Post 340

Family Counselling, Part 16:
Goodbye for Now

BLOGGER: My assistant told me that you have come to say goodbye.
JACOB: Indeed, we have come to say goodbye, and to thank you once again for your assistance many years ago.
BLOGGER: So, you will tell me where you are going?
JACOB: Egypt. We go to Egypt.
BLOGGER: Oh! To Egypt!
JACOB: This is where my son is. Joseph is there! He is not dead! All of this time, he has been alive!
JUDAH: We saw him ourselves! We all saw him!
BLOGGER: You did?
JUDAH: Not my father — he hasn’t seen him yet — but he also will!
BLOGGER: What happened?
LEVI: We met him again. We met him when we went the first time, and then we met him again. The second time we dined with him at his own house!
REUBEN: Levi, start from the beginning!
GAD: Tell her about when I found the money in my bag even though we thought we gave it!
LEVI: That isn’t the most important part!
BENJAMIN: Tell about how Joseph wanted to see me, and how you had to leave Simeon behind as a ransom.
SIMEON: Indeed! And why don’t all of you tell her how it took you forever to come back to get me?
JUDAH: No quarrelling! Remember what he told us?
JUDAH: Joseph told us not to quarrel when he sent us back to get our father.
BLOGGER: Joseph wanted you to bring Jacob, your father, back to him?
BENJAMIN: Joseph cannot leave because he’s in charge of Egypt.
SIMEON: He’s not in charge. The Pharaoh is in charge.
BENJAMIN: Well, practically, our brother is running everything.
SIMEON: But the Pharaoh is in charge, still the leader.
BENJAMIN: But Joseph is the one who gives all the orders.
SIMEON: Joseph is the governor; he’s not the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh is almost a god for the Egyptians.
REUBEN: Alright, alright. We all understand the idea.
JACOB: My son is a very powerful man in Egypt.
BENJAMIN: Second only to the Pharaoh.
SIMEON: Here we go again.
JACOB: And he manages everything, including the stores of grain.
LEVI: Egypt has massive piles of every kind of food that can be stored.
ZEBULUN: The Pharaoh had a dream in which the Lord showed him to store the grains.
REUBEN: The dream did not tell him what to do.
ZEBULUN: It basically did.
LEVI: The Pharaoh did not understand what the dream was telling him to do at all. That’s how Joseph got involved.
SIMEON: The Pharaoh was looking for someone to interpret the dream.
LEVI: And Joseph told him that the dream meant that there was going to be a famine after the years of plenty, so Joseph told him that he should store grain in order to prepare.
ZEBULUN: That’s basically what I said.
REUBEN: Not quite.
ZEBULUN: Basically.
LEVI: So Joseph was storing up grain even before anyone realized that there was going to be this famine.
DAN: And the famine will continue for five more years from now, according to our brother.
BLOGGER: Joseph said there will be five more years of famine?
DAN: Yes.
BLOGGER: Tell me about how it was when you realized that Joseph was Joseph.
LEVI: Oh! It was —
GAD: He started crying!
ASHER: Really loudly!
GAD: Everyone would have been able to hear him!
REUBEN: We were all in shock!
LEVI: He cried, “Everyone leave my presence!” and all of his attendants left the room. Then he said, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?”
JUDAH: But none of said anything. We were too frightened, too confused.
SIMEON: Especially me! I had seen him more than my brothers, because I was held prisoner there, and yet I never recognized him.
JUDAH: I was dumbfounded. I thought he was Egyptian. He spoke perfect Egyptian.
LEVI: Yes!
ASHER: Not that YOU could know whether his Egyptian was perfect.
JUDAH: How can you say that? He spoke really smoothly. Everyone understood him and did what he said.
ASHER: That doesn’t mean it was perfect, though.
JUDAH: It was probably flawless.
LEVI: Look. He lived in Egypt long enough to learn it, surely?
SIMEON: He has been in Egypt since he was 17, and now he’s 37.
BLOGGER: He’s spent more than half his life in Egypt, then.
JACOB: His sons were born there. He has an Egyptian wife and two sons.
BLOGGER: And how did you feel, Benjamin, once you realized that he was your brother, and not a stranger?
BENJAMIN: What can I say? Even now, I don’t know how to describe it. I thought he had died, and now he was alive.
ZEBULUN: You should have seen how much food he gave him! Plates all over the table, with no space extra, each plate piled like this.
BENJAMIN: I didn’t understand it.
BLOGGER: But you understand now?
BENJAMIN: He missed me.
ASHER: And what about all the gifts he gave you?
BENJAMIN: He gave all of us gifts.
ASHER: But he gave you extra. He gave everyone one set of new clothes, but he gave you five sets of clothes, and three hundred shekels of silver.
GAD: Ha! It’s clear who he favours!
ASHER: Who needs five whole outfits?
REUBEN: Don’t be envious. We are but half-brothers. Benjamin is his full brother. And besides, our mothers are alive, and their mother is gone.
JACOB: But at least I have Benjamin back, and soon I will lay my eyes on Joseph too.
ZEBULUN: I cannot wait to return. The food!
IS’SAHAR: Pharaoh’s household has as much meat as it wants, because some people are starting to sell their livestock to him in exchange for rice and grains.
ZEBULUN: Not just meat! Everything! Fresh fruit! Wine!
IS’SAHAR: You’re always thinking of food.
ZEBULUN: And you do not?
JACOB: We will load up the carts after two days and depart.
GAD: Joseph gave us the carts!
ASHER: So that we could all travel there.
LEVI: That’s actually how we were able to convince our father that Jacob was alive.
JUDAH: When he saw all the carts, he finally believed what we were saying.
JACOB: What they say is true. When they returned, the eleven, they said to me again and again, “Joseph is alive!” but I thought they were deceiving me, or that they were somehow mistaken.
JUDAH: Your were shaking your head, no, no.
JACOB: What they said, it was too much.
LEVI: And so we were pointing to all of the donkeys.
GAD: Ten male donkeys and ten female donkeys!
LEVI: These were presents from Joseph.
GAD: Carrying all kinds of grains and dried fruits!
ASHER: And all sorts of other gifts!
LEVI: We were asking him to look, to understand that it was real.
JACOB: I could not comprehend, not at first.
LEVI: We told him, look Father! Joseph has sent all of these to you, and he wants us to all return.
ZEBULUN: The famine is going to continue for five more years. That’s what Joseph told us.
LEVI: He wants us to settle in Egypt, so that he can take care of us.
REUBEN: And those were his words to us. He said “It was to save lives that the Lord sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But the Lord sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
JACOB: The Lord has shown his goodness to us!
BLOGGER: What else did Joseph say?
REUBEN: He said, “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.”
JUDAH: He said, “Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. The Lord has made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”
BLOGGER: And you all understood that it was really Joseph, and not a stranger?
REUBEN: Yes, we believed. We could see that it was really Joseph.
JUDAH: Not a stranger. He said to us, “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you.”
BLOGGER: And then what?
JUDAH: We all just wept. Twelve brothers. We were all weeping and embracing him. He embraced Benjamin, and wept more, and we were all overcome with emotion.
JACOB: How I wish I had been there as well!
REUBEN: We will bring you there swiftly. Only two days and we will leave!
JACOB: I will not let my old age prevent this meeting!
BLOGGER: Of course! So who is going? Is everyone leaving?
JUDAH: All of us. We will bring our wives, our sons, our daughters, our grandsons and grandchildren, just as he said. We will bring our livestock and everything we might need.
LEVI: Though Joseph did say, “Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.”
SIMEON: Joseph said to us, “You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there.”
BLOGGER: Yes. And how long will you stay?
REUBEN: We will stay as long as we must. With Joseph in power, no harm will come to us.
JACOB: Where my sons are, I will be also. We shall never again be separated.


