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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 26, 2008 / 29 Kislev 5769

When the past meets the future

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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From Joseph's act of compassion we learn that suffering is not always harmful and relief from suffering does not always serve our best interests


“Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamt ...”

                        —   Genesis 42:8-9


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, left to languish in prison for a dozen years for a crime he did not commit — Joseph seems to have had ample justification for hating the brothers who perpetrated these injustices against him. And yet, as he finds himself holding in his hands the fate of those who caused him so much suffering, Joseph's first thought is of the dreams he dreamt 22 years earlier as a youth in his father's house.


The first dream was of eleven bundles of wheat, with the ten bundles belonging to his brothers bowing down to his. The prescience of the vision was inescapable: driven south by a famine in their own land, the brothers now sought to acquire wheat from Joseph, whose foresight had endowed Egypt with a vast surplus by which to survive the days of deprivation.


That Joseph remembered this dream at this instant is easily understood. But why would he simultaneously remember the other dream, in which the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him? This second dream hinted at the presence of his father, his stepmother, and his younger brother, Benjamin, together with the ten brothers who stood before him now. What possible relevance could this dream have at this moment?

WHEN THE PAST MEETS THE FUTURE
It's noteworthy that Joseph was not the only one with his mind on the past. Feigning suspicion and anger, Joseph accused his brothers of coming to spy upon the land and had them thrown into the royal dungeon. Immediately, the brothers said to one another: "Indeed, we are guilty concerning our brother..." (Genesis 42:21).


What a strange reaction! Upon finding themselves unceremoniously cast into prison by an irrational tyrant, their minds as one go back 22 years to their mistreatment of their brother, Joseph. Why?


It is the way of the righteous to reflect daily upon their deeds, to search their souls from moment to moment in an effort to recognize their own shortcomings, trespasses, and miscalculations, to contemplate how their own actions might bring upon them extraordinary consequences ordained by divine justice. Consequently, the brothers were able to look back across 22 years and identify only one misdeed sufficiently severe to account for their predicament. Nothing other than the mistreatment of their brother could explain why they found themselves in such dire circumstances.


Joseph himself was thinking along a similar vein. He understood something the brothers could not have imagined, that his dreams were in fact a mandate from the Almighty to create the conditions that would allow the brothers to achieve true repentance. The process began with the realization of the first dream. It would be completed only upon the realization of the second.


The sages explain what is only hinted at in scripture: that Joseph confounded the brothers by showing an inexplicable knowledge of them and their family, by first accusing them of treachery, then granting them the chance to prove their honesty, and then planting evidence that would impugn their character. He dismissed the mysterious return of their money and showed an irrational favoritism to Benjamin, only to subsequently imprison Benjamin on false charges of thievery while allowing the others to go free.


What would the brothers do? Would they abandon Benjamin to his fate, as they had abandoned the young Joseph to the slave traders? Would they break their father's heart a second time to rid themselves of a younger sibling who had won greater favor than they from their father and from this inscrutable viceroy?

THE PROCESS OF REPENTANCE
The sages teach us that repentance is much more than simple apology. True repentance — what we call teshuva, literally return — requires us to commit ourselves to correct the character defects that have led to our misdeeds. A person may sincerely repent but still fall back into old behaviors, in which case he must reapply himself and continue striving to perfect his character. Only when one finds himself in an identical situation and does not fail to do what is right can he consider his tshuva complete.


And so Joseph understood from his prophetic dreams that the brothers' repentance would be truly completed only when they stood before him together as a reunited family, having been provided the opportunity to repeat their earlier betrayal by forsaking Benjamin to his fate. Joseph therefore orchestrated the circumstances by which Benjamin's imprisonment would bring the brothers to a point of decision equivalent to the moment at which they had decided to abandon Joseph himself. Only by placing Benjamin's welfare before their own could they prove that their repentance was absolute.


In the end, that is precisely what happened. Judah, leader of the brothers, stepped forward and pleaded that Joseph imprison him instead of Benjamin, lest their father die of a broken heart. Upon hearing Judah's words and beholding Judah's willingness to suffer in place of his younger brother, Joseph could not hold himself back in the presence of all who stood before him... And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph!" (Genesis 45:1-3).


It is perplexing that, instead of leading the brothers out of Egypt, Joseph's revelation seems to have plunged them deeper into exile. Indeed, the sages record that had Joseph not revealed himself at this time, had he forced the brothers to return home and bring their father, Jacob, down with the uncertain hope of gaining the viceroy's favor — then, rather than descending into exile, the family of Jacob would have returned to their land and ushered in the messianic era. But if the brothers had truly repented, how did Joseph err by refusing to inflict any further distress upon his family?

WHEN REPENTANCE IS NOT ENOUGH
Tshuva is an internal process, through which we return to the path of righteousness by rectifying our inner imperfections. Nevertheless, our transgressions frequently cause either physical or spiritual damage, and our correction of the flaws that lead us into sin will not automatically repair any damage we may have caused. A reckless driver who truly resolves to drive safely must still pay for the damage of his collisions no matter how sincere his resolution for the future.


The final step of repentance, therefore, is atonement. Unlike physical damage, spiritual damage cannot be repaid with dollars and cents. It requires a certain amount of suffering, either emotional or physical, by which to balance the scales of justice. Ideally, the process of repentance produces a measure of remorse proportional to the severity of the transgression, so that the emotional anguish of the remorse itself provides the required suffering to achieve atonement.


The magnitude of the brothers' crime against Joseph, however, demanded enormous compensation. Even more, because Joseph himself held some responsibility for his brothers' actions by provoking their hatred, and because Jacob also fanned the flames of resentment by the favoritism he showed to Joseph, everyone involved in the incident had to experience a precise measure of emotional pain. By sparing his brothers and father any further suffering by revealing himself, Joseph failed to appreciate that the fullness of their repentance would not achieve a total rectification of their sin. Without experiencing the full measure of tension and uncertainty necessary for complete atonement, only the exile in Egypt would restore the family of Jacob to spiritual balance and stability.


From Joseph's act of compassion, therefore, we learn that suffering is not always harmful and relief from suffering does not always serve our best interests. Life presents us with many obstacles, and often we can find no rational explanation for the difficulties that Divine Providence places in our paths. But adversity is the staff by which the Almighty prods us to reflect upon our deeds, to strive for self-perfection, and to appreciate the sages' metaphor that this world is an entry hall leading to the World to Come. Life's obstacles offer us the opportunity to prepare ourselves in the entry hall so that we can make the best possible impression when, at the end of our lives, we stand ready to enter the throne room of the King.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. Visit him at http://torahideals.wordpress.com .






© 2008, Rabbi Yonason Goldson