> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Parsha Point

Admitting Mistakes and Granting Forgiveness

Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27 )

by Rabbi Ron Jawary

Joseph and the power of forgiveness.

This week's Torah portion describes the confrontation between two of the leaders of the Jewish people, Yosef and Yehuda, and it seems that Yosef is the victor. The entire future of the nation was in Yosef's hands; in fact, as long as he remained alive, Yosef played a pivotal role in their destiny.

Yet interestingly, Jacob overlooked all of this and put the future leadership of the Jewish nation into the hands of Yehuda, from whom comes the dynasty of King David.

Rav Soloveichik suggests one of the reasons behind this is that Yehuda had the ability to acknowledge his mistakes. Any kind of leader, whether a president, CEO, teacher, parent, or anyone else, has to have the inner strength to admit he was wrong and change direction if necessary. If a person can't admit that he is wrong, the results can be catastrophic. Yet someone who is willing to own up to his mistakes can bring blessings upon himself and those around him for all eternity, just as Yehuda brought blessings to the Jewish nation through the kings who descended from him.

Power of Forgiveness

"Yosef sustained his bothers" (Gen. 47:12). One of the signs of a spiritual person is his capacity to forgive. The Rambam (12th century) writes that it is an act of cruelty to deny someone forgiveness. No matter how weak or insincere we feel the apology is, we should be gracious and forgive anyway.

This week we see the greatness of Yosef and can understand why he was given the appellation of "righteous." His 10 brothers never apologized to him -- not for selling him into slavery or for separating him from his family for 22 years -- but he was willing to forgive them, and he even supported them and treated them graciously.

Perhaps this is the reason he was able to achieve so much in life: rather than focusing on what had been done to him, he focused on what needed to be done. Rather than becoming angry and full of self-pity over what happened to him, he chose to be gracious and optimistic.

When we forgive others, it is more for our benefit than for the benefit of the one we are forgiving. It can transform us and free us from our pettiness; it opens us up to being like the Divine, Who, despite our mistakes, continually blesses us.


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