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Parashat Vayigash

December 31, 2008

By Mark H. Getman

Forgiveness comes in many shades and gradations. In Vayigash we read of Joseph’s forgiveness towards his brothers. As we see in Genesis 45:5 “And now, do not be troubled, nor let it be disturbing in your eyes that you have sold me into this place, for God sent me before you in order to preserve life.” This is a clear indication that Joseph did not harbor any bad feelings towards his brothers for their actions. As we approach the Common New Year many of us recall actions that fell upon us by others over the past year. When those actions occurred to us, did we feel vengeful? When the wrong doers admitted their wrongdoing and took responsibility for what they have done, did we forgive them? Do we feel that it is better or more hurtful to the person we wronged to admit our wrongdoing?

Joseph doesn’t show any signs of vengeance towards his brothers for their actions and, as we read further in verses 7-8, he views the actions committed by his brothers as if they were in fact done because of God’s will, part of a divine intervention and future plan for the people of Israel. “And God sent me here ahead of you to establish for you a remnant in the land, to preserve it for you for your great deliverance. And so it was not you who sent me here but God! And he has appointed me as a father to the Pharaoh, and master of all his house, and ruler in all the land of Egypt.” In this time and age it would be difficult for one to comprehend this situation and be so forgiving. In a way Joseph had established what we now refer to as a Presidential Pardon, as he fully pardoned and forgave his brothers for the hardships they had placed upon him and upon their father. “He fell upon the neck of his brother Binyamin and wept, and Binyamin wept upon his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept in their embrace; afterwards his brothers, too, spoke with him.” (45:14-15) We see that in a few actions, just as a President can pardon a citizen with a stroke of a pen, Joseph forgave and pardoned his brothers, and removed all the burdens of guilt they had carried.

The actions of Joseph were a true act of forgiveness, completely and totally absolving the wrongdoer. When we come to Temple on Yom Kippur, it is this type of forgiveness we seek from God, and we rest assured that God will grant forgiveness, harboring no ill will and no afterthoughts. We should take this lesson from Joseph into our hearts for everyday use. Forgiveness purifies all who are involved in an act of wrong. The perpetrator can move on knowing that the victim has absolved him. But the stain on the wronged party is only eradicated by forgiveness of the truest sort, with no strings attached. This absolution is what is right in the eyes of the Lord.


2LT Mark H Getman is currently a Rabbinical Student at The Academy for Jewish Religion, and is a Chaplain Candidate for the NY Army National Guard. He is assigned to the 258th FA BN HHB in Jamaica, New York and resides in Lawrence, New York.