In the midst of their newfound wealth and security, Joseph gives them a strange piece of instruction. He says, "Do not be quarrelsome along the way." What does Joseph mean? Why would he say that, especially in the midst of a joyous reunion, amidst unexpected wealth and success? There are several answers, but I would like to share with you two: one dealing with the human condition, the second with the Jewish condition.
The first commentary: Rashi suggests that each brother would blame the others for having sold Joseph into slavery. Joseph, understanding how guilt and denial operate, anticipated his brothers' need to blame each other, and he therefore instructs them not to engage in recriminations about the past. In effect, Joseph tells his brothers that they will never agree about the past, but they can still live in harmony despite that disagreement. That advice is no less precious today.
Conflicts within families and between friends are often magnified by our human propensity to remember the past in a way that makes us
Look best. As a result, two loving people end up not only disagreeing about the meaning of what happened, but even about the facts themselves. By focusing on those areas of disagreement, we lose sight of a shared desire to be part of each other's life.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Forgive what you can forgive. Keep those you love always in your life.
A second possibility, also raised by Rashi, is that Joseph instructs his brothers "not to engage in arguments of Jewish law (divrei halakhah), lest the road become unsteady for you."
We Jews have always argued about our beliefs, and we have always mined out sacred traditions to articulate our visions of how the world is structured, and how we should live our lives.
According to Rashi's second understanding, Joseph's brothers, like Jews throughout time, would spend their time on the road arguing about questions of Jewish law. Caught up in the passions of their discussions, they would lose their way religiously as well as geographically. Our Jewish obsession with ideas contains a potential danger--that we will become so excited by the ideas themselves that we
will lose any sense of a connection to reality. The ideas will justify themselves, regardless of how they work in the world, regardless of whether or not they conform to what we know of reality.
Judaism has always reflected this tension--adherence to timeless standards, but always renewing those standards in the light of developing communal understandings and ongoing social need. We must take care never to stop our passion for ideas, but we must also be on our guard, lest our ideas cease referring back to reality, to questions of how to live a more moral, more holy, more fully human life.
We must adhere to this truth, ever the more so what others’ cannot acknowledge the sanctity of life. One of the ways of fighting terrorism, aside from nations joining with nations and condemning them with physical force, is fully living each and every moment of our days. We will live, and laugh, and struggle and love, walk, eat and drink in the midst of our foes that treasure death. Use Facebook, post pictures of laughter and love with the quote, “Fighting against terrorism by fully living.” We are more than them. We are not afraid of those who live to kill. We will not be afraid. Let us “not be quarrelsome along the way.” All the world is a very narrow bridge; the important thing is not to be afraid. (Rebbe Nachmun of Bratslov)