Do you know those moments when you can just feel a certain connection with someone without even trying? Sometimes a mutual understanding or recognition doesn’t need explaining. Maybe your pupils dilate a little. The conversation has more excitement to it. You feel at ease, as if there’s a strong, but effortless force pulling you together. Sometimes it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but there’s no denying the effect on your body and soul.
We actually see this play out several times in our Torah, a connection between people based on mutual respect and understanding. Our parshah this week, Miketz, brings us back into the story of Joseph. We pick up in part two of the life and trying times of Joseph. Our hero has had a few setbacks, among them being sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into jail. However, Joseph gets his big break when Pharaoh has a startling set of dreams. When none of Pharaoh’s resident magicians are able to interpret his visions, Pharaoh calls on Joseph, and with God’s help, Joseph translates the dreams as a sign of an approaching period of fertility followed by a period of famine. Joseph presents Pharaoh with a game plan and becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man in preparation for these times that will certainly be difficult not only for Egypt but also for neighboring lands.
When Joseph and his brothers later reconnect, on the surface the recognition is presented as one-sided. Joesph knows that he is looking at his own brothers, but apparently, they do not recognize him. Except, maybe somewhere deep inside, they do. The brothers say, “We are all of us, sons of the same man.” The straightforward interpretation is that they are speaking about themselves, the brothers who have come down to ask for food, with no recognition of Joseph yet. However, another translation of the Hebrew could read, “You and we have the same father.” The ambiguity leaves room to ask: did they know without knowing? Did their hair stand on edge suddenly when seeing their brother, but their minds told them it couldn’t be?
When Joseph recognizes his brothers, he has an ulterior motive for not quite identifying himself yet. The brothers, however, seem to have felt something – a kinship that let them continue the conversation instead of being intimidated and turning away.
Just because we as humans have the power of rational thought doesn’t mean we should abandon our instincts. Sometimes it’s those deeply rooted feelings that provide us with the direction we need in the moment.