Jan 12 2017 Dvar Torah

Rabbi Helen Cohn

He kept the matter in mind
The story of Joseph begins with his receiving a “coat of many colors” from his father Jacob. Joseph’s ten older brothers correctly understand the meaning of this gift: “His brothers saw that it was he whom their father loved most of all…so they hated him.” (Gen 37:4)

Joseph then begins to dream. First he dreams that their sheaves bowed down to his sheaf, and when he tells the dream to his brothers, they hate him even more. He dreams a second dream, this time that the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. He tells this dream to his father along with his brothers. “His father scolded him…and his brothers were jealous of him, and his father kept the matter in mind.” (37:10-11)

Our foundation stories as told in the Torah are about human beings just like us, flawed, sometimes confused, and always struggling with family relationships. I think often of Jacob, who “kept the matter in mind.” Did he not see the animosity between Joseph and his brothers? Was he unwilling to intervene, as he was apparently unwilling to intervene when his sons ravaged and plundered Shechem?

Only now, in this week’s Torah portion, does Jacob on his deathbed speak truth to them. The words are described by the Torah as blessings, but especially for Ruvein, Shimon and Levi they are rebukes. Is this too little, too late?

What do we learn about this with our own children, no matter what their age? When do we keep the matter in mind? When do we offer advice and when do we keep silent? How can we support without interfering? When do we rescue, when do we hold back, when do we say “no”?

The answers depend on the circumstances, on the uniqueness of the children, and on their stage in life. In every case, however, let us strive not to do too little, too late.