Friday, January 02, 2009

"He kissed all his brothers and wept upon them, and afterward his brothers talked with him." (Genesis 45:15)
Yosef is unable to restrain himself any longer, and finally reveals himself to his brothers. In one of the most emotionally climactic moments in the Torah the brothers are reconciled. One might argue this scene is a climax to the Book of Genesis filled with the drama of sibling rivalry throughout.
Of course seeing a character in the Torah cry is notable. R. Zalman Sorotzkin, called the "Lutzker Rav," (1881-1960), explains that Yosef merited his high position precisely because he was able to cry:
We should note that Yosef was a man of tears. [Literally, a ba'al bechi -a "master of crying."] We find that Yosef cried in Parshat Miketz,in this parsha and in Parshat Vayechi. The one who cries in bad times will also be able to cry in times of calm or achievement. The brothers, who had never suffered in their lives, could not cry even when their situation called for tears. Because Yosef could cry even for the troubles of others he merited greatness. (Quoted in Itturei Torah)

If we add up each time Joseph cries in these last 3 portions – we come up with eight times. We are driven toward an important quality in leadership, a question we might ask of our modern day leaders - are they really able to "feel the pain" of others? Are they able to empathize?

Yosef cried when reunited with his family, and he cried when his father died, and at the very end of the book of Genesis, he cried when he finds out that his brothers still feared that he might take revenge after Yaakov is buried. His tears communicate in a way that goes beyond words, a deep and true connection to those he loved. Perhaps, Yosef's greatness was not only his political position, but his spiritual position, he becomes after a very rocky adolescence a man of deep empathy and emotion – he truly changes. Can we do the same change and grow to become more empathetic and connected to the emotions of others? Can our leaders cry at loss, tragedy in their own lives? What about in the lives of others?