Will the real Joseph please stand up?
Unquestionably the most colorful and dramatic tale in all of Tanach is the Joseph story of your performance tonight. On a surface level, the tale is suspense-filled and moving. But its richness lies in the deeper meaning of every verse, the complexity of the characters, their dubious motives, their incredulous actions and their debatable contrition.
Of the many profound themes, one constant that runs through the entire second half of Sefer Bereishit is that of the masks we wear, the fallacious faces that we don to the world. Beginning with Jacob disguising himself as his brother Essav to ‘steal” his blessings, continuing with Lavan masking his nefarious intentions with Jacob, then Leah impersonating Rachel to marry Jacob, and finally, the great masquerade of Joseph with his brothers.
What’s the message? What are we to glean from this continuous disingenuous dissembling?
We camouflage our identity to hide who we really are, to conceal our true selves. This feigning is a form of pretense used to deceive. But at times, we wear masks because we’re not sure who we are. Dressing up affords us the opportunity to try on new identities and expand our selves to include new possibilities of who we can be. Jacob responds to his father after being asked if he is Esav, that “I am Esav, your eldest”. His statement is an assertion that “I can be Esav”, I can act like him and “play” his character, until I eventually subsume his identity into my own.
Jacob’s masquerade sets off a chain reaction of duplicity that duplicates itself and unfurls throughout his family and descendants. Through their costumes, each impersonator takes on some of the attributes of his guise. Jacob indeed expands his persona to be more Esav-like in his mastery of the physical and material world , gaining strength and an ability to confront life directly with a straightforward and aboveboard posture.
The lesson? Dressing up is a powerful tool that can subliminally effect our identities. Beware of the costume you choose to wear. Act like the person you want to be and chances are, that is who you will become.
Thank you my beautiful girls for all for your hard work and dedication.
I’m so proud of you!!
Mrs. Ora Lee Kanner