In our Torah portion this week,
VaYechi, we conclude the book of Genesis. Jacob passes away and his children return to Chevron so that he can be buried in the land of Israel. A midrash suggests that on his way back to Egypt, Joseph makes an unusual stop. He goes to the pit that his brothers threw him down at the beginning of his somewhat unfortunate and unlikely journey to becoming one of the most powerful men in Egypt. While the midrash tells us that Joseph did this so that he could pay tribute to where he came from and thank God for the miraculous journey, it also made his brothers worry. When they saw Joseph visit the pit, they were reminded of the terrible things they had done. Now that their father had passed, they were worried that Joseph would exact his revenge. According to the commentators, Joseph had genuinely forgiven his brothers. He had no intent on seeking revenge once their father passed, but that didn't matter. Joseph's visit to the pit put a strain on their relationship moving forward, pushing them further apart.
Something that I think we can learn from Joseph's experience is that we need to be mindful. Almost as important as what we do and say, is the way in which what we do and say is understood and interpreted by others around us. While our intentions might be good and pure, we cannot control the way in which other people may interpret them given their own perspectives and contexts. Which is why it ismy hope and prayer for all of us this Shabbat and beyond, as we prepare to enter this new year together, that we can express ourselves in a productive and honest way, bringing us closer together.