Forgiveness and Family Feuds
How to Apologize
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
Join Rabbi Fohrman as he builds on the ideas first explored in Aleph Beta's course, Is There a Right Way to Do Teshuvah.
There are these things that you can do but you really do them in your own head. If you regret what you've done, so you do that in your own head. If you accept not to do it again, that happens in your own head. If you stop doing the thing that was wrong, it happens in your own head. Confession, confessing what you've done, does not happen in your own head, it takes two to tango, you need the other one there, the one that you've offended there. So it's really the only interpersonal element of Teshuva - which already is saying something interesting. What it's saying is, is that even though Teshuva might be personally transformative, it might transform you, that's not the Mitzvah, that's not the command. The command isn't self-improvement, it's not about 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, 30 Days To A Better You, I'm OK You're OK, it's not self-help, that's not what Teshuva is. Teshuva may also help you, but that's not the Mitzvah, only you can decide whether to help yourself, so only you can decide whether you want to improve and whether you want to get involved in a Teshuva process. That's not a Mitzvah. The Mitzvah is, if you decide to do that, you decide to return, make sure you include the interpersonal element too, the Vidui element. What does Vidui do? What we suggested in that course is that you can really divide up Teshuva into two different parts; the Vidui part and everything else. What is the everything else part? The everything else part, if you think about it the other three elements they line up in terms of time, they line up in terms of past, present and future. Charotah - regret is something I do now with reference to the past. Accepting not to do a wrong again is something that I do now with reference to the future. Stopping to do the thing that's wrong is something that I do now with reference to the present.
Which leads to a very interesting possibility; maybe these three things are actually the same thing and the only difference between them is time? You can almost express it algebraically, you could say these three things maybe they're actually X, it's just Charotah is X to the past, Azivas HaCheit is X to the present, and Kabala L'osid - accepting not to do it again is X to the future. Now, factor out time algebraically and solve for X. Right? So what is X? It's really just an algebraic problem. What is X? X is leaving behind the sin, is distancing yourself from a wrongdoing. But how do you distance yourself from a wrongdoing? You have to do it in past, present and future, because if you don't you're still connected.
So here's a little piece of last year's video that I didn't get to put in that video but which kind of makes this concrete and is somewhat entertaining, so indulge me here while I try to share this with you. So imagine for a moment that you've got this sin, this secret sin that you're working on. So imagine - I think the idea that we used in the videos was cheeseburgers. So what better time to eat cheeseburgers than right before Ne'ilah on Yom Kippur. Imagine I'm a Rabbi and I have this secret thing for cheeseburgers and I duck out every year to McDonald's right before Ne'ilah on Yom Kippur, it's terrible, it's awful. But the one year I decide I'm turning over a new leaf, I'm going to do Teshuva. So what does Teshuva look like?
Let's say I just do Teshuva in the present, what then? Let's say I just leave the sin behind, because that's obviously the first thing I have to do. So the first thing I do is I say, you know what, this year, I'm actually going to be in Shul right before Ne'ilah, I'm not going to eat the cheeseburger. Okay, so that's great. So my friend Bob he sees me, he knows about my secret sin with cheeseburgers, he sees me in Shul, he says, David, what are you doing in Shul at this time of year? Usually you're not around. I say, well turning over a new leaf, you know, no cheeseburgers this time around. He says, wow that's really impressive.
But what if he asks me, and what about last year? Now what if my response to what about last year is, last year those cheeseburgers they were so good, I'm telling you. You know, I'm making it through Ne'ilah this year, I'm just remembering the fumes on those cheeseburgers, just thinking about those cheeseburgers is what gets me through. You would say, I still have some work to do in leaving behind the sin, I'm connected to it by virtue of the past. I really have to be able to say, look, as good as those cheeseburgers are, if had to do it over again, I would have done it without the cheeseburgers. You need to regret having done it, to let it go in the past.
You also need to let it go in the future, because what if Bob says to me, ah and what about next year? What if I say, well let's take it one year at a time, cheeseburgers are cheeseburgers and we'll just have to see how next - and if I get by this year by anticipating next year's cheeseburgers, I'm also connected, not by virtue of the sin in the present but by virtue of its future impact upon my present.
So in other words, we are human beings that live in past, present and future, that is how we live. What makes you human is your ability right now to not just live in the present, to anticipate the future, to remember the past. All of these are things that change how you experience life now. So as a human being to leave something behind you really need to leave it behind now for now, now for the future, now for the past.
Great. If you've done that you're a great Tzadik, right? No. According to the Rambam you haven't even touched the Mitzvah yet. All of that is just self-improvement. That's just you. What about you and someone else? The idea that I argued with - that I suggested to you last year, is that every wrongdoing affects someone. It either affects your relationship with G-d, it affects your relationship with someone else or it affects both. Confession is the part that's meant to heal that.
