kill him and then selling him into slavery. Of course, Joseph was not blameless. He had been speaking lashon hora, telling tales about his brothers. But like a true tzadik, he accepts his punishment and uses it as an opportunity to refine his character.

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Joseph elevated himself spiritually and was elevated societally by Pharaoh. How easy it would have been for him, upon seeing his brothers in Egypt, especially when they bow down to him, to have said, “See! I was right!” But such conduct would have been unbecoming to the mature Joseph.

He also could have welcomed his brothers with open arms, coddled them, and given them everything they asked for without conditions, no questions asked. Would this have given his brothers the opportunity to come to terms with their faults? Certainly not.

Rather, because he loves his brothers he chooses a path that gives them the opportunity to demonstrate that they too have learned from their mistakes. In doing so Joseph must mistreat them. No peremptory forgiveness is offered. But in the end, the entire Jewish people is the benefactor since the brothers’ refined character became a permanent part of their legacy.

Loving someone, whether your spouse, child, or friend, does not always mean taking the easy path. You must constantly strive to improve yourself while seeking how best to help those who you love.

Sometimes your love must be comforting, others times tough.

As you wrestle with deciding which to emphasize in a given situation, you will build your own character. As well, you will gain ever-greater insight into how the seeming vicissitudes of life are actually G-d demonstrating His love for you, depending on whether adversity or solace will best help you grow.

Please take just a minute to share how you decide to use comfort or tough love…

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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