Vayigash, Genesis 44:18-47:27, Parshat Ha Shavua for Shabbat, Saturday, December 26, 2020

I have wondered why Joseph is called Yosef ha Tzadik, Joseph the Righteous. He certainly does not start out his life that way.
Throughout his childhood, he is the pampered and spoiled favorite son of his doting father, Jacob. He has little empathy, or at least no understanding of how his father’s treatment makes his brothers hate him. In their jealousy, they sell him into slavery, and he disapears into Egypt. There, he falls even lower, ending up in prison until Pharaoh calls him out of the depths to interpret a dream. Joseph then enjoys a meteoric rise to the peak of power as the Pharaoh’s advisor.
Now, many years later, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt seeking food during a famine. Joseph faces them for the first time since they betrayed him. They do not recognize him and see a powerful Egyptian, not their younger brother. In this confrontation, when Joseph’s older brother Judah demonstrates that he has changed, and will not betray Benjamin as they did Joseph so many years before, Joseph reveals his identity and forgives his brothers. “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come forward to me.” And when they came forward, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, he whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:4-5)
On the most basic level, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and forgives them. On a deeper level, by having the capacity to forgive his brothers for the horrible wrongs they committed against him, Joseph reveals who he really is. Not the egotistical child he once was, but a man who has grown wise and compassionate through his life experience and can see a greater pattern in his experiences.
Perhaps that is why he is called Joseph the righteous, because he has developed the ability to forgive and to serve.
And there is this lesson too. When Joseph attains power, he uses it to serve others and to save lives. This would be a good example for our leaders to emulate. To use their power to serve; then they too might be called righteous.