Article

Just like Joseph, we sometimes may feel hurt and bruised by people and challenges. But it is up to us to decide whether we will become victims and bury ourselves in pain, or whether we will view these occurrences as situations in which G-d "sent" us to...

Rabbi Allouche

As a young child, I remember being glued to a TV set in Johannesburg, South Africa, where my family resided, on that momentous day of February 11, 1990. Nelson Mandela had just been released to freedom after 27 years of torturous imprisonment.

Toward the end of the day, a journalist approached Nelson Mandela with the following question: “Don’t you feel any resentment toward your country and its government for oppressing you and your people for so many years?”

With grace and a radiant smile, Mandela responded: “Resentment? Not at all! Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

In this week’s portion, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers 22 years after they had sold him into slavery. The brothers are overcome with fear that Joseph, who had become the vice-king of Egypt, will now execute his revenge. But Joseph reassures them: “Now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourself for having sold me here, for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me ahead of you… G-d has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance. It is not you who sent me here, but G-d.” (Genesis 45:1-11).

Joseph was telling his brothers that they may have sold him to Egypt as a slave. But that was not the way he chose to view his saga. Instead, Joseph saw himself as a person who was sent to Egypt by G-d, charged with a mission to do good, at every moment, in every place. And although Joseph suffered terribly, he knew how to let go, forgive, and liberate himself from the shackles of victimhood to embrace the Divine missions and blessings that are stored in life’s every twist and turn.

Just like Joseph, we sometimes may feel hurt and bruised by people and challenges. But it is up to us to decide whether we will become victims and bury ourselves in pain, or whether we will view these occurrences as situations that G-d “sent” us to, in order to bring healing to ourselves and to the world around us, to kindle a light in a place of darkness, and to ignite a spark of hope in a moment of despair.

In the 16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria composed a beautiful prayer to help us let go of any resentment, grudge, and heartache we may have accumulated throughout the day so that we can awake the next morning with a fresh heart, a clean soul, and a set of undefiled eyes focused on moving forward and upward.

The words of this prayer — which are recited every night, before going to sleep — are riveting:

“Master of the universe, I hereby forgive everyone who has angered or antagonized me or who has sinned against me — whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought or notion; whether in this transmigration or another transmigration — I forgive every Jew and every person. May no one be punished because of me.

“May it be Your will, HaShem, my God and the God of my forefathers that I may sin no more, and whatever sins I have done before You, may You blot out in Your abundant mercies, but not through suffering or bad illnesses, please. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, HaShem, my Rock, and my Redeemer.”

If this prayer is not yet a part of your daily ritual, I encourage you to recite it along with the bedtime Shema prayer. We need it today, perhaps, more than ever before.

Meditate it day and night. Embrace its message of forgiveness and renewal. And set yourself, and our society, free.

Shabbat Shalom, and many, many blessings,
Rabbi Allouche