[This essay on Joseph, his father and his brothers, Potiphar & prison, Pharaoh and slavery, is Chapter II of the book Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I wrote together, Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus & Wilderness Across Millennia (Jewish Lights).
Two years ago, my life-partner, co-author, and often co-teacher Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I wrote and Jewish Lights published a reinterpretation of the biblical stories of Exodus and Wilderness: Freedom Journeys. (If you’d like to have this kind of biblical reinterpretation available to stir your own journeys toward freedom in the world – and/or you’d like to give its gift of freedom for Hanukkah or Christmas — you can receive Freedom Journeys, with a personal insciption, by clicking to https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=5 )
Our book beckons toward freedom. Yet it begins with a story of enslavement, not liberation. It begins with the story of Joseph, which we enter this week in reading the Torah.
The story of Joseph is a novel that takes up one-third of the Book of Genesis. There is a recurrent pattern in Joseph’s life: He depends on a powerful overlord in his life to lift him above others who feel they ought to be treated as his equals, and who are enraged by his arrogance.
The pattern begins when with his father’s help in favoring him. He rises above his brothers
I begin with a renewed version of the blessing traditionally offered before learning Torah—sharing wisdom—together:
Blessed are You, the Breath of Life, the Inter-breathing Spirit of the universe, who breathes into us the wisdom to know that we become holy by breathing together, by shaping our breath into words, and by shaping our words so that they aim towards wisdom.
Rabbi Phyllis Berman and her smikha sisters, 12/27/2004
SMICHA WEAVE AND PHYLLIS DVAR TORAH
Breishit : In the beginning of the process of creating four women rabbis and a rabbinic pastor there were five women living in three continents ranging in age from 41 to 61.
One, a Sabra whose Orthodox Zionist parents, arriving in Israel from Hungary and Poland, met in a kibbutz and settled in Jerusalem, comes from a family with a documented rabbinic lineage of 32 generations through her Saba, and a similar one through her Savta;
Make a recurring donation and receive Freedom Journeys as our token of appreciation. Click here for more info about the book. Freedom Journeys is a deep meditation on the timeless—and timely—relevance of the Exodus narrative. In the grand tradition of mystical exegesis, Waskow and Berman reflect upon Exodus not only as an event that happened “then” and “there”, but a paradigm of movement that is happening here and in the now, for all of us, Jew and Muslim, Black and White, male and female. —Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies, University of North Carolina.