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Rabbi Kalmar's Message Parshat Miketz 5781

"I Was Wrong"-Humanity’s Most Profound Words?"

Why does Yosef torture his brothers?  Why doesn’t he just embrace them and say – it’s ok – I’m so happy to see you and break down crying like he does in next week’s parsha?   Why does he put them through this whole strange saga of accusations, imprisonments, flattering, wining and dining and returning their money and good and bad cop-ing them?   It seems cruel and unnecessary.  

If he wanted to give them a tough time – why didn’t he just tell them off when they showed up?  Why the cloak and dagger?

I want to suggest that it was because he wanted one thing from them – to recognize that what they had done was wrong.  The first part of that admission comes in the middle of this week’s parsha when the brothers say -

ויאמרו איש אל אחיו אבל אשמים אנחנו על אחינו אשר ראינו צרת נפשו בהתחננו אלינו ולא שמענו על כן באה אלינו הצרה הזאת.

And they said to one another, "Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us."

Yosef wanted the brothers to admit to each other and to themselves that they were wrong.  

This is one of the hardest things in the world to do – to admit that you were wrong.  We are always so sure that we are right and that everything we do is amazing.  Studies show that 88% of drivers believe they are above average in driving ability.  Clearly – many of them are wrong.  But it is incredibly hard to admit it.

At the beginning of this week’s parsha we have a statement from the Chief Butler of Pharaoh – Es Chata-ai Ani Mazkir Hayom – “My sins do I recognize today”.  When he realized that he had forgotten for two years about Yosef and that he had sinned before Pharaoh – he uttered a phrase that has become ubiquitous in Israeli parlance – to mean – I messed up – and I’m taking ownership of it now.

It is incredibly difficult to do.  Our reaction to someone confronting us with what we have done wrong is to cover it up – to come up with excuses – to protest – to dig in.  In relationships, in friendships, at work – we will do anything but own up to our doing wrong – the dog ate my homework – is not just for kids.  We all do it – all the time.

The difference between Melech Dovid – King David and Melech Shaul – King Saul – is the way that they responded to proof of their wrongdoing.  Shaul gave excuses – the people made me do it, it wasn’t really so bad.. etc. etc. We are familiar with that kind of approach because we do it all the time.   

Dovid’s response to Nasan HaNavi’s accusation of his wrongdoing – ‘Chatasi’ – I sinned.  I messed up.  And Dovid’s line is the line from which Moshiach will come.  Because the grandest thing that a human being can do is to be honest with themselves and with others and admit wrongdoing.  God knows that He did not create angels.  We are human beings and we are flawed.  But God wants us to own those flaws – to be able to admit what we have done and to change.   The first question God asks human beings in history is Ayekah – where are you?  Where are you Adam?  Was He really asking him where he was?  Did He not know?   God knew- He was giving Adam a chance to say – “I messed up”  “I did wrong”  Unfortunately, Adam fails that test and starts making excuses.  Mankind has been following that lead ever since.  

The greatest act of courage is to admit one’s faults and mistakes and to own them.  This is what Josef wanted for his brothers.  This is what makes David’s line the one that will bring us back to greatness.  In our relationships and in our lives – the biggest step to making wrong right – is to admit the wrong.   It is very hard to do.  But it is Humanity’s most profound gesture.  And the surest way to begin a healing
process with others and with ourselves.
Good Shabbos

Mon, March 8 2021 24 Adar 5781