In Hebrew there is a - and the Rambam talks about this. The analogy he gives is like a Mikvah. He analogizes confession to a kind of a Mikvah, he says, in order for the Mikvah to work, to make you pure - immersion in this ritual bath - in order for it to make you pure you have to let go of the thing that's making you impure. So if you've touched this insect you have to let go of the insect. Or you have to at least let go of the sin, right? You have to do those other elements in Teshuva that involve letting go of a wrongdoing. But once you do that, you're ready to go in the Mikvah. The Mikvah is transformative. Letting go of something impure does not transform you, you're still Halachically, in Jewish law, Tamei - impure - if you've touched something impure. You need something transformative - the Mikvah is transformative. In his analogy - in the Rambam's analogy, Vidui is like going into the Mikvah, it transforms you. It transforms a relationship.
So I suggested a mechanism by which it did last year and I want to again see this mechanism in action this year. The mechanism is something we call Hoda'ah. Hoda'ah is really the route word for Vidui. Vidui comes from the word Hoda'ah, and Hoda'ah in English it really has two meanings; thanks - to say thank you, and to say I'm sorry. If you think about thank you and I'm sorry but what they really are, they're a certain kind of recognition, a certain kind of interpersonal recognition. It's a recognition of the value of something. When I say thank you, I say I appreciate what you've done, I recognize the value of what I've done. When I say I'm sorry, I'm also recognizing the value, but instead of recognizing the positive value of what you've done for me and saying thank you, I'm recognizing the negative value of what I've done to you and saying, I'm sorry. These two things are really the same, they're sorts of mirror images of each other, thank you and I'm sorry, they're both acts of Hoda'ah, both are kind of Vidui.
Basically the idea is this, relationships crave balance, relationships sometimes get out of balance. Whenever relationships gets out of balance either because you do something nice for me or I do something mean to you, our relationship is imbalanced now like a seesaw. The relationship wants to get back in balance and therefore reciprocation seems like the easiest way to do it. So for example, if you do something nice to me I want to repay the favor, if you help me with something, I want to find a way to repay that. Or, in the movies or whatever, revenge is sweet and if you do something mean to me, so I'm going to get back at you. These are ways that we bring balance - either nice or not so nice - into our relationships by reciprocation.
But we can also bring relationships back into balance when reciprocation is impossible, or not desired. The way to do that is through Vidui. It's paradoxical and it makes no sense but it's just the way human relationships work. There's a Chazal, a Medrash, that says that G-d put Teshuva into the world before the world was even created. It's one of these crazy things that is almost like a fundamental law of nature. The law of nature works like this, when you recognize an imbalance and look someone in the eye and they accept your recognition of it, it can actually create balance again.
It doesn't make any sense and - by the way, that's one of the reasons why it's so hard to apologize because you think, I'm going to look this imbalance in the eye and say, I recognize the imbalance I created, I understand the negative value of what I've done, and then that's going to make it go away? But it can if you accept what it is that I'm doing. It's the transformative piece in Teshuva, and that's the Mitzvah. The Mitzvah is to transform your relationships that way. If you only have five minutes on Yom Kippur, these are the five minutes and it's so easy not to do.
The Rambam defines Teshuva in terms of three or four words. The words are - and there's a subject, there's a verb and there's an object. The subject is I, the verb is have wronged, and the object is you. I have wronged you. Ashamnu, chatanu lefanecha - the way we say it, in Hebrew during the Yom Kippur service. That's' a very simple phrase but very, very easy to evade. In the video I give the example of the political apology; mistakes were made in my administration. You say mistakes were made in my administration may sound like an apology, there's no subject, there's no verb, there's no object. Who made the mistakes? I don't know, they were made. A mistake isn't a sin, it's not a wrongdoing, everyone makes mistakes. Who did it affect? I don't know, it didn't affect anybody, they were just made. So there's no subject, there's no verb, there's no object, there's no nothing, but it sounds like an apology.
What's worse is, is that even if you get two out of three right, there's very little partial credit. How do you feel if someone apologizes to you but doesn't really understand that it was a wrong, it was just a mistake? How easy is it for you to forgive? How easy is it for you to forgive if somebody gets that it was a wrong but doesn't really get that you were affected by it, or thinks that you were minimally affected by it, but you weren't? Not so easy to forgive. What about if somebody understands the impact on you and understands it was a mistake, but doesn't understand that they could have acted differently? They didn't see themselves as at fault, there's no I. In all of these cases it's very difficult to forgive.
