“My brother”. Those words conjure up many images. The supportive friend; the defending, older brother; the proud, younger sibling; the loving neighbor—all portraying a deep relationship that isn’t intended to be broken. In Hebrew the term “achi” is used freely, yet meaningfully, in friendly discussions, business interactions, on the front in the heat of battle, in the hospital while visiting the sick.
Yosef being reunited with his brothers is an emotional, suspense story that begins in this Parsha, and ends in next week’s Parsha (Vayigash). The pain, guilt, regret, and fear that Yosef’s ten older brothers experience, together with their refusal to hurt their younger brother Binyomin and their father Yaakov Avinu, as they had hurt Yosef HaTzaddik, is a deep lesson in teshuva (repentance). Making amends for the past, by correcting one’s actions in order not to repeat them again in any form, is one of the heroic aspects of this story.
The power of the oldest brothers taking responsibility for the youngest one is a model of the finest character traits. Respecting their elderly father’s wishes, the brothers avoided doing anything that might bring harm to their half- brother, who was Yosef’s only full brother. They were extra careful to protect him, from physical, emotional and spiritual difficulties. We should remember that we are not talking about children—Yosef was already in his late thirties, with all the brothers, besides Binyomen, being older. Yet they went out of their way, even putting their lives on the line, in order to support their brother.
Sibling rivalry, uncontrolled, can hurt, even destroy, G-d forbid, family relationships well into a person’s old age. Brothers and sisters are severed from their family ties, leaving a huge, gaping hole in the hearts and souls of all family members. This hole makes it difficult for people to reach their emotional potential in this world, and it is our responsibility as parents to protect our own, growing children from such pain.
THIS WEEK: Chanuka is a wonderful, family-oriented holiday, eight evenings of warmth, light, games, money and gifts. Let’s take a closer look at our family interactions, and help our children look out for each other—in receiving, when lighting the Chanukiah, in fair playing, and in their manner of speech to one other. Surely it will bring upon us a warmer and more peaceful winter.