With this week's powerful climax of the drama of Joseph and the brothers we begin the close of the book of Breishit. We will shortly leave the story of persons and families to engage the story of the People of Israel and the revelation of the laws by which the People is to live.
What legacy am I left with? What challenge do these engaging dramas of our fathers and mothers and the many other characters who inhabit the pages leave us? The stories are all different, the characters diverse. Some are good, some are bad. Their actions evoke a wide range of emotions from sadness to joy and from disdain to embrace. Is there a red thread we can find as we look to make a hadran for Breishit in the coming weeks? Is there a underlying message that transcends the individual stories and is present in all?
I invite you to answer that question for your self? For me the red thread, the compelling message present throughout the book..at least for this year...is that wherever we are, whatever we face in life .. no matter how seemingly small or personal, it may well be our Waterloo... To do the right thing may justify our whole existence. To do the wrong thing may compromise our right to have been born. Moreover to do the right thing may bring a gift only we can bring to the messianic edifice. To do the wrong thing may hold back mashiach's arrival.
Yehuda had no idea that he was before Joseph and the whole future of the Jewish people depended on his rising up to the occasion to put his life on the line to save Benjamin. Nor did he know that in saving Tamar his daughter-in-law from the fire he saved the lineage of the Messiah. These were for him individual moments of testing....personal and private. Yet if he had failed either, the consequences would be beyond historic. The same is true for all the character tests our Avot and Imahot experienced and even for those who play lesser roles in the Book. What if Eliezer had not brought back Rivka saying he could not find a suitable wife? What if Joseph had simply given in to the awesome temptation of Potiphar's wife? On the other side, what might have been if Esav had over-come his hunger and not sold the birthright to Yaakov? Would Yaakov still have gone in at his mothers request to take the blessings? Could Noah have had any idea that his private righteousness would save the existence of humanity?
Each of us has moments that are consequential beyond the personal testing of either doing a mitzvah or committing an avaira. These are moments of calling, moments for which we were created. According to many teachings each person has a unique avoda or role to play in the completion of the story of humanity and the bringing about of the ultimate redemption. Its a role that is reserved exclusively for us. Each one of us has moments when we are Yehuda or Yosef or Noah..Completing those moments successfully means we have fulfilled our destiny, failing means we have compromised the progression of the world to the yemot hamashiach.
Breishit teaches me that I cannot know when those ultimate moments will be before me...Yehuda, Joseph, Noah, Eliezer, Esav and all the many many others did not know. Yet they needed to live their personal challenges as if the whole world depended on them. The Rambam taught... every person needs to see the him/herself and the world as exactly balanced between the good and the evil and the deed before him/her to do is so consequential that it will tip the scale and hence tip his/her fate and the fate of the world either for life or for destruction.
Brieshit challenges me to mindfulness, to living the moment fully, to embrace the gift of the single mitzvah or act of kindness as if its consequence will either sustain or destroy both me and the world...And who knows...it just might!