The challenge of Teshuva is that it's very transformative but very little partial credit, which brings us to the example that I want to share with you. The example occurs in the second of Bereishis. It occurs in the Yosef story. If you think about sins, one of the greater wrongdoings that you can imagine is taking your brother and tying him up and throwing him in a pit, having him sold off to Egypt and his whole life is transformed. That's not such a great thing. The brothers at a certain point realize that it's not such a great thing. Now when is it that they do Teshuva? When would you say that it's all over? That the relationship between brothers and Yosef has been rehabilitated? Is there a moment when relationship between brothers and Yosef is rehabilitated?
So let me actually put this out to you in chat. I'm going to see if I'm can actually see your chat - there must be a way to do this. But let me invite you to write in and I'll get somebody here to try to help me see what you're saying. Let me ask you this question. From your knowledge of the Yosef story, is there any time within the Yosef story that you think that could at least be a candidate for reconciliation between the brothers and Yosef? I'm interested in like - when we say the earliest, possible candidate for reconciliation between Yosef and the brothers, are there any candidates at all? Is it possible that they didn't reconcile? So what do you say? I'm going to go step out actually, get a drink, I'm going to give you 15 seconds to think about this, and I'll be right back, let's see what you say.
Okay, here let's see. Let me see if I can find your responses. I can't see any responses - so I'm just going to take 10 more seconds to see if I can get somebody to help me find them and I'll be right back. Okay so I think I was supposed to hit the questions tab over here - question, show answer to questions, yes. I do not see anybody's answers. Okay, well it looks like our compatriots here are able to see your answers and I am not, so we have a little bit of technical difficulty here which we're going to try to resolve in a moment. But in the meantime let me just jump in and give you my answers and we'll see if they correlate with yours. You might say - ah thank you, here are some answers, we'll see them on another machine.
So looking at your responses there are a number of possible times in the Yosef story. I'm not going to go through them all now, but there are a lot of close candidates for reconciliation. The candidates that don't kind of work if you apply the Rambam's model, they almost work, but not entirely. For example, when the brothers first see Yosef, they don't know that he's Yosef, they think he's a high Egyptian official but things are going badly for them and they confess their guilt, they say that they were wrong. The only problem is that they don't know that they're talking to him, they don't know who they're talking to. So maybe it doesn't really count.
If you think about that moment where Yehuda has this moment to sell Binyamin down the river, to do it all over again, to take another child of Rachel and allow him to become a slave, and he doesn't. The Rambam actually defines that as Teshuva Gemurah - like platinum level Teshuva. You're actually not just saying that you're changing, you are changing, you are not doing it again. So it's great, but there's still only one thing missing, which is that he doesn't know he's talking to Yosef. There still is no conversation, there's no Vidui, there's no confession, there's no looking in your eye, I've done this to you.
The moment possibly, the candidate for change is really at the very end of the story, it's the last chapter in Genesis. I want to read it with you. It's the final conversation between Yosef and his brothers and it's in this story that Genesis ends. I'm going to try and share my screen over here with you and see what happens. You should be able to see my screen now, if not, maybe I can ask somebody from my staff to scream at me and say, no, no, nobody can see your screen, but I hope that you can in fact see my screen. So right over here I have Mechon Mamre, which is a really great site and we've got Hebrew and English side by side. I want to sort of read this with you and see what you find.
Here's kind of the final candidate. Vayipal Yosef al pnei avi - I'm sorry, let's just go down a little bit more. We'll go up to here. Okay, the setting for the scene is, Yaakov has died, Father has died, everyone is on their way back from the burial and they have this conversation. Vayiru achei Yosef ki meit avihem - the brothers of Yosef saw that their father died. Vayomru - and they said; Lu yistameinu Yosef - maybe Yosef is going to hate us? V'hashev yashiv lanu al kol hara'ah asher gamalnu oto - and he's going to take revenge for all the terrible things that he did to us. Vayetzavu al Yosef leimor - so they commanded - they sent word to Yosef saying; Avicha tziva lifnei moto leimor - father commanded before his death saying the following. Ko tomru l'Yosef - father told us, thus you should say to Yosef. Anah sah na pesha achecha v'chatatam - please bear the iniquity of your brothers. Ki ra'ah gemalucha - they've done evil to you. V'ata - and therefore; Sah na l'pesha avdei Elohei avicha - please carry the sin of the servants of your father's G-d.