Post 339

Family Counselling, Part 15:
The Weight of Waiting

The stories of those who wait are rarely told.
Part of the reason is that those who wait are often forgotten.
They are in the background.
They are not active, catching everyone’s attention.
So often, they are the women.

When I think of Jacob waiting, I think also of the women.
What about Dinah, the sister and half-sister of these brothers?
What about the wives of the men?
What would become of them if their husbands did not return?
Surely they had their fears as they counted the days and rationed the food.
When will my husband return?
When will they be back?
Will my husband be among them?

And what of the mothers?
Leah, Bilhah and Zilphah
Would they not wait as well?

Who considers the waiting of a woman?
Yet to be a woman is to wait
To be a woman is to wait

A man remembers the time he waited
But it is not his very existence
It is not his strength

A man recounts the time he waited
But is not his very existence
It is not his strength

A girl learns early that she must wait
As her cycle begins, runs its course, and finally

And again
Her cycle begins, runs it course, and finally

I claim it for woman
It is our life

It is our life
To such an extent
That we forget
The ways in which we wait

A woman wants a man
She waits for the man to notice her
Modernity has not changed everything
A man wants to think he chooses the course of his life

A woman waits for the man
To pursue and to propose
The story of the woman who proposed
Is a story
This proves my point

A woman who wants to conceive
Waits for the man to begin and to end
And then she waits again
Will this month be the one?

Ah no,
Not this time
Maybe the next

A woman has conceived
At first, it is her secret alone
Later everyone knows
That she waits

But they forget
How she waits
Oh, how she waits!
She waits to feel the kick
She waits for the pains to begin
She waits for the pains to end
The birth

The newborn babe wakes
And sleeps
— Finally!
The newborn babe suckles
(The new mother’s toes curl with pain)
And is done
— Finally!
Bless the mother with twins

Which man can understand?
No man can understand.
This I can say for sure.
How I wince when a priest describes childbirth.
Leave that analogy alone.

