“So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt (Bereishit 45:8).”


Yosef is able to de-personalize the entire dynamic that existed between himself and his brothers. That entire cycle of his own proclamations that he will eventually rule over them, his being the obvious favorite son of their father, their hatred of him for which they ultimately threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave, ceases to be a personal issue for him. The resentment that he harbored for his treatment, the pain that he probably felt for being cast out of the family, all dissipate when he sees the entire scenario as part of the Divine plan. There is a cosmic purpose to everything that brought them to their current situation. Yosef’s position in Egypt is not due to any superior qualities that he himself possesses, but because God’s plan made his rank necessary. 


Sforno comments “Now that you have seen God’s purpose, a purpose that could not have been achieved without all the various stages preceding it, it is no more than reasonable to suppose that the further distant causes which led up to all this were also part of God’s plan.” 


This can be seen in at least two different ways. According to one view, this is an example of the divine right of kings. Yosef is the most powerful man in Egypt, and because of the regional famine, he is the most powerful man in the region. His power is firm and unquestionable because it is granted to him by God. The Divine plan unfolds in such a way as to put Yosef in command. The Divine will is mainly a source of human power and hierarchy.


According to another view, human power is itself irrelevant. What matters is the Divine will, and what is necessary is for human beings to try to recognize it. If we understand that Yosef looks at everything that led to this moment in this light, then he does not take his high rank for granted, nor does he claim his power as something that he must jealously guard. He is able to contextualize his dreams of future power that he had in his teens, and his brothers’ hate and resentment because of it, as part of a greater process that is larger than all of them. He also, in a way, humbles himself before his brothers, by stating that his power is not truly his own. He, like his brothers, is part of a greater process. 


This understanding that his life is part of a larger historical process that is Divinely ordained is an antidote to egocentric thinking. This allows him to wield his power wisely and selflessly. It also allows his relationship with his brothers to heal. Knowing that his life is not his, but God’s; knowing that his power is not his, but God’s; knowing that it is irrelevant who is at fault for what in his dysfunctional relationship with his brothers, allows for peace between Yaakov’s sons, and for Yosef to face life without any egocentric attachments. Let us try to cultivate an awareness of the fact that our own lives are part of processes larger than ourselves, and put aside egotistical drives and attachments.


Shabbat Shalom!

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