Genesis 41:1 – 44:17
[This drash is inspired by a teaching from Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, published in the CCAR newsletter in 2015]
Young Joseph was the model of arrogance. He was the beloved of Jacob and he knew it. He wore a special coat. He even dreamed how his family would bow before him.
The thing is, that is what eventually led to his downfall – literally, in a pit, thrown there and abandoned by his own brothers. Slave traders found him there, and brought him to Egypt, where Joseph began to learn humility.
We see it first when he tries to fend off the amorous attentions of Potiphar’s wife. We see it again when he declares before Pharaoh that it is God, not he, who is interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. And we see it when Joseph, as Viceroy of Egypt, reveals himself to his brothers and explains that he bears them no ill will. His humility allows him to see that God brought him to Egypt not for his own aggrandizement, but so that he could save his family from famine.
In other words, Joseph’s life is a lesson in the pitfalls of arrogance and in the healing power of humility. When we are arrogant, there is no room for anyone else in our world. In the end, by making everything about us, we find ourselves utterly alone, in a pit of our own making. On the other hand, when we cultivate humility, we see our value in relation to others. We see the contributions and benefit we offer each other, and we find more meaning in the good we do than in the honors we try to collect.
What would our world be like today, if more us could learn from Joseph’s example?
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras