I recently saw the movie Green Book, which I enjoyed and recommend. Based on a true story, it concerns the relationship between a black pianist with highly refined tastes and the Bronx bouncer he hires as a driver/protector for a concert tour through the Midwest and South in 1962. I was struck by the pianist’s intense loneliness. He exists at the interface of the “normal” black and white communities, rooted in neither.
Which brings us to Joseph’s relationships in this week’s Torah portion, the last in the book of Genesis.
17 years have passed. Jacob’s family in Goshen, has prospered. Now 147, Jacob, prepares to die. He makes Joseph swear that the burial will be in the family plot, in the Cave of Machpelah in Canaan. He blesses Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, younger (Ephraim) before elder, and formally adopts them, making his beloved Rachel ancestress of three tribes instead of two. Finally, he gives personal comments to each of his sons. and giving each of his sons some personalized last words (49:1-28). These words are intended as prophesies of what will happen to each son’s descendants “in the end of days” and so are, in one sense, performance reviews. As expected, Reuben, Levi and Shimon come off worst, Judah and Joseph best. Jacob dies, and his embalmed remains are taken to Canaan by his sons, accompanied by an Egyptian entourage. The children and livestock remain in Egypt.
Joseph’s older brothers fear that, now Jacob is dead, Joseph will finally retaliate against them for being sold all those years ago. Joseph weeps in sorrow and frustration, recognizing that they have never believed in his forgiveness; indeed, they have never forgiven themselves. Despite Joseph’s reassurance and care, the barrier between Joseph and his older brothers remains.
At 110, Joseph prepares for his own death. He has spent 93 years in Egypt, 80 of them as Zaphenat-Paneah in Pharaoh’s innermost circle. But he is still a Hebrew. He must humbly ask Pharaoh’s permission to bury Jacob in Canaan, saying he’d sworn to, and leaving the children and flocks behind. Yet he also remains apart from his family, at court while they prosper as shepherds in Goshen. He may still be a Hebrew, but he is no longer a Canaanite shepherd. At the interface of two adjacent worlds, he is an effective observer, liaison, and manager. But he is also isolated from both, rooted firmly in neither.
Joseph makes his brothers swear to take his remains to Canaan for burial, but only at the proper time: (50:24-25) “God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. …When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.”
So ends the book of Genesis, with foreshadowing that, for the Children of Israel to leave Egypt, God will have to bring them out.
GUIDE TO EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL
How do you rate?
|Performance Factor||Performance Degrees|
|Far Exceeds Job Requirements||Exceeds Job Requirements||Meets Job Requirements||Needs Some Improvement||Does Not Meet Minimum Job Requirements|
|QUALITY||Leaps tall buildings with a single bound||Must take a running start to leap over tall buildings||Can leap over short buildings only||Crashes into buildings when attempting to jump over them||Cannot recognize buildings at all|
|TIMELINESS||Is faster than a speeding bullet||Is as fast as a speeding bullet||Not quite as fast as a speeding bullet||Would you believe a slow bullet?||Wounds self with bullets when attempts to fire|
|INITIATIVE||Is stronger than a locomotive||Is stronger than a bull elephant||Is stronger than a bull||Shoots the bull||Smells like a bull|
|ABILITY||Walks on water consistently||Walks on water in emergencies||Washes with water||Drinks water||Passes water in emergencies|
|COMMUNICATION||Talks with God||Talks with the angels||Talks to himself||Argues with himself||Loses those arguments|
Submitted by Dr. Jay Pasachoff, Hale Observatories, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
Source: The Best of the Journal of Irreproducible Results, Edited by Dr. George H. Scherr © 1983
The fight for inheritance
Three sons go to their father on his deathbed. A father of three, a man of considerable wealth and creator of a veritable empire, lies on his deathbed in the final hours of his life. His sons, all vying to inherit his wealth, stand by his side, arguing over who should take the kingdom.
“I am the smartest,” says one.
“But I am the bravest,” replies another.
The youngest, last in line to inherit, says nothing and holds his father’s hand.
“Sons, sons! Stop this bickering. The inheritor or my vast wealth, of all my lands and riches, will be decided by a task.” said the dying man.
“Father,” cries the first son, “Whatever it is, I shall prove my worth! I will show you that your kingdom will be in safe hands with me! Name the task!”
The father breaths a laboured breath and then regards his first son. “My firstborn, you shall journey to the furthest, storm-tossed seas of the great West. There, you will search the unfathomable depths for the long-lost wreck of the HMS Gordimer. Deep within her bowels, there lies a treasure chest. Inside that chest is the incredibly rare Gem of Kings. Bring that, and you shall have my blessing.”
The son beams with pride while preparing his travels and leaves on his quest.
“What is my task, father?” asks the second son. “Tell me! For your kingdom, for your blessing, nothing is impossible!”
“My son,” he said, “you shall travel East. There, deep within the jungles, you will find the vicious and savage saber-toothed Bear. With just your hands, bring me its heart. Do this, and you shall have my blessing.”
The son packs his things and leaves for his tough journey.
“And me father?” asks the last son. “What is my task? What dangerous quest will you have me do?”
The father just looks at him. “My boy,” he says. “Can you, please, get me a glass of water.”
The son quizzes his father with a puzzled look. The man sees his son’s face and says “I never did like your brothers much. I hope you like being rich.”
The was a man who had four kids, all gorgeous, except for the youngest one, Craig, who was nothing short of gruesome. While on his deathbed, the husband asked his wife, “Marie, tell me one thing. And please be honest. Am I Craig’s father?” “Yes, honey,” replied his wife. “I promise you, Craig is 100 percent yours.” “I can die a happy man. Goodbye my love.” And the man peacefully passed away. Marie gave a big sigh and said quietly, “Thank heaven almighty he didn’t ask me about the other three.”
Quotes on Being in Two Worlds
It’s great to be able to have your feet in both worlds. I wouldn’t want to be just stuck in one or the other. David Morse
My school was 90 percent white, but 90 percent of the kids I played with were black. So I got the best of both worlds. I think that is where my comedy developed. Will Smith
My heroes in real life are definitely my mom for being true to herself, for having a foot in both worlds, for being so very polite – Canadian and also such a traditional Greek woman. I would sum it up this way: the life lesson she would say is be polite while you’re breaking the rules. Nia Vardalos
I think that black people, to a degree, need to have a certain level of dexterity. If we want to be at the highest level of whatever our field is, we have to be able to navigate both worlds. We all just know that you gotta be able to put that suit on and have a conversation with people that don’t look like you or your family. Mahershala Ali [who played the pianist in Green Book, BTW]
Maybe to feel like an Afghan I needed to be born and raised in the States, and maybe I needed to live in Afghanistan for nearly a decade to feel like an American. Both worlds shaped me, but neither one of them completely correspond to the picture I have of myself. Aman Mojadidi