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Repeating Our Parents’ Behavior (Miketz – 12/08/18)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

Repeating Our Parents’ Behavior
Sometimes, we repeat our parents’ behaviors without even realizing it.
In our parsha, sons repeat their father’s behavior when Judah and his brethren are informed that they have stolen the Magical Chalice of the Viceroy of Egypt. (Genesis Chapter 44):
3 The morning came, and the men and their donkeys were sent on their way.
4 They had exited the city, but had not gone far when Joseph said to the overseer of his house, “Get up, pursue the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil by stealing his chalice?
5 Is not this the cup my master drinks from? Why, he even divines with it! You have done evil by the way you have acted.’ “
6 He overtook them, and he said these words to them.
7 And the brothers said to him, “Why should my master say such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do a thing like this!…
9 Whichever one of your servants with whom it is found shall die, and the rest of us will be slaves to my master.”
Does this reaction sound familiar?
If it does, you learned your Parsha studies well.
When Jacob left his father-in-law, Laban, after a twenty-year stay, he fled in stealth when Laban was away shearing his flocks. Jacob was afraid that Laban would protest his earnings and send him away penniless. While packing up, Rachel sneaked into her father’s home and stole her father’s Teraphim, items Laban used to divine with. She may have been hoping that without them, Laban would not be able to find Jacob’s fleeing camp. She didn’t tell Jacob that she took them.
When Laban finds out that they left without saying goodbye, he chases after them in anger (Chapter 32):
26 And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you concealed from me, and led away my daughters like prisoners of war?
27 Why have you fled secretly, and concealed from me, and not told me?…AND WHY HAVE YOU STOLEN MY GODS! (The Teraphim)”
Jacob defends his actions and curses the thief of Laban’s teraphim:
31 And Jacob replied, and he said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, because I said, ‘Lest you steal your daughters from me.’
32 The one with whom you find your gods shall not live.
This curse said in haste, hurt Jacob and his favorite son, Joseph, more than he could ever fathom. Rachel died shortly afterwards while giving birth to Benjamin.
Joseph knew that he was going to see his brothers the moment he heard the dreams from Pharaoh. They would be