Vayevk Yosef b'dabrom eilav - and Yosef cried when they spoke to him this way. Vayelchu gam echov vayiplu le'fanav - and then the brothers cried and they - sorry; Vayelchu gam echov vayiplu le'fanav - and then the brothers came and they bowed before him. Vayomru - and they said; Hinenu lecha l'avadim - let us be your slaves. Vayomer aleihem Yosef - so Yosef said; Al tira'u - do not be afraid; Ki hatachat Elokim ani - because am I in place of G-d? V'atem chashavtem alai ra'ah - you indeed thought to do evil to me. Elokim chashavah l'tovah - G-d made it turn out better, G-d made it turn out okay. Lema'an asoh kayom hazeh l'hachayot am rav - to bring us to this wonderful day when I could take care of you, when I'm in charge of all this food and there's this famine and I can make you into a great nation by all this food that I provide for you. V'ata al tira'u - and therefore do not fear; Onochi achalkel etchem - I will take care of you; V'et tapchem - I will take care of your children. Vayenachem otam - and he comforted them; Vayedaber al libam - and he spoke comfortingly to their hearts.
Right, that's the whole story right over there. So I'm going to ask you in chat right here, and we'll see if maybe I can see it this time, if not maybe I'll invite Immanuel to come in and show me his laptop. But what do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down? This is it. This is the last conversation in Genesis. Did they reconcile? There's certainly a lot of tears, everyone is crying and they're talking about it, it's out there on the table and Yosef is comforting them and everything is good, right? Is this a happy ending or is not a happy ending and why? What do you guys say?
So let's see what you say. Okay so we have Ruth - one minute hold on, Imu, can I invite you back because I've just lost you here. Okay so we have Ruth who mentions the 10 Martyrs. Certainly the Sages didn't think it was all over because in the Yom Kippur davening you actually have this notion that people were killed later on in generations, these 10 Martyrs, because of the sin. If the sin is over what happened there? So yes, that's true. But why? What about in Genesis?
So we have some of you who say yes, some of you who are saying no. Then somebody who says over here, Golda, I always thought that Yosef did not actually forgive them. He comforted them, he said G-d made everything okay, but he never forgave them. If you think about it, if you look carefully, that's true, Yosef does never seem to forgive them. He's trying to be nice but being nice isn't necessarily the same as saying you forgive them. Why wouldn't he do that? Why wouldn't he forgive? The brothers are so nice, they're apologizing, it's all - everything is great.
So let's go through the story one more time - and before we go through the story I just want to take you into Exodus for a moment, because I want to show you something there as well. Right now this is the last chapter in Genesis and let me see if I can bring up Exodus on the board with you here. First chapter in Exodus. Vayakam melech chadash al mitzrayim - so there was new king on Egypt; Asher lo yadah et Yosef - who didn't know anything about Yosef. So you say to yourself, that's pretty strange, new king, really? In such a history-conscious nation, that he didn't know about the guy that saved them from the whole famine? So it leads into the Rabbis saying, well maybe he wasn't a new king but it was the same king, who decided to forget about Yosef. Then you have to say to yourself, well why would he do that? I mean, Yosef was such a great guy, why would you forget about Yosef?
Vayomer el amo - so he says to his people; Hinei am benei yisrael rav v'atzum mimenu - the people of Israel, they're too great for us. Hava nitchakma lo - let's deal wisely with them; Pen yirbeh - less they become even greater. Vehaya ki tikrenah milchomo - when war comes; V'nosaf gam hu al soneinu - they will add themselves to our enemies; Venilcham banu v'oloh min ha'aretz - and they will war against us and force us from the land.
Look at this verse, can you find any references to Yosef in this verse? What about this? The Hebrew word for Nosaf gam hu al soneinu - they will add themselves - isn't it interesting that the king who is forgetting about Yosef, just happens to use his name according to the text when it says that they're going to add themselves on their enemies; V'nosaf gam hu al soneinu? What about this? The verb, let's deal wisely with them, that king, but why was he so enamored with Yosef to begin with? Because of Yosef's wisdom. The words were; Acharei hodi'ah Elokim es kol eileh/kol zos - after G-d made known to you all of this with my dreams; Ein chacham v'navon/navon v'chacham kamocha - there's no Chacham - no one as wise as you. Now; Hava nitchakma lo. Here's this king that for somebody who forgets about Yosef is really doing a pretty good job of remembering him, wouldn't you say?
What about the storehouses? Why do you think of all things - the slavery - Vayasimu alav sarei missim lema'an onato besivlotom vayiven orei miskonot l'Paraoh - why are they building storehouses? Grain silos of all things? Why cities full of grain silos? What had Yosef done for them? Yosef saved them from famine, and somehow the next generation is saying never again, never is this foreigner, this Jew going to be the one that saves us. We don't like that, we're going to save ourselves, we'll build our own storehouses, we'll force them to build storehouses.
What's going on? Why the animosity from the king who is trying to forget about Yosef but remembers about him very, very well? How do we understand that?
The truth is there's even more references to Yosef here, we'll come back to them in a moment.
