And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?" (Gen 41:38)
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JOSEPH
The parasha this week has so much to offer along the lines of ethical life within the congregation.
WALKING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF HIS FATHERS.
Wherever he goes, whatever he does, Joseph is found to be a reliable, faithful, honest worker and servant. His masters come to admire him and his nameless invisible God who is constantly in his lips. No matter what happened to him, Joseph never deviated from his father’s, grandfather’s , and great-grandfather's examples of integrity, honesty and faithfulness.
HOW DOES HE DO THAT?
It seems that Joseph lived his life according to Murphy's law, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” In spite of it, we don't have any records of any complaints from Joseph. He kept plugging in never complaining, demanding his rights, or pleading his cause. In this we can see the attitude of Isaac with Abimelech (Gen 26), and of Jacob with Laban (Gen: 31:38-42).
This patient resilient attitude seems to be a hallmark of the patriarchs. This spirit of humility and abnegation appears to be a blueprint, almost a messianic blueprint for all the would-be kings and prophets of Israel's history,of in fact, Israel itself, who constantly seems to have to earn its very own divine given right just to exist. Messiah himself was presented to us as one who opened not his mouth in protests against the injustice done against him (Is 53:7).
IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF THE WORLD.
I have written in the past about the need to emulate the silent resilience of the patriarchs, but I think that this parasha has an extra layer of truth to offer us.
Yeshua said,we are in the world but of the world (John 17). The spirit of the world is anti-God. We live in a society that is diametrically opposite to our beliefs. How do we live in it? How do we keep the peace with it and yet preserve our integrity? Joseph's life presents us with a blueprint on how to do that.
We must remember the early disciples whom Yeshua asked to leave Israel and go abroad. They were asked to go live in a place where everything Jewish was complicated, where kosher meat would hard to find, and where everything wreaked of the idolatry they so despised.
In the same manner today, the disciples of the master are asked to live in a world where pride, violence, and lying subterfuges reign. Everywhere we turn we are subject to the vanity and sensuality of this depraved generation which in it's attempt to re-invent God, calls evil “good” and good “evil.”
The most beautiful part of this parasha is this. When Joseph the convict, Joseph the ex-con, Joseph the prisonnier from a foreign land of uneducated folks admonishes Pharaoh to find a "... man both discreet and wise to put in charge of the land of Egypt. … to receive a twenty percent tax on the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. (Gen 41:33-34) A job that could only be entrusted to someone honest and faithful,
“Pharaoh said to his officials, "Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!" So Pharaoh said to Yosef, "Since God has shown you all this -- there is no one as discerning and wise as you --you will be in charge of my household; all my people will be ruled by what you say. Only when I rule from my throne will I be greater than you." Pharaoh said to Yosef, "Here, I place you in charge of the whole land of Egypt." Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Yosef's hand, had him clothed in fine linen with a gold chain around his neck and had him ride in his second best chariot; and they cried before him, "Bow down!" Thus he placed him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. (Gen 41:38-43)
Pagan idolatrous Pharaoh saw the spirit of God in Joseph. He saw the spirit of God in Joseph because of Joseph’s behavior. Joseph really never attempted to verbally teach Pharaoh about the God he served, but his godly behavior was the visual testimony of his invisible nameless God and for this, Pharaoh put Joseph over his whole empire. This often made me think of what King Solomon said, ”When a man's ways please Adonai, he makes even the man's enemies be at peace with him.” (Pro 16:7)
AND WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THIS?
In every generation the children of God have had to deal with harassment, ridicule, or persecution from ungodly folks. The Talmud has many stories about resilient Rabbis who humbly accepted martyrdom.
Many are even found in the Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I have also heard of many stories of Jews and Christians martyrs under stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany.
It is believed by many that we are heading back to a time when those who want to remain faithful to live in the ways of the God of Abraham will find themselves in the minority. We therefore need to learn from people like Joseph, as well as Daniel and Esther. These were people who by their humility, faithfulness, and wisdom ascended to the top of their world and were therefore able to be a positive influence on the government, and even save their people.
We have seen this story with Oscar Schindler whose patient and resilient Jewish accountant became the bridge to save the lives of many. So as it was with Joseph, in times of persecution it could be that our sense of ethical living, honesty, trust, and integrity could be the key to move the mighty hands of the powers that be in the favor of God's children.
Pharaoh who did not know the God of Abraham recognised godliness in Joseph. This visual witness tops any verbal profession of belief.
May we live lives where even the ungodly may be able to to see our good works and praise our Father who is in Heaven.
May we live lives that makes the non-believer want to know the Gd serve.
May we live lives in ways that please HaShem so much that he makes even our enemies to be at peace with us.
May we remember the Maccabees who fought for our way of life at a time when many in Israel had compromised with worldly hellenism.