The Curious Case of Benjamin Busted: Miketz 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How did you learn to hold yourself accountable for your deeds? Did certain life events help you to learn this skill? Or did you learn it more from the example of people in your life?

When Joseph’s brothers meet Joseph in Egypt but cannot recognize him, they finally begin to realize the mistakes they have made over the years:

The Pitch: “Joseph said them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that someone in my position practices divination?’ Judah replied, ‘What can we say to my lord? How can we plead, how can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered the crime of your servants. Here we are, then, slaves of my lord, the rest of us as much as he in whose possession the goblet was found.’” – Genesis 44:15-16

Swing #1: “Upon the discovery of the goblet in Benjamin’s possession, the brothers rent their clothes, demonstrating the pain they truly felt. Benjamin’s siblings, the same ones who ripped the coat off Joseph and caused their father Jacob to rend his garments in mourning over the loss of his son, now appear before Joseph in tattered garments. Yet, at the same time they are moving towards a greater sense of themselves. Precisely at this point the brothers collectively admit their guilt …” – Norman J. Cohen, Self, Struggle & Change: Family Conflict Stories in Genesis and Their Healing Insights for Our Lives

Swing #2: “‘What shall we say unto my Lord?’ – referring to the first money (in Benjamin’s sack). ‘What shall we speak?’ – referring to the second money (in Benjamin’s sack), ‘or how shall we clear ourselves?’ – with the cup. ‘What shall we say unto my Lord?’ – referring to the incident of Tamar, ‘What shall we speak?’ – referring to the deed of Reuben [sleeping with Bilhah], ‘Or how shall we clear ourselves?’ – referring to the deed of [pillaging] Shechem. ‘What shall we say unto my Lord?’ – what shall we say to Father in the land of Canaan regarding Joseph? ‘What shall we speak?’ – with reference to Simeon, ‘Or how shall we clear ourselves?’ – regarding Benjamin.” – Midrash Rabbah

Swing #3: “‘What is this deed you have done?’ [Joseph] asks the brothers when they are brought back under arrest to the palace, and the general terms in which he couches the accusation touch all the way back to their criminal act against him two decades past. ‘Didn’t you know’ – and of course there was all too much they did not know – ‘that a man like me would certainly practice divination [or, would certainly manage to divine it]?’” – Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative

Late-Inning Questions: Is holding oneself accountable a learned trait or a natural inclination? Did Joseph’s brothers take too long to recognize their missteps?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are thrilled to honor Charlot Karesh for her years of service to our synagogue and community. Please join us at services Saturday at 9:30AM to celebrate her presence in our lives.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of accountability, my all-time favorite manager was Jim Leyland. I was most impressed with how he led the Detroit Tigers to an improbable American League pennant in 2006, only to lose to an inferior St. Louis Cardinals team in the World Series. After the Tigers won the pennant, he deflected credit to his players and coaches. But after losing the World Series, he insisted on taking all the blame. That’s leadership.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!