But let's go back to our text in Genesis. The answer to all of these questions in Exodus, I think comes from Genesis. Back to very last part of Genesis. Genesis 50. Okay let's read this one more time, but this time let's apply the Rambam's model. You're Maimonides, you're taking what we learnt in the Rambam, all of those ideas about Teshuva and you're applying it here. Now most of these have been ticked off, because in the four elements of Teshuva, Yehuda had already shown that he'd changed. So really the only thing left is confession, saying you're sorry. So what about that?
Let's read. Vayiru achei Yosef ki meit avihem. Rashi points out here a fascinating thing. They had just come back from burying their father, what does it mean and the brothers saw that their father died? I mean, obviously Dad died, we just buried Father. Rashi understands; Hikiru bemisoso etzel achav - that the brothers understood the significance of Father's death. What were they worried about? Now that Father has gone; Lu yistameinu Yosef - maybe Yosef will hate us?
Even the word Lu is a strange word, isn't it? If you know something about Biblical Hebrew you know that there are different words for maybe in Hebrew. One word for maybe is - it's almost like - you'll pardon the phrase, but it's Milchig, Fleishigs and Pareve. Positive, negative and kind of in the middle. There's a positive kind of maybe. A positive kind of maybe is actually Lu, like in the Hebrew folksong Lu Yehi by Chava Alberstein. If only it would be. It actually comes from the Bible; Lu yehi kidevarecha - if only it would be as You say. Then there's Pen. Pen is negative. Pen is like what Paraoh says when Pharaoh is worried that the Jews will rise up against him. Pen is negative. Then there's Pareve. Pareve is like - what's Pareve? Lu, Pen, and Ulai. Ulai is kind of could be either way.
So now which one should you use over here? Maybe the brothers will hate us? You should use Pen. Maybe the brothers will hate us - lest the brothers hate us. Lu - the positive one. I mean, it's crazy. Rashi by the way is bothered by it. Rashi says, this is the only time Lu is used that way. I guess Lu can sometimes mean Pen. But why didn't we use Pen then if it could have been Lu? It's almost as if the text is saying that the brothers see something positive in Yosef hating us. If only Yosef would hate us. In other words, imagine you're the brothers, when does this take place? This is 17 years after the brothers have come to Egypt. They've lived with him all this time and Dad has been around and there's been this conversation that's been lurking but no one has ever had, they've never really talked about the pit. Yosef has been very polite to them in the hallways, invited them to dinner and all of that. What's the fear? The fear is, when is the other shoe going to drop?
If you think about it like the real horror films, the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, it wasn't in the gore that he showed you, it was in the lead up, when everything is still okay, but you know something is going to happen. That's the scariest part. The brothers are living in this Alfred Hitchcock movie, when is it going to happen? If only he would hate us already, they're saying. Lu yistameinu - just get it over with it, just hate us already.
The word for hatred here, also very unusual. Satam. Satam is used only one other time before in the Torah. Anybody know where? The only other time before this is in the Yaakov and Eisav story. When Eisav hates Yaakov for this deception, it's a burning hatred. Again, it was brothers deceiving brothers and the brothers over here are saying, look, this is another Yaakov and Eisav story, we did this to you and when is it going to drop? Eisav pursued Yaakov, what about you? Hashev yashiv lanu al kol hara'ah asher gamalnu oto - maybe he'll take revenge?
What's interesting is that the brothers' motivation for this conversation is to forestall revenge. That already is not a good sign. In other words, if you're Yosef and the brothers are coming to you and saying, hey we need to talk. You have to ask yourself, really, why now do we need to talk? What happened now? What happened now is Dad isn't around anymore, so now we need to talk, but we've been - this has been for 17 years? So this is what they're saying to themselves. So the brothers come up with this plan, of what they say to Father. Avicha tziva lifnei moto leimor - father commanded before his death saying. They said, father says you're supposed to forgive us.
So first of all you have to ask, is it true? We never heard about that. It never says it before now. The first news that we as a reader get that Dad ever said this, is the brothers. Which means you have to ask yourself, can you trust it? Does the text of the Torah want you to trust this? The answer probably is no. We would have heard about it from the narrator if this was true. It reminds me of the Chassidishe story - remember that story about the Rebbe who dies and then there's the two Chassidishe - the sons and they're fighting over who is going to succeed the Rebbe? Then one day one of the sons says, it's settled, father came to me in a dream and said, I'm going to be the next Rebbe. So what does the other brother say? If Dad wanted you to be the next Rebbe, he should have come to me in the dream, not you. In other words, I can't trust your dream. So it's the same thing over here. You can't trust the brothers saying that Dad says you're supposed to forgive us. Dad should have come to me if I'm supposed to forgive you. So there's some question about it. Are the brothers telling the truth?
