Letters from Leah
Dear Beit Sefer Families,
At the end of this week’s Torah portion, Joseph is alone in jail in a foreign country. His brothers have sold him into slavery, he has been falsely accused of a crime, and is now in the depths of society.
How many of us have felt ourselves to be like Joseph, alone, and separated from others? At any moment, there are people in our community who are feeling like Joseph alone in the jail. Some from loss of a loved one, some from loss of a job, some from a sense of failure, some from hurt feelings, some from a sense of shame, and some from feeling sad and disconnected.
The story of Joseph reminds us to have hope. How easy would it have been for Joseph to give up on his life, to not care, to be unkind to others. The text tells us that “the Lord was with Joseph” (Gen 39:21) In my modern outlook on life and religion, I am less inclined to believe that that means divine intervention determined Joseph’s future, and more inclined to think it means that Joseph kept himself connected to a sense of the world, a sense of life, a sense of hope. My humanistic view of God reads this as a possibility for all of us who periodically face isolating circumstances and as a recommendation to find ways to connect to others despite our despondent circumstances.
I am also struck by the role of Pharaoh’s cup bearer. The cup bearer is witness to Joseph’s circumstances, and benefits directly from Joseph’s generous spirit. “Yet, the cup bearer did not think of Joseph. He forgot him” (Gen. 40:23) is how the parsha ends. As a child I remember feeling the injustice of that line. I wanted to call out to the cup bearer, “Remember Joseph! Remember Joseph!” If only the person who could help Joseph would help him!!
As an adult I feel the irony in a different way. How often am I in the position to be the cup bearer? How often do I neglect the opportunity to assist someone in their difficult moments?
How often do all of us in general forget the person who feels alone, who needs our help, even when the only help we can offer is comfort and connection? How often do our own lives consume us, and we don’t call the person we know is home ill, the person suffering through divorce, the person who just lost a job, the person who not so recently, but recently enough lost a loved one? How often are we too busy in our lives to give time to those who are facing more challenging times?
If we can use our cups as metaphors for joy, as in “my cup runneth over,” then being the cup bearer, means we have a responsibility to assist others to fill their cups with joy.
I am on a personal journey to find more ways to be a better cup bearer.