Posted on September 3, 2017 by Cantor Emily Wigod Pincus
From This Moment On
Here is a situation that many of us can recognize: we have wronged someone in a small way or a large one. We recognize our failing, but because we feel guilty, we stay away, continuing to distance ourselves from this person and compounding our guilt. We have many excuses to give ourselves: that we can’t undo what has been done, that we may make our friend feel worse, or that it wasn’t such a big deal anyway. Sadly, the guilt that we feel about the situation stops us from trying to resolve it.
A Chasidic interpretation of the Joseph story by R. Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowitz of Radomsk, speaks to this. As we remember, the story resolves with Joseph finally revealing himself to his brothers after a few turns and twists. In that moment, the brothers are forced to confront both the victim and the awful crime that they perpetrated against him long ago. Acknowledging their consternation, Joseph says,”Now do not be sad” (Gen 45:5). In Chasidic interpretation, v’atah (“now” or “and now”) is a codeword for teshuvah (repentance). Rabinowitz takes this and another core concept of Chasidic Judaism, which is that it is a mitzvah always to be as joyful as possible and reads it as: “Repentance should not be sad.” Obviously, the brothers will need to repent; it is not assumed that their sin is forgotten, but one of the manifestations of their repentance will simply be to turn towards Joseph, and not away.
The joy takes its root in this. Even more powerfully, it is rooted in the realization that regardless of what has happened in the past, from this moment forward they can change: “Since those who seek to turn their life around in self-transformation must say, ‘from now I am turning myself around. I am returning in teshuvah, and I will not return to foolishness again. Only from now….’”
As we approach these Holy Days, may we be granted the strength to turn towards others and ourselves with compassion and honesty, so that we can move forward from now in joy.
L’shanah tovah tikateivu,
Emily Wigod Pincus
Originally published in the September-October 2017 issue of the Shofar. For more, visit the Shofar archives.