Rashi picks up on this and Rashi says, actually they're not telling the truth, they're lying. But don't worry, it's a justified lie. Why? Because we all know what the Talmud says about Shalom, right? It's always okay to lie for the sake of peace. The brothers were lying for the sake of peace, they were; Meshaneh mipnei hashalom - so they figured that here's a way to have peace in the family. Dad says you're supposed to forgive us. All right, so that's what they're doing.
But then what happens? Then Yosef cries. Why does Yosef cry? Obviously because he forgave them, right? Is there another reason why Yosef might be crying here? Why else might Yosef be crying? I wish I could see your comments, what do you say guys? Why else might Yosef be crying?
Let me invite Emanuel in here. Emanuel can you come in here with your laptop, I can see what people are saying.
Why else might Yosef have been crying? There is another reason why Yosef might be crying. He might be crying because it didn't work. As Rabbi Aaron says, it's from the emotional impact of reliving the trauma. That's exactly right. You see there's a risk that's taken when you ask for forgiveness, a terrible risk, what if it goes wrong? Because how do you live until now for 17 years if you're Yosef without this conversation? I'm having dinner with my brothers, everything is fine, I still want a relationship with them, how do I do it? The way you do it is you wall off the pain. You can say, look there's this part of my life I can't go in there now, it's the pit. I'm just not going to deal with that, it's a painful part of my reality. So what you do is you wall that off and you don't deal with it at all.
One way I deal with it is I wall off the pain. But now if you invite me to have a conversation about it, you're actually bringing me back into that little room. That room is a painful room. I'm hoping that we can put it behind us. But what if it doesn't work? If it doesn't work I'm just left with the pain.
So you invite me in - and now let's talk about the Rambam's model. Here's the apology. There needs to be a subject, there needs to be a verb, there needs to be an object. An object - is there an object? So let's see. Anah. Ki ra'ah gemalucha - we did evil to you, it was evil to you. So yes, it was you. It was evil, it wasn't a mistake. Object is there. Subject isn't there. There's only one problem, Father says you're supposed to forgive us. Father says you're supposed to forgive us is not the same thing as I am sorry.
By the way, it's a conflation that we often make. In our world, in the Yeshiva world from which I come, there's a custom that people have on Erev Yom Kippur. The custom basically is you go around asking Mechilah from people. In my view it's a perverse custom, never do it. It's a very bad idea. What you're actually doing is you're turning the moral tables upon people. If I come up to you and I don't say, I'm sorry - and in the absence of saying I'm sorry, I ask you to forgive me, what am I really doing? I'm actually saying, you know whatever I did, I did, but are you going to forgive me or not? I just turned the tables on you, I've made you into the idiot if you don't forgive me, so how do you feel? You have to apologize first.
Dad says you're supposed to forgive us, is not the same thing as an apology. They're hiding behind their father as if Father is there instead of them. The irony - Rashi's bitter irony is, that they lied to keep the peace. The problem is, what if they hadn't lied? If they hadn't lied maybe they would have had peace. Unfortunately, the lie for the peace ends up prolonging the war. It means there was no real apology, and how do you feel when someone sort of, kind of, but not quite apologizes? You cry. But why do you cry? Not necessarily because you feel all forgiven, but because you're in the pain, you're reliving the trauma and in that little box. So Yosef cries.
Then something interesting happens. Look at the next thing that happens. Vayelchu gam echov - and then the brothers came, and what did they do? I misread it the first time around. I said, Vayivku le'fanav - they cried. If they cry, maybe they would have been able to say with their tears what they couldn't say with words. But they did not cry. Vayiplu le'fanav - they bowed before him. Bowing is submission to power. Vayomru - and they said; Hinenu lecha l'avadim - let us be your slaves. Now why did they say that? That's not an apology either. Remember, what's an apology? An apology is in lieu of something. It's in lieu of reciprocating. It's because I can't or won't even this relationship by tit for tat. What did the brothers do to Yosef? They sold him into slavery. What are they saying? If there's no apology, if there's no forgiveness then maybe we can at least tit for tat, like let us be your slaves, right? What they're doing is they're saying - it's almost like well I hit you so you hit me. They seem to intuit that there wasn't an apology, that the apology wasn't really accepted. But they're desperate. So let us be your slaves.
So what's Yosef's response to that? Vayomer aleihem Yosef - so Yosef says; Al tira'u - do not be afraid; Ki hatachat Elokim ani - am I in place of G-d? Now what exactly is that supposed to mean, am I in place of G-d? His next words tell you. V'atem chashavtem alai ra'ah - you know, you thought that you were doing evil to me guys. Look, no worries. Elokim chashavah l'tovah - you did something bad to me but G-d made it work out good. Lema'an asoh kayom hazeh - to bring us to this wonderful day; L'hachayot am rav.
