[JOI Word of Torah] "Big Tent Judaism" Word of Torah--Vayigash
Kerry M. Olitzky
KOlitzky at joi.org
Tue Dec 26 04:19:51 GMT 2006
"Big Tent Judaism" Word of Torah
December 30, 2006/9 Tevet 5767
"I am Joseph, your brother. Is my father still alive?" (Genesis 45:3)
These simple words are among the most powerful in the entire Torah. After playing games with his brothers, Joseph finally reveals himself to them. He no longer uses the trappings of his office as camouflage. Joseph removes all of the barriers that stand between them, asking everyone but his brothers to remain in the room. Even with all of his success, he wants his identity known only in relationship to his brothers. Then he reveals the deep-seated emotion that he has failed to face on his ascent in Egyptian society. He asks about his father-Joseph's connection to his roots. It is one of the reasons why the Rabbis go to great lengths to suggest that Joseph maintained his Jewish identity during his years in Egypt. No matter the paths we take in life, that spark of Jewish identity can remain alive-if only there is someone or something to nurture that spark. For Joseph, it is Gd who nurtures that spark. And for those of us who let Gd into our lives, this may indeed be the case.
But for others, whose relationship with the Divine is not foremost in their lives, the Jewish community is in the best position to nurture the spark of Jewish identity that lay buried beneath the recesses of the soul. We constantly discover this with those on the periphery of the Jewish community, especially those who have intermarried. While the organized Jewish community often reads intermarriage as a rejection of one's Jewish identity, we have discovered that this is usually not the case. If we don't write Joseph off when he marries Asnat, then why would we write off those among us who have intermarried today? This is the time that they need the Jewish community and may want to come closer to it. This is the time in which the emotion of "I am Joseph your brother" becomes more profound. Joseph only expressed himself once to his brothers this way and it changed their relationship. We may only have one opportunity, as well, but it too has the potential to change history.
Dr. Kerry M. Olitzky
Jewish Outreach Institute
1270 Broadway, Suite 609
New York, NY 10001
<http://www.joi.org/> www.JOI.org <http://www.joi.org/>
JOI's National Conference: Opening the Tent: Visions and Practices for a More Inclusive Jewish Community will be held October 14-16, 2007 in Washington, DC. Visit our conference website for up-to-date information www.JOI.org/conference.
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You are welcome to use these ideas in your own work and writings as long as you would be so kind as to credit Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and the Jewish Outreach Institute, thank you.
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