To wait is difficult.
Watch people who are waiting and you will remember
The feeling of life in suspense
Outward inaction because of inward unease
Flip through the magazine if you will
Flip through your phone if you will
You can do nothing better
Conversation is halted
Cannot get traction
Because we wait
The weight of waiting is underestimated
And misunderstood
Study any waiting room anywhere
Study the lobby of an airport
A person in line
Is a person in limbo
To wait is difficult
What is purgatory if not waiting?
To wait is not in our nature
We want fulfillment
We want solutions
We want happy endings

But this difficult thing
Belongs to women
Before it belongs to men
It belongs in two senses
First, even in the world we call modern
We do it more often
So often that we do not realize how often
Second, we do it better
And yes, this is a comparison
A contest we win
Women do it better than men
A man who says otherwise
Talks nonsense

Post 338

Family Counselling, Part 14:

Jacob waits now
He waits for his sons
For Benjamin, his son by Rachel
For Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Is’sahar and Zebulun, his sons by Leah
For Dan and Nephtali, his sons by Bilhah
For Gad and Asher, his sons by Zilpah
Eleven sons, because long ago, he learned not to wait for twelve

Each of these he knew from birth
Each of these he held
Each of these he has loved from birth
Now each a man
Will all return?

Jacob waits now
Like many others have before him
Like many others will after him

What does he see?
Today, nothing
Like yesterday

What does he see?
Today, again, nothing
Like yesterday

When he was younger,
He too covered vast distances
Where has he not gone?
He has been everywhere
But not Egypt

They will return
Will they not?
Could he lose them all?

How foolhardy to send them all!
What folly especially to send Benjamin!
What use is Benjamin to that man?
Yet to me he is everything!
All that I have left of Rachel
The man will be merciful, will he not?
My sons will speak on my behalf
If only he will hear them!

Let the story not end thus!
It cannot end with me like this!
Surrounded by the sons and wives of my sons
The four sons of Reuben
The six sons of Simeon
The three sons of Levi
The three sons and two grandsons of Judah
The four sons of Is’sahar
The three sons of Zebulun
The seven sons of Gad
The four sons and two grandsons of Asher
The ten sons of Benjamin
The son of Dan
The four sons of Naphtali
Yet unable to provide for them
Unable to provide for anyone
A failed patriarch
Watching his entire family fall into ruin
At the mercy of a foreigner

Let the story not end thus!

Our food dwindles
But I cannot eat anyway

The sun sets and the house becomes quiet
But I cannot sleep anyway


Post 337

Family Counselling, Part 13:

Dear Blogger,

Because of the famine, my brothers came to Egypt.
O Egypt, My Egypt!
Country of paradox
Cultivated yet wild
Lush yet barren
Ancient yet new
My prison, my refuge, my kingdom
My home
My sons have known no other place.
To my firstborn I gave the name Manas’seh, to mean:
The Lord has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.
To my second born, I gave the name E’phraim, to mean:
The Lord has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction

What do my brothers know of this place?
They arrive confused
Bewildered by the sights
Dazzled by what is cosmopolitan and vast
Puzzled by the language
The crush of people from every nation
Overwhelmed and afraid

To them, my heart goes out
I know them
I see them
But they cannot imagine I am here

Their security is in my hands
And I am fiercely watchful
I know their comings and goings
They shall receive everything I can give them
And as for Benjamin
Fully my own flesh and blood
My brother
What will I not do for him?

Everything they see
Everything they touch
Everything they hear
This is all within my control
My thoughts and my wishes become the reality
Which surrounds them

But they see me not
They know nothing of my care
Who was it who directed that their sacks be filled nearly to bursting?
Who was it who directed that all their money be returned untouched?
They know nothing of my love

They cannot imagine the depth of the love
In the heart of the one they condemned to death
The one they sold into slavery
As if worthless

Part 2

And now
Now they enter my city
They are tired and they are hungry
My stewards invite them to my home
And they are frightened at being so directed
They speak among themselves
“Now the man will seize us!”
“He thinks we stole from him!”

My steward reassures them
And brings Simeon into their presence
Yet still they tremble to know that I will arrive at noon
Ah! To them, I am “the Man”
I am nameless
Yet they bow to me
When I arrive

I survey them
Here is Benjamin
He dares not look me in the eye
Benjamin, do you not know me?
We have the same mother!
We were born of the same womb!
But he knows me not

I say to them,
Is this the one?
Is this the youngest of whom you spoke?
Why do I ask?
I pretend to not know my own flesh and blood
They answer that he is
Yes, this is Benjamin, your servant

I say
God be gracious to you, my son
But it is too much

It is too much

I excuse myself

I weep for Benjamin
I weep for myself
I weep for the past
Our long separation
Our broken youth
He was but fifteen when I was taken
Oh Benjamin!

Part 3

They are seated now
But not at my table
An Egyptian man does not dine with a Hebrew man
As if the blood which runs through me is not as theirs

But to their table
From my own,
Food is carried again and again
They are amazed by the richness of the dishes
Meats, breads of fine flour, and every delicacy
Fruits familiar and exotic
During a time of famine
Each has his fill
And Benjamin is given five times the portions
As if I can feed him food enough for our twenty lost years

The wine flows
And my brothers begin to lose their fear
They talk with me
And I pretend that I need my interpreter
As if we did not learn to speak under the same roof

I speak Egyptian to my steward
Fill their sacks to the brim with as much as they can carry
Return their money
It will be with the grain

And while they are asleep
I direct something else
Take my silver cup
Place it into the sack of Benjamin

Blogger, you will say that I was deceitful
You will say that my plan was wrong
But can you understand?
How could I bear to see him leave?