If you add it all up, what's Yosef seems to say is they - what was Yosef's response? Yosef says, let us be your slaves - let me ask you a very pointed question, did Yosef accept the offer or not? Did he say yes or did he say no? What do you guys say? Yes or no? What do you guys say?
I say that you're right, he didn't say yes and he didn't say no, he avoided the question. What he said is, you know what my answer to your question is about let us be your slaves? It's not up to me, it's up to G-d. Hatachat Elokim ani - you think I'm in place of G-d? Your question needs to be answered by G-d. But you know what, I think you're good. Because if I had to prognosticate what G-d thinks over here, ah; Atem chashavtem alai ra'ah - you tried to hurt me, look, from G-d's opinion; Elokim chashavah l'tovah - G-d made things work out okay. G-d brought us to this day, look, you were there, it was all Hashgacha, it was all providence. Because you did this to me but there was this famine and then I got to be king and I'm here, I'm in this place, I can take care of you, G-d made it work out okay, you're totally fine. I'm telling you, G-d thinks it's fine, what are you so worried for? Onochi achalkel etchem - I will take care of you. Vayenachem otam - and he spoke words of comfort to them; Vayedaber al libam.
I think if you asked Yosef at that point, did you forgive them? I think Yosef would have said, yes. I was as nice as I possibly could be. I comforted them, I said I wouldn't hurt them. Even Yosef may not understand really that he didn't forgive them.
Again, Rashi leads you to that very same conclusion. If you look at the Rashis here - and I don't have time to get into them in detail. The text doesn't tell you what the words of comfort were, but Rashi based upon the Medrash speculates. Rashi says, hear the words of comfort. Here's one of the things he might have said. He might have said, guys, you're so worried that I'm going to hurt you? I couldn't hurt you even if I wanted. You know why? Because when I came down to Egypt everybody thought that I was just a slave and I got promoted to power and that I had a very bad pedigree, and I was really just born a slave, because I came from Potiphar's house. But when you guys came here, and then everyone saw that I had legitimate non-slave brothers, so it really raised my ranking, everybody thought I was a really good guy and that I wasn't a slave. What am I going to do to you now? You're worried that I'll kill you all? I couldn't kill you. If I killed you, then what would everyone say? Everyone would say there were these guys, they weren't related, he pretended they were his brothers and when he was done with them, he killed them. Is there such a thing as one brother trying to kill other brothers?
Now how comforting is that? If you are the brothers of Yosef? Not so comforting, right? This is what Rashi says. He said - now I don't think Rashi means he actually said this. The Medrash is the subconscious of the text. The Medrash is telling you that as nice as he's talking, underneath his words, is this rage that he doesn't even know is there. If he could only say it, this is what he would say. It comes through - what my father, Olov Hashalom, used to call a double message, where you smile on the one hand but that's not what you're feeling. This is Yosef. Why?
The brothers hid behind their father in a painful conversation and they said, Dad says you're supposed to forgive us, and they lied about it. What does Yosef do? Yosef then has this option, are you going to be my slaves? Yosef says it's not up to me, it's up to G-d. Is that true? Is it really not up to him? Whose job is it to forgive or not to forgive? The one who was offended or G-d? The Rambam tells you the answer, the one who was offended; G-d cannot forgive if the one who was offended does not forgive. Yosef is wrong. He's hiding behind his father too. His Father in Heaven. No one is having a conversation, everyone is hiding behind Dad. The brothers say, Dad says you're supposed to forgive us. Yosef says, I don't know, slaves, not up to me, go ask G-d, probably okay. Everyone is hiding behind Father.
So now what does G-d say? If you were G-d at that moment, what do you say? Think about it. They're offering themselves as slaves, this is the last chapter in Genesis, almost the last words in Genesis, what happens right at the beginning of Exodus? Everyone is slaves. I mean just like that. It's almost like G-d says, okay, did anybody call My name? Like, you think it's up to Me, I don't really think it's up to Me, but if you think it's up to Me, all right, let's see what we got here. We got somebody who is aggrieved, we have a sort of a kind of apology that's not really doing it. Then we have the offer to reciprocate with let us be slaves, and then he says it's not up to him. I thought it was up to him, but he says it's up to Me. All right. So let's see. We've got an offer of slavery on the table, I guess if it's really up to Me, yeah we could do slavery.
Bingo. You're in Exodus and everybody is slaves. How are they slaves? So He says, well Yosef - what did Yosef say? Yosef said, look at the Hashgacha, look at the providence, look at G-d's role, He made it so wonderful, it's probably totally okay with G-d, the whole thing. He - G-d made it wonderful because He did this all - the Hashgacha was; L'hachayot am rav - so that there could be a great people coming from this. I'm going to make you into a great people. I'm going to feed you during times of famine.
