D’var Torah: Can we still find siblinghood in our COVID world?

In last week’s parsha, trouble is brewing between Joseph and his brothers. Joseph tells of fantastical dreams in which he rules over them. They hate him and the favored status he holds with Jacob, their father.

Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers and, on his way, this remarkable story happens:

A man came upon him (Joseph) wandering in the fields. The man asked him, “What are you looking for?” He answered, “I am looking for my brothers. Could you tell me where they are pasturing?” The man said, “They have gone from here, for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothan.” So Joseph followed his brothers and found them at Dothan.

The man asks what Joseph is looking for. I think it is an existential question. Joseph prophesized he would rule over his siblings. Is this what he wants? Is this what he is pursuing? He answers, “I am looking for my brothers.” I think Joseph has grown, and at this moment, he is looking for that family connection between siblings and isn’t thinking of his own status. He wants to be brothers.

The man’s answer is tragic. He says that Joseph’s brothers won’t be found here. They have moved on. Joseph might be ready for brotherhood, but they are in a different place. Who can really blame them? Joseph had really alienated them.

Joseph, hoping for the best, pushes on but the brothers he finds sell him off into slavery. He was lucky to get out alive.

On Saturday nights at camp, one of my favorite songs begins, “We are siblings, all of Israel…” We need to look out for each other and protect each other. To me, this goes beyond Jews, but all people need to care for each other. I can’t wait to sing those songs again together.

We are experiencing such a horrible pandemic and we can feel isolated, uncared for and afraid. It is hard to find brotherhood and sisterhood.

At Hanukkah we light candles and we add one candle each night. The light grows stronger day by day. Some of us will light with our small households and some of us will be alone. Jewish tradition holds that we should light the candles where they can be seen from the street. This year, let’s spread our light to send the message that although we may be separate, we are not alone. Let us light the way for each other. We will triumph over this virus; better days are ahead. While we struggle to get there, please know that all of us at Ramah are here in brotherhood to support you and your families.

Happy Hanukkah!