Though we are already onto the second Torah portion of Exodus, my thoughts are still with the story of Joseph in Egypt and his brothers. So much of Scripture (all of it one could argue) stems from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and this is really the only story we have of the heads of the Tribes interacting. I have to believe that this story speaks strongly of how the Tribes relate today and in the future.
When the ten sons of Jacob arrive in Mitzrayim they don’t recognize their brother. And we can’t blame them. Joseph has been gone for many years. The Joseph they encountered must have looked very different from the one they remembered. He wore Egyptian clothes, followed the customs of the Egyptians, spoke a different language, and his father-in-law was the high priest of a different religion.
And Judah doesn’t recognize Joseph.
Today the tribe of Joseph has been assimilated into the nations. They have adopted the ways and customs of the lands they are in, celebrating whatever holiday the rest of society is, not observing Shabbat, eating forbidden foods. Their religion is a far cry from the Covenant of YHWH. Why should Judah recognize this Joseph?
Like much of Western Christianity, Joseph cares deeply for his father. We see him immediately ask how his father is after revealing his identity to his brothers.
And he wept aloud: and the Mitzrim and the bayit of Pharaoh heard. And Yoseph said to his brothers, I am Yoseph; does my abba still live?
But Joseph is powerful, so why wouldn’t he have contacted his father or gone back to him? In Beresheet 37:10 Jacob sternly rebukes Joseph before sending him away to his brothers. Is it possible that Joseph concluded that his father didn’t care? And isn’t that the reason many give for not looking like their father’s family? God doesn’t care what I do. It doesn’t matter what I eat or how I live. Doesn’t that sound familiar? How can Judah recognize their brother if they don’t look like part of their Father’s family?
Today Judah does not recognize the House of Joseph as YHWH's children. Whether you are a descendant from the Lost Tribes or grafted into Israel through Joseph, you are just as much part of YHWH's family as the tribe of Judah. Still, we can do much more than simply love the Father, we can return to Him! That means stepping out of our societal norms and religious traditions to go back to YHWH's ways. When Joseph loves the Torah he begins to look like he belongs to his Father.
What is your favorite part of the story of Joseph? How are you returning to YHWH?