These are turbulent times for the State of Israel, now that its prime minister has been indicted by the attorney general and his decision to seek immunity. By law a member of Knesset has the right of doing so and the prime minister is not different. Certainly every person has the right, the prime minister included, to enjoy the presumption of innocence. It is not he who needs to prove his innocence but rather it is upon the accuser, in this case the State of Israel, to prove his guilt at a level required by the courts. The discussion about guilt or innocence, legitimate as it may be, should not be instead of a presentation of the case in a court-of-law.
When I read the portion of the Torah of this week, I read it with all of that in mind. We read that, “Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.” After years of separation that began with hatred and jealousy the family reunites. The reunification leaves quite of an impression on the House of Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh requests, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.’” If the tear in the family and the separation tears one’s heart, the unification and ability to promote unity is a reason to rejoice. As a result, “the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Then Israel said, ‘It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.’”
It is about the repair of the tear that the prophet Ezekiel speaks about as we read from the Haftarah of this week. “The word of the Lord came again to me saying, ‘
‘And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.’” He continues, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.’”
It is easy to cause separation, hatred among brothers, promoting one at the expense of the other or vice versa. There is a price to be paid for the separation between Joseph and his brothers, between Judah and Ephraim. This is true today when it is done for political expediency. The price is hefty. It results in wakening the delicate fabric of society where on one side it is necessary to maintain and strengthen diversity and on the other hand promote solidarity. There is no one person who is above it all, no one person, important as may be, that is worthwhile the great price of a societal split. Leaders have a heavy burden upon their shoulders to prevent such rifts as best they can. This is true for their personal conduct towards the public as well as their responsibility to the long term public good.
Joseph is an imperfect man. Even as an adult he cannot hold himself from bragging. He contends, “it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.’’” Not only does he present himself as the father of the Pharaoh but he also hurries the old and embittered man who is his father to rush and come to see him. He has not problem emphasizing, “you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.” Sure, he does have some good reasons to stick it to his brothers, and maybe also settle a grudge with his father who did not go and search for him. It is also fair to assume that his words echoed in the ears of his family long after they were said.
Sometimes the echo is heard many generations later, and maybe it should be echoing in our ears today too. Support of ideas, opinion, actions and approaches have to go beyond a person holding them or promoting them. If that person who holds them is unworthy of our trust then we should and must separate between the two. At the end of the day we are all humans, here today gone tomorrow. We can all err in our ways, even when what we are trying to promote is just, good, true and worthy. This is not an easy time for the State of Israel. Israeli citizens shall be going once more to the ballot to cast their votes in an attempt to settle the issue of leadership this time around. I do hope that we will be found worthy of a leader that we shall be blessed with a worthy leadership so that we shall not be defiled by idols, detestable things, or with any transgressions.
Reuven Marko, 3 January 2020, 7 Tevet, 5780