December 30, 2022 / 6 Tevet 5783
Question… think of three experiences that highlight the life of Judah; now, do the same for the life of Joseph, which was easier?
You don’t need to be a Jewish scholar or to have ever studied hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) to know that Judah is understood to be a supporting sibling character to Joseph’s protagonist stories.
Over the last few weeks, we reflected on Joseph’s childhood dreams where even his parents “bowed” to his sheath of corn and respective star; we were reminded that it was Judah who offered an alternative solution to the brothers’ desire to kill Joseph and instead suggested selling him to the traveling Ishmaelite caravan; and we read in this week’s Parshah Vayigash that when Judah finally confronted Joseph after their decades of separation, that it was Judah, who “went up to [Joseph]” (Genesis 44:18). Each of these and many more moments collectively suggest that Joseph in his position of authority and grandeur should be the person whom we seek to revere today. However, this is not the case.
Yes, we remember Joseph’s stories with fondness and joy. Especially since they are the classic rags to riches storyline. However, Joseph’s story is so unique that he is inconspicuously ignored as an example of whom we should try to emulate and follow. In fact, Joseph, as one of Jacob’s twelve sons, isn’t even assigned tribal lands in our ancient homeland. We know that the Tribe of Levi wasn’t assigned any land because of their unique priestly role. Yet, Joseph is openly skipped over to his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, who are consequently assigned tribal headships.
Our rabbis teach us that Joseph is believed to be a person of perfect faith. His devotion is unlike any other biblical character. He is challenged time and time again and yet never blames Gd for his suffering. On the other hand, every time something good happens, Joseph attributes the reward and benefit to Gd as part of his ordained destiny.
Comparatively, Judah is an example of the normative person’s growth and development. Judah is understood to be imperfect but wants to do the right thing. Judah is portrayed as regularly struggling with the material challenges pulling him from his ethical and moral axis. And it is from Judah that we inherit the practice of Judah-ism and the name given to our Ju-ish faith and identity.
We are not a perfect people. We are fallible. We have been tasked to live lives of social action and Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world”) because we are on a constant journey to improve that which is broken. We are taught to care for others and provide Gemilut Chasidim (“acts of love and kindness”). These values are ingrained in our Jewish tradition and our Jewish way of life, and it is the Jewish Federation of San Antonio’s (JFSA’s) responsibility to sustain the community so that we can collectively espouse these values every day in San Antonio.
Through our community Annual Campaign, the Jewish Federation provides for our vulnerable populations by funding programs and initiatives with Jewish Family Service (JFS), Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA-SA), and San Antonio Jewish Senior Services (SAJSS). We secure the resources for enhanced Jewish life and learning in partnership with the Barshop JCC, the Starr Family Jewish Day School, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio (HMMSA). And we ensure the continuum of Jewish leadership and engagement from generation to generation, including our ongoing fight against the current uprise of antisemitism through our Young Adult Division (YAD) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), respectively.
We are not like Joseph, capable of doing this alone. We are Judeans, needing to do this together. And the only way we can fund the needs across Jewish San Antonio is to ensure your participation in the community-wide Annual Campaign. Please join the many who have already made their pledge and contributed to this critical fund.
Thank you for a year of support, engagement, and building community. We are better because we are…
Shabbat Shalom and Happy 2023!