In the book of Genesis, Joseph and the pharaoh he served are depicted as a team so effective that they were able to safeguard Egypt during a lengthy and intense famine. Importantly though, their relationship seems equally strong on a personal level, and there are multiple times in the story when Pharaoh seems to provide emotional support for Joseph as well as economic support for the Israelites. In this #MidrashicMonologue, we revisit the relationship between these two men and imagine a scene that reveals just how much they relied on one another.
One of the things I love most about Joseph is that he seems to contain an endless, churning well of emotion that is always ready to overflow and escape. His laughter begins as a small hiccup of a sound but then, almost immediately, bursts from his chest in loud and raucous waves. And of course the reverse is true as well. When Joseph cries, he weeps until every drop of grief and pain has poured out of him, until his well has run dry.
The day Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he wept for hours. I had experienced such emotional floods before and knew him well enough to understand that he did not want to be soothed. And so I simply held him as we rocked together.
Joseph spoke of his relief at seeing his brothers. He explained that they seemed to have changed and were no longer the cruel bullies that they had been. I could tell that their evolution was painful for him. Even as he rejoiced in seeing the men that they had become, he grieved for the brotherhood he had lost. His voice became a whisper when he told me that his most precious dream had come true and that his father was still alive.
When Joseph finally quieted, I pushed his hair from his face and said, “I see the shadows that still hide in your eyes. Tell me what is worrying you.”
“Nothing, nothing,” Joseph replied. “I’m so grateful that my father still lives and that I’ll get the chance to know my brother, Benjamin. I will visit them as often as I can, and we will be a family again.”
I thought for a moment, trying to interpret Joseph’s words as he had once interpreted my dreams.
“The journey to their camp will be difficult and onerous. Why not bring them here?”
Joseph startled and sat back. He whispered, “To Egypt? I could bring my family to live in your kingdom?”
I smiled at his surprise, “Is Egypt not where you live? Is this not your home? Why not travel to your birthplace, gather your father and siblings, and bring them to my land?”
Joseph laughed, his joy beginning to overflow, and then said, “Dodi (my beloved), there is a famine! We are short supplied as it is. My brothers are grown men now, and they will bring with them wives, children, and attendants. They will bring flocks of animals that will need water and pastures. This is not a small thing to offer.”
“Nedjem (my sweet),” I replied, “Do you truly think I would deny you the family that you have mourned for so many years? That I would keep you from the father and siblings you have longed to see? Joseph, just as you have provided for our people, I will provide for yours. Your siblings will be given land for their families and their animals. Your father will want for nothing while he lives in Egypt. The man who created you will be given the best that your new homeland has to offer.”
Joseph’s eyes began shining once again; the well within him had been replenished- this time with a tearful joy. As the torrent of his feelings began to escape him, I gathered him close and soothed him with promises for our future.
“Someday, when we are old men, we will walk the streets of our kingdom, watching as Egyptian children play with descendants of Jacob. In the historical records, we will be the turning point, the joyful moment when our two peoples became one. All pharaohs who come after me will know your people as friends and neighbors, and the children of Jacob will be safe in this land from this day until the last day.”