Forgiveness

December 5, 2013
BY Zach Zaiman
Parshat Vayigash

The themes of reunification and forgiveness are reflected in this week’s Haftorah and parsha. The Haftorah features the prophet Ezekiel following God’s instructions — taking two sticks and carving the names of the kingdoms of Ephraim and Judah on each and raising them together as one stick before the people. Ezekiel’s act, as commanded by God, not only symbolizes the reunification of the two kingdoms into “a single nation in the land, on the hills of Israel,” but also God having mercy on the Jewish people. In the parsha, the act of reunification is when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers (“I am Jospeh … come forward to me”).

Grave offenses have been committed against God and Joseph prior to their acts of reunification. Before Ezekiel’s prophecy, the Temple was destroyed. The Talmud teaches us that it was destroyed because the Jews failed to follow the word of God. They change their ways after God punishes them. As for Joseph, his brothers had treated him horribly, selling him into slavery to permanently get rid of him. When Joseph saw Judah offer to stay in jail for his brother, he realized that his brothers, too, had changed and Joseph was able to forgive them, just as God forgave the Jewish people after He recognized that they had repented.

In the Torah and Haftorah we see the importance of the relationship between God and the Jewish people and of Joseph and his family. As the oldest child in my family, I know how hard it is to forgive, especially when I think I have been terribly wronged. In these moments of sometimes dramatic conflict — let’s say with a brother or sister — my parents remind me to focus on what is important. I could choose to hold on to the offense or I could forgive in order to maintain and improve the relationship. My goal is to act as God (and Joseph) did by focusing on what’s important.

Focusing on what is important is a recurring theme in this week’s parsha and Haftorah. God’s actions demonstrate the importance of forgiveness to bring the Jewish people back together. For Joseph, forgiveness brought his family together. God and Joseph provide a lesson to focus on what is important. It is a lesson we should all learn.

Zach Zaiman is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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