The Pit of Choice

In this week’s Torah portion Joseph tells his brothers of his dream that their sheaves will bow down to his sheaf (Gen. 37:7). It is clear to many commentators that Joseph’s dreams are really prophecies. The reader sees the dramatic irony unfolding. Jacob makes it clear to everyone that Joseph is his chosen son. This open display of favoritism moves his brothers to the brink of fratricide. Once they get him alone they throw him into a pit and eventually Joseph gets sold into slavery in Egypt. There, Joseph lived through the nightmares of being alone, slavery, and emprisonment. Eventually Joseph finds himself in a position of security and power. During the famine, his brothers, seeking wheat, come to bow before him. Sure enough in the passing of time Joseph’s dream becomes a reality.

But maybe there is another way in which Joseph’s vision come true. After they stick their little brother in the pit they sit around and eat lunch (Gen. 37: 24-25). Following the theme of his dream it is noteworthy that they are sitting around looking down at their brother with bread in their hands. Joseph is but a young seed just put in the ground and they are looking down at him from their position of power. Their wheat has already risen, but eventually, Joseph’s stalk will rise up over theirs. Their necks craned down at him in the pit will actually become their act of bowing.

While their display of aggression is a horrible misuse of power, it is not as if Joseph is free from blame. Even if he had this dream, he did not need to share it with his brothers. What is the value of having one person bow before another? Personally and nationally we have nothing to gain from objectifying people by looking down at or bowing down to them. In this context it is important to examine what we have invested in the national vestment of being “The Chosen People”. If we choose to identify ourselves as being chosen, we should be mindful of how we choose to communicate this dream to our brothers.

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