To my steward, I speak thus:
Tomorrow, after they leave,
Overtake them
Charge them with the theft of my cup
Direct that the thief must stay with me

Such was my plan

Part 4

My plans always achieve fulfillment
And I had imagined how I would speak
Full of consternation, my brothers returned to me
I had not seen them as stricken with terror
As when they returned to me
Confused by their guilt

One brother and the next
Protesting and tearing at his clothes
Weeping and asking for mercy

Did I not weep like this
Did I not beg for mercy like this

Was I not innocent too?
Blogger, was I wrong to do this?
I fear you will say that I was

But I have already suffered,
And all of Egypt has heard my weeping.

I listened as Judah spoke
He spoke of my father
My father, whom I have not seen for twenty years
And as he filled my ears with the words spoken by my father,
I could not contain myself

“My wife bore me two sons
One left me
Torn to pieces in a field
I have never seen him since
If you take
If you take this one
This one
If harm befalls him
Him too
Then to Sheol I will go
In sorrow”

It is too much!

But I cannot even excuse myself

With a loud cry
Such as is heard through the house of Pharaoh himself
I begin to weep

I am no longer the governor
I am only Joseph
Joseph son of Jacob

Post 336

Family Counselling, Part 12:

BLOGGER: It’s nice to see you again.
JACOB: We wanted to say hello. It has been so many years.
BLOGGER: So many.
JACOB: You have not aged.
BLOGGER: Thank you. People tell me that, but I know I have.
JACOB: You live a good life, I think.
BLOGGER: I am very blessed, yes.
JACOB: Your family is well?
BLOGGER: Yes, thank you.
BLOGGER: Judah was telling me — it’s Judah, am I right?
BLOGGER: Judah was telling me as you were walking in that you have been to Egypt once already, and that you are going to leave again in a few days?
JACOB: Not me. No, I haven’t been, but they went. And they will soon depart again.
JACOB: Yes, to buy more food. We are running low again.
BLOGGER: I understand. Provisions are low everywhere.
REUBEN: And also there is the matter of Simeon.
BLOGGER: Simeon?
REUBEN: We left him in Egypt.
BLOGGER: Your brother? You left your brother Simeon in Egypt?
REUBEN: Not because we wanted to.
BLOGGER: Why? What happened?
REUBEN: The man there — he forced us to leave Simeon.
BLOGGER: What man?
REUBEN: The man in charge of the grain distribution.
BLOGGER: In Egypt?
REUBEN: The Egyptian man. He didn’t believe us, and he had Simeon taken prisoner.
LEVI: He made us, and we saw Simeon being bound up right before our eyes and carried away.
REUBEN: He wanted to keep Simeon until we returned with Benjamin.
BLOGGER: Benjamin wasn’t with you?
REUBEN: No, he didn’t accompany us to Egypt. Our father wouldn’t let us take him.
JACOB: He’s the youngest one!
BLOGGER: But he’s not so young now? He’s, what, thirty years old?
BENJAMIN: I am thirty-five.
JACOB: But if anything happens to him, I will have none of my sons from Rachel. His brother has already died. I cannot lose Benjamin too.
BLOGGER: So you stayed behind on the first trip?
BENJAMIN: I remained here in Canaan with my father.
BLOGGER: So why was the man asking for Benjamin? How did he know about Benjamin if Benjamin wasn’t there?
REUBEN: The man asked us to tell him about our family. He asked about our father, and if we had other siblings.
BLOGGER: So you told him that you had a sibling at home, Benjamin.
REUBEN: Yes, of course.
BLOGGER: And what did he say?
REUBEN: Well, he didn’t seem to like us very much from the beginning, even though we were very respectful to him. He spoke very gruffly to us, and the interpreter told us what he was saying. There were many interpreters there, because there were so many people from so many countries coming to buy grains and rice. He said, “Where do you come from?” We said, “We are from the land of Canaan, and we are here to buy food.” He said to us, “You are spies. You have come to discover the weakness of our land.”
BLOGGER: He thought you were spies?
REUBEN: Yes, he didn’t believe we were ordinary men. Perhaps because there were so many of us, and we don’t all look very much alike, but we explained, we said, “We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants are not spies.”
BLOGGER: You called yourselves “his servants”?
REUBEN: Yes! He was very severe, and we wanted to appease him in any way that we could. We bowed very low, and we spoke with deference.
BLOGGER: What else?
REUBEN: We said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no longer living.”
BLOGGER: “No longer living” — as in, Joseph.
BLOGGER: Did he believe you then? I guess he didn’t.
REUBEN: No, he didn’t believe us, and he said, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”
REUBEN: So he made a rule that nine of us would remain in prison, while one of us went back to fetch Benjamin.
BLOGGER: But didn’t you say that —
REUBEN: He changed the rule. After we were in prison for three days, he came to us and said that he would let all of us go, except for one. He said: “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined in your prison, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”
BLOGGER: So you chose Simeon to stay in his prison?
REUBEN: We didn’t have a chance for discussion. He ordered his men to take Simeon, and right then and there, Simeon was bound and taken out of our sight.
JUDAH: That’s the last time we saw him.
BLOGGER: The last time you saw Simeon?
BLOGGER: So you haven’t been back to Egypt since then?
BLOGGER: How long ago was that?
REUBEN: It was almost eight months ago.
BLOGGER: Simeon has been there, imprisoned, for eight months?
REUBEN: We have been too frightened to return.
BLOGGER: But what about Simeon?
JACOB: You see? This is how I lose another son!
BLOGGER: But you are going back?
REUBEN: Yes, we are going back. We have run out of food. Our household is very large now, with wives and children and servants, and so even though the amount of food was large, we need to act soon.
BLOGGER: So you did receive food from Egypt.
REUBEN: Yes, we received a great amount of food.
GAD: And we received it without payment!
BLOGGER: Without payment? How did this happen?
REUBEN: How should we know?
BLOGGER: You don’t know?
JUDAH: Each of us brought our own small bags of money, and we each gave them the money in exchange for the grains, but when we were on our way home, Gad went to feed his donkey, and he found his bag of money at the mouth of the grain sacks!
REUBEN: And for each of us it was likewise: in each of our bags of grain, was our money again, untouched.
BLOGGER: Why? What happened?
REUBEN: We don’t know.
JACOB: It will be all the worse for us, for the man will accuse them of thievery! I will lose all my sons!
BLOGGER: It is dangerous, then. Did someone make a mistake? I guess things were very busy there, but then I don’t know why the money would be in with the grains, and it was like this for all of you.
REUBEN: We don’t know.
BLOGGER: So what will you do?
JUDAH: We will return. My father has suggested —
JACOB: I said to them, “take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you; carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight.
BLOGGER: You hope to avoid his wrath.
REUBEN: Indeed.
BLOGGER: And you will also bring Benjamin this time?
JUDAH: Yes. This time, we will bring Benjamin.
BLOGGER: And Jacob, you allow them to take Benjamin this time?
REUBEN: We have no choice!
JUDAH: The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’
JACOB: Why you needed to reveal you had a younger brother, I don’t understand.
REUBEN: Father, we already explained! He questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” We were merely answering his questions. How could we have predicted that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?
JACOB: Now I risk losing another one!
REUBEN: We have promised you, Father!
JACOB: You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come upon me.
REUBEN: We have promised you father! We will not lose another one!
JUDAH: I said to my father, “Send Benjamin with me, and we will arise and go. We must have food, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones.” I said to him, “Look, I will be surety for Benjamin; of my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame for ever.”
REUBEN: And I too, have said the same. I said to my father: “Slay my two sons if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
BLOGGER: Is this enough for you, Jacob? You will let them take Benjamin to see the man?
REUBEN: We are running out of food!
JACOB: I said to them, you can go. I said, “Go again to the man. May the Lord grant you mercy before the man, that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
BLOGGER: That’s how you feel?
JACOB: Yes, that’s what I said.
BLOGGER: You are prepared for the worst?
JACOB: Can anyone be prepared for the worst?