Am Rav. Am Rav. When's the next time we hear the words Am Rav - great nation? Who is the next person who says those words? The next person is Pharaoh. Why does Pharaoh decide to enslave them? It's for Yosef's reason, the Jews are getting out of control, they're too great a nation. Hinei am benei yisrael rav v'atzum mimenu - Pharaoh said. The nation of Israel is too great. G-d says, yeah we'll make them slaves. You know how we'll make them slaves? The same thing that you thought was the Hashgacha thing that I was making it, that's going to be how we're going to make them slaves. Pharaoh is going to get paranoid because you're feeding them too much and because they were able to eat when the Egyptians starved, that's what caused the population explosion, and that's going to be the mechanism for slavery. They're going to remember Yosef, they're going to remember all of this.
All the loose ends that didn't get put together. You read the end of Genesis and you think that maybe it's all over. You read the beginning of Exodus and you read and you think maybe it's really not all over?
What you have here is an example in negative of how to put to bed a family feud and what the consequences are if you don't put it to bed. Family feuds are the worst kinds of things and the problem is, is that smiles mask them. People can smile and you could all get together for Thanksgiving and more or less you can kind of hope that over 17 years nothing is going to explode at the Thanksgiving table. How many families does it happen that that - that it sort of works that way? That there are these conversations that you just don't have. Or that sometimes you have the conversation but in the conversation you hide and there's somehow no I, or there's somehow no you, or there's somehow no, I wronged you. It's such - it's only four words. If you say those four words you have to ask yourself coming out of Genesis, how would Jewish History have been different? Maybe there would have been slavery in Egypt, but how would our slavery have been different if it didn't come about through unresolved business between brothers? How would that have changed our history?
In - I think is the real question that all of this leaves us with. We do have the ability to put this stuff behind us. But it just takes four words said clearly, unambiguously and with heart. If we don't say them, it can happen for generations. This feud - how would Jewish History have been different if this feud was put to bed here? How would the Prophets have been different, how would the Book of Kings have been different? The split between the Kingdom of Joseph on the one hand and the Kingdom of Judah on the other hand, how - what would that have looked like if this story in Genesis had ended with real, full reconciliation between the brothers instead of Rashi's sort of half consolation? How would it have been different?
In our lives we think our live ends with us. There's a - I'll close with this - you know, over here in New York there's a sportscasters for the Yankees. One of the things they have, you know how GEICO or whatever, they always sponsor different things in the game? So there's the GEICO turning point in the game. You listen to the GEICO turning point - at the end of the game there's always, the GEICO turning point of the game, in the fourth inning that error by Jeter, that was the turning point of the game. So I guess that, yeah, that was the turning point of the game, how come you didn't tell me that in the fourth inning? Huh? Right? Why is that - why in the ninth inning do you know that was - the answer is, it's because you had to see what would happen after that, and it wasn't over at that moment. Based upon what happened after that, different things made a difference. The question is, when is the game over and what's the turning point in the game? You never quite know when the turning point of the game is.
There's a little dispute between you and something else - someone else - in your family. Could that be the turning point of the game? When is the game over? When is the ninth inning? I have news for you; the game isn't over when you die. You have children, your children have children, and family feuds linger. If you have a legacy, the best thing you can do to preserve it, is to find a way to take the Rambam's ideas and to implement them - more than anything else implement them with the people closest to you in your family. If you can do that it's almost like the Torah is showing you here, what not to do. You have in relief, a mirror image of what the Rambam is trying to get you to do.
So my Bracha to you, my blessing to you is that you should find the strength to take a step towards patching up those little things that you can sort of get by with another Thanksgiving for. But if you take that step and you have a different kind of resolution than what you have here on the screen, it can be a turning point of the game that's marvelous and that's curative and that leads you and your family and those close to you to much happier, richer kind of relationships on a day-to-day level.
So that's what I have to say. I want to thank you very much for being here with this webinar, it was a lot of fun, it was a total delight having you. Next time around I hope to be able to get the comments easier, so I can sort of see them in the chat, but it's a learning process and it's a learning process for me too.
In our next webinar I think what I'm going to try is a question/answer session on all of our videos, whatever you have, things like that. Send in questions to our staff and I'll kind of go through them and kind of give you my take on them or do my best to evade them. (Laughs) So that's what I'd like to suggest to you to do.
I want to wish you a very, very good Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur season. I want to thank you very much for being our subscribers and supporting us. You make this happen, we couldn't do it without you. It's a real operation. You think that I'm the one who does all the video magic, it's not me, and we have schools, we have 600 teachers around the world working with us, and we have a whole school department, it's quite an operation and you guys are partners with us in actually helping making this happen. So I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you and I look forward to seeing you again next month. Have a very good Shabbat - this coming Shabbos, have a good Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur season, and I'll see you on the other side.