We’re deep into the Joseph story now in the Torah. In this week ahead, we learn about Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. We also are told that Joseph is the favorite son of his father, Jacob. As I learned from Rabbi Shalva around the firepit the other week, you might have thought that Jacob would have known not to play favorites with his own children, considering the trouble it caused Jacob in his life with his own father. That’s a common trope, though, isn’t it? The qualities we don’t love in our relatives sometimes show up within us. More on that in a moment…
Back to Joseph. At age 17, he has these vivid dreams about his older brothers bowing down to him. And then, in an act that is either naive or incredibly conceited, HE TELLS HIS OLDER BROTHERS ABOUT THEM. Why, oh why, would Joseph share this out loud? (Isn’t this what diaries and journals are for?) Combine this with his brothers knowing that he is daddy’s favorite… and it’s just a recipe for disaster. Joseph is, whether he’s aware of it or not, goading his brothers into doing something terrible (which they do, and it completely changes the trajectory of his life). It turns out later in the story that the dreams were somewhat accurate. The brothers really do need Joseph’s help, as he has far exceeded them in power and wealth, and they sort of come crawling back to him. But in the moment of sharing the dreams, that hasn’t happened yet. Right now, he just seems like a kid who needs to puff out his chest, prove that he’s better than his siblings and earn his favorite status. He may have been right, but he was not kind. And for Joseph, it makes for a very lonely life.
As we head into a Thanksgiving weekend that could be full of family dynamics revealing themselves in technicolor, having perhaps had a year of virtual gatherings, I’d like to remind us of a few things, using the lessons from Joseph. Sometimes, it’s better to be kind than to be right. We have to make a choice about which button to push in our brains…and which buttons we may be pushing of others! This awareness, of which buttons to push- and when- can be the key to developing deep, authentic relationships. If we always keep everything light & easy and never let ourselves be vulnerable, we don’t get the depth of connection we might wish for. If we go right for the jugular of someone’s pressure point, you may get burned right back. Here are some of the “buttons” I’ll be playing around with in my own mind this week: being right, being kind, pressing pause, hitting the “easy” button, forgiving yourself, enjoying company, staying in the moment, being grateful, taking 3 breaths before responding, talking politics (or not), talking vaccines (or not), delighting in delicious food, getting real. How about you? Which buttons would you add to my list?
No matter where you are or who you’re with this Thanksgiving, I wish you a week of cultivating gratitude and authentic connections with your loved ones.