Post 335

Family Counselling, Part 11:

Dear Blogger,

I think you will begin to suspect that I am writing you imaginative tales, but I assure you that these letters are the true stories of my life!
God’s mercy has been shown to me in very mysterious and entirely unforeseeable ways.

When I wrote to you last, I wrote to you from the prison. I am not in prison anymore, by an amazing turn of events.
This is how it happened.
As I mentioned, I was put in charge of all of the other prisoners. Two of my prisoners had worked for the Pharaoh himself. One was a baker and one was a butler.
One morning, when I was greeting each of the prisoners, I noticed that these two were upset. Their problems were the same: both had had dreams, and they could not understand them.
I said to them, “Why are you upset?” and each of them said, “I have had a most unusual dream, but I have nobody to interpret the dream.”
I responded, “Do interpretations not belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”
So they told me their dreams. I will not repeat all of it here, for I have so much else I wish to say, but as they described the details, I immediately understood the meanings. I knew that the butler would be restored to his position, but that the baker would be executed. When I had interpreted both of their dreams, I made my request of the butler. (I did not request this of the baker, for I knew that his days were ending.) I said to the butler: “Remember me, when it is well with you, and do me the kindness, I pray you, to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into prison.”

Later I received word that everything had happened as I had said. The baker was hung, and the butler was restored to his position. However, I languished in prison for a further two years. It became clear to me that the butler had not mentioned me to the Pharaoh, or else that the Pharaoh was not interested in my case.

But lo and behold, one day, soon after my 30th birthday, several of the Pharaoh’s officials came down to the prison and asked me to prepare to meet the Pharaoh. I washed and I changed my clothing. (They provided me with better garments.) They told me that the Pharaoh had found no one who could interpret his dreams, even though he had summoned all of the wise men and magicians of Egypt to assist him, but that the butler had then remembered me, and had said that two years prior, I had correctly interpreted his dream and the dream of the baker.

