July 18, 2024
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Vayigash 5776: Backwards Looking

Joseph plays out an elaborate ruse. He has seemingly imprisoned Shimon, and then released him to his brothers. Then, he has the monies once again returned to each brother, and finally, sneaks his silver goblet into Benjamin’s sack. The chase by his courtier is a false one. As is the accusation of thievery.

Even the actual consequence is fake. They don’t know it, of course. But neither Benjamin nor any of the other brothers are in danger of jail or other punishment.

They only find that out at the very end.

That happens often in our national political discourse. We often don’t know the full story until the very end, or even years and, sometimes, decades later. Classified information, personal memoirs, and yes, the benefit of hindsight all play a part.

The true nature of a threat, how close war came, or how safe we truly were, is only known later on. We, like Joseph’s brothers, can only act based on the information before us. And, only with the backwards glance of history will we have the whole story and understand each decision in its moment.

Words to consider. Ideas to ponder. Politics and the parsha.

Howie Beigelman, formerly of Springfield, NJ, is executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities. He works at the intersection of Jewish communal service, non-profit advocacy, and strategic communications. Follow him on Twitter @howielb.

By Howie Beigelman

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