I came before the Pharaoh and he said to me: “I was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows sleek and fat, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, gaunt and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the gaunt and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And then I awoke. When I fell asleep, I dreamed a second time. Behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears.”

I tell you the details of his dreams to show you how mysterious they were, and how disturbing. Indeed, his spirit was greatly troubled, for he sensed an omen.

But I knew that the Lord, in his goodness, was providing a warning to him which would enable him to protect his people. I understood the dreams, and I spoke immediately. I said, “The dream of Pharaoh is one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dream is one. The seven lean and gaunt cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of that famine which will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.”

However, I said more than this. I advised the Pharaoh, for I said: “Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take the fifth part of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine which are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

I was pleased to provide the Pharaoh with my assistance. My heart was gladdened that the Lord was using me as his servant to assist him. The Pharaoh is not an evil man. His desire to preserve his people was pleasing to the Lord.

After I spoke, the Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”

Then he pointed at me, and said, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” He said to me, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

And at this moment, he stood up, and removed the signet ring from his finger to put it on my own.

I was almost speechless in the moment. Was it not this morning that I awoke in a prison? And now I was given charge of the entire land of Egypt! You cannot imagine all of the sensations I felt at that time.

Since that day, I have executed my duties, and each day is rewarding with good work. The Pharaoh is almost like a brother to me. He calls me Zaphenathpaneah, and I ride in his second chariot when we are procession. I wear garments of fine linen and a gold chain upon my neck, a gift from him. He delights in giving me both power and privileges. He says, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent, no man shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” He gave me a wife as well. Her name is Asenath. She is the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. She accompanies me as I travel throughout Egypt, directing the storage of provisions.

Forgive the length of this letter. I take comfort, somehow, in writing to you, as if you are a tie to my former land and kin. I have not forgotten your kindness, and I keep you in my prayers. May the Lord keep you safe.

Warmest regards,
Joseph son of Jacob

P.S.: I know that you will receive this letter in good time, for I have access to messengers who are both speedy and reliable, one of the benefits of my position.

P.P.S.: If the famine extends beyond the borders of Egypt, you may do well to set aside provisions now, enough to provide for many years.


Post 334

Family Counselling, Part 10:

Dear Blogger,
So much has happened since I last wrote to you.
I am hoping that you received my previous letter.
In that letter, I mentioned my master, Potiphar, whom I began to serve after my brothers sold me into slavery to the Mid′ianite traders, who, in turn, sold me to Potiphar.
So much has happened since then!

I am writing to you from prison, but let me explain how I came to be here.

After I wrote to you, things improved even more for me.
Potiphar put me in charge of all of his affairs, because everything that I did was blessed by the Lord,
And all of my decisions added to the prosperity of his household.
I was watchful and diligent, and I continually considered how to improve everything for Potiphar.
I was not unhappy.
The only difficulty for me was the wife of Potiphar.
She began to notice me, and this was the beginning of my trouble.
Whenever her husband was absent, she found me.
She said to me, “Lie with me.”
She said this not once, nor twice, but many times.
Finally, I said to her, “Potiphar has placed me in charge of his entire household, and in everything he has made me equal to himself, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
But she would not relent, and it was a torment to me.
Finally, a day came when there were no servants nearby, and she took hold of my cloak to pull me towards her.
I ran out of the house, leaving behind my cloak.
I was in shock at her brazenness, but at the same time, I was relieved to have escaped.

My relief was short-lived, however, because within a few hours, I was arrested and put into prison with no chance to explain or defend myself.
It is said that I attempted to seduce the wife of my master, when the opposite is true.
When I reflect on her treachery and lies, I burn with anger, but I will not fully express my thoughts about her, out of respect for my master.
And my main thought is for him, for Potiphar, for I am grieved by the thought that he believes these lies about me. I am powerless to convince him that I am innocent, and I can only pray that somehow he discovers that he has been deceived.
I have been here for four and a half years already. It is the king’s prison.
You need not worry for me, however, because my situation is not what you would expect.
I became friends with the guards of the prison, and they began to trust me, in the way that Potiphar did.
They gave me tasks, which at first were small, but which later became more important.
I never betrayed their trust, and they found that they could trust “the Hebrew man.”
Eventually, they made me the keeper of the prison, and I manage all of the prisoners and everything needed for the prison.
I enjoy a fair amount of freedom now (hence I am able to send you this letter), and sometimes I scarcely feel like a prisoner.
In fact, in some ways, it is not entirely different from managing Potiphar’s estate.
Once again, the Lord protects me and keeps me safe.

I hope you are well.
I think often of home, and my life with my family.
Despite everything, I miss them, and I hope they are faring well.
Sometimes I have dreams that I am with them again, and that we are happy to be together.

Warmest regards,
Joseph son of Jacob


Post 333

Family Counselling, Part 9:
The End

Dear Blogger,
Do you remember me?
I am Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob. I am the second youngest, son of Rachel.
We were in your office in the spring.
So much has happened since then.
I hope this letter reaches you safely.
I have been given assurances that you will receive it before next month’s end.

I have not written to my family, and as I write more, you will understand the reason.

It was not long after our meeting that my brothers attacked me when we were out in the field.
My father had sent me to fetch them home, but when I arrived, they began pushing me and angrily insulting me.
They said that I had invented stories and that I had invented dreams, all in order to make them look bad.
They were as fierce as a band of lions, and hatred was in their eyes and in their very breath.
They circled me and taunted me. They bowed down to me to ridicule my dreams and me.
I tried to reason with them, and I tried to protest my innocence,
But they wanted to misunderstand me and my words.
And of course I could not bring silence onto words I had already spoken,
Words that had enraged them.
Why did the Lord send me dreams which would lead them to such fury?
Reuben tried to persuade them not to kill me outright.
Throw him into that pit, he said.
I was dirtied and my skin was reddened with their roughness.
They agreed to do as Reuben said.
But then Reuben left.
To where I do not know.
They grabbed me, stripped me of my cloak — which they ridiculed, in their envy.
I knew that nobody would find me at the bottom of that dark place, that hell.
We all knew it, and I pleaded with them to change their mind, but they had no mercy.
It didn’t matter what I said.
They mocked me for my “creative solutions.”
Some of them called me names, and mocked me more,
While others no longer looked at me.
Then they did it.
They cut their ties with me.
And shoved me into it.
I fell.
The murk.
The darkness.
The strange and wet coldness.
How can I describe my fear?
Looking upwards at them, I could no longer tell one from the others,
Their faces were now dark against the sun.
So many brothers, but not one to save me!
They would not have treated an animal the way they treated me.
They enjoyed seeing me defenceless.
I did not know I had kin like this.
They were strangers to me.
Ah — worse than strangers.
What stranger would take pleasure in torment such as this?
But then, tired of their sport, they left me.
I could hear them, but only faintly.
They were talking and even laughing.
For them, life would continue.
But for me, the silence was worse than their jeers, and I begged them to come back to me.
I was weeping.
I begged them to not leave me.
I promised that I would do anything for them, if they would only take me out again.
But I did not know what words to use to change their hearts.
My voice echoed and rattled to my own ears, but I did not know whether they could hear me.
I wept.
I waited, and listened, but there was nothing.

But then, all of a sudden, so much commotion!
They wanted me to come out, and I felt alive once more!
I was relieved and overjoyed, and I thanked the Lord for his rescue of me.
They had changed their minds, so I thought.
They lowered a rope, told me to grab it.
I clutched it eagerly and tried to climb up the sides of the pit.
Twice I fell back down, and I was afraid, but my brothers,
Who once again felt like my own brothers,
Encouraged me to try again.
I managed to get closer to the top, and their hands — many hands —
Reached for me and pulled for me to come out.
My heart flooded with love for them,
Once again

But then I understood.
A caravan with foreigners was nearby.
It had crossed this lonely field on its way to somewhere else.
These strangers surveyed me,
And I stood.
Surely I was scarcely recognizable as a man,
Covered in mud:
Mud in my hair, in my ears and my mouth.
My skin was cut and bleeding.
I must have looked like a madman.
But my humiliation was not complete.
I had not yet suffered enough.
In a moment, the transaction was finished, and I was bound and dragged to their caravan.

Blogger, my own brothers sold me into slavery.
Though it satisfied them to think of me as dead,
The money lured them, and they decided to act accordingly.
The new plan meant that I would be as good as dead,
And that was all that they wanted.

For this reason, I will not write to them.
If they know where I am, they may come to kill me or send someone else to do it.
If you meet them, I beg you not to tell them anything about me.

So now I am in a foreign place.
I am in Egypt.
My master is Potiphar.
He is an officer of the Pharaoh, and commander of the guard;
An important man, to be sure.
He has grown to trust me, and he treats me well.
So my life is better than before.
I do all of my work diligently, and I put my faith in the Lord.

I remember you, and I often remember how you tried to understand our family.
Numerous times, I said to myself, if only Blogger knew what happened afterwards!
It is for this reason that I wanted to write to you.
I thought that you would be interested to know how the story ended.
It ends with me in a land far away —
A slave, but not an unhappy one.

With warmest regards,
Joseph son of Jacob


Post 332

Family Counselling, Part 8:

BLOGGER: Why did they cancel?

ROBY: Death in the family.

BLOGGER: A death? Oh no. Who died?

ROBY: One of the sons.

BLOGGER: One of the sons? One of Jacob’s sons?

ROBY: That’s what the message said.

BLOGGER: One of Jacob’s sons?

ROBY: Yes.

BLOGGER: Who called? Which one died? And how? When?

ROBY: I’ll grab the notes; I wrote down what he said and I’d rather read them than try to remember. Just a sec.


ROBY: It was Reuben who called. Reuben.

BLOGGER: He’s the eldest. And?

ROBY: Reuben said, “We found Joseph’s coat in the field when we were on our way home.”

BLOGGER: Joseph! Oh no! Poor Joseph!

ROBY: “It was covered in blood.”


ROBY: The father’s really upset. “My father is out of his mind with grief” — that’s how he put it.

BLOGGER: Of course!


BLOGGER: Nothing else?

ROBY: No. That’s everything. Do you want to listen to the message yourself?

BLOGGER: I probably should. I’ll listen to it later, and I should call them to offer my condolences. What time did the message come in?

ROBY: 4:55 this morning.


BLOGGER: I just don’t know what to think.


BLOGGER: So I guess that’s the last time I’ll ever see Joseph. Seemed like a really nice guy. Do you remember seeing him?

ROBY: There were so many of them. I didn’t really notice any one of them in particular.

BLOGGER: He was the one wearing that coat, kind of colourful, with a bunch of trim.

ROBY: Oh! Yes, I remember the coat! That was Joseph?


ROBY: He looked like one of the younger ones?

BLOGGER: Yeah. He was the second-youngest one, but I don’t know how old.


BLOGGER: Did Reuben say anything else?

ROBY: No, there wasn’t anything else.

BLOGGER: Wow. Can’t believe it.


BLOGGER: Yeah. Oh boy. Jacob is not going to be okay. He’s going to be so broken. Joseph was his favourite.

ROBY: How do you know? He said?

BLOGGER: Yeah. Everybody knew.

ROBY: Oh. Well, yes, if Joseph was his favourite.



BLOGGER: It’s going to be like Rachel all over again.

ROBY: Rachel?

BLOGGER: She was the mother of two of his sons, Joseph and Benjamin.

ROBY: Only two? There were so many of them!

BLOGGER: Yeah, there were like four mothers.

ROBY: Four?

BLOGGER: Yeah. Really complicated.

ROBY: Did Rachel pass away?

BLOGGER: Years ago, when Joseph was little. Jacob still hasn’t recovered.

ROBY: Wow.


ROBY: Would you like me to send flowers?

BLOGGER: I don’t know. I don’t know if that would even make any sense to them, you know? Culturally, I mean. It might just be really confusing: “Why did Blogger just send us this plastic vase filled with white roses? There are no roots even.”


BLOGGER: I think I should just phone, and find out if they would like me to attend his funeral or whatever they have. How are they going to deal with it though? They don’t have his body, right?

ROBY: Doesn’t sound like it.

BLOGGER: Oh, the whole thing is just so dreadful.


BLOGGER: You know, it’s just the finality of death. It’s just so — silent.



Post 331

Family Counselling, Part 7:
Jacob's Past, Continued

BLOGGER: It strikes me that the whole dynamic is sad, because you are not sufficiently thinking about your other sons, in the way that your father didn’t think of you.


BLOGGER: I mean, it’s fun and fulfilling to express your love for your child, but if that show of love is accompanied by a disregard for the other children, it’s going to lead to problems. It’s just going to lead to problems. Right?

JACOB: I see no problems.


JACOB: I do not!

BLOGGER: Alright. You don’t see that your elder sons are openly expressing resentment towards Joseph?

JACOB: This is natural! Even I have been angry with Joseph at times!

BLOGGER: At Joseph?


BLOGGER: Why? When?

JACOB: This talk of dreams. I did not like to hear it then. It made me angry. I said to him myself, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” I said that.

BLOGGER: You did?


BLOGGER: Okay, well, it seems that the parenting here is almost reckless sometimes. It seems you are doing whatever makes you feel happy in the moment, without thinking beyond that to the others, your other children. Your father did the same thing — all of his focus was on Esau, by the sound of it, and where did that leave you?

JACOB: I did not expect more.

BLOGGER: I guess you had your mother. But tell me, did it not lead to tension with your brother, and your father?


BLOGGER: Didn’t it? Didn’t it lead to hard feelings? Friction of some kind?

JACOB: Esau decided to kill me.

BLOGGER: Woah! To kill you? To literally murder you?


BLOGGER: Because of the blessing?

JACOB: And the birthright.

BLOGGER: I see. What happened?

JACOB: My mother came to me and said, “Your brother comforts himself with thoughts of killing you when your father dies.” She was imagining that my father would be dead and that I would be too. She said she didn’t want to lose both of us. She told me to go to the house of her brother, Laban.

BLOGGER: Laban — is that the father of Leah and Rachel?

JACOB: Yes, the same.

BLOGGER: So you married your cousin?


BLOGGER: I mean, you married your cousins — plural.


BLOGGER: And so what happened with Esau? He never caught up with you?

JACOB: I did not see him for many years after that. I did not meet him until after the birth of my eleventh — after the birth of Joseph. And even then, I was dread afraid.

BLOGGER: Afraid of Esau?

JACOB: Yes, of Esau, that he might still want to avenge himself. And I was afraid, moreover, that he would kill not only me, but also my wives and children.


JACOB: But it was not like this. Esau was not angry with me anymore.

BLOGGER: Well that’s a relief!

JACOB: Yes, absolutely.

BLOGGER: And with respect with your own sons, will you agree with me that you might need to strengthen your relationship with your elder sons?

JACOB: My relationship with all of my sons is fine. There is no need to ‘strengthen’ anything.

BLOGGER: So you don’t see the repetition of a worrisome pattern?


BLOGGER: Nothing to worry about?

JACOB: Nothing to worry about.

BLOGGER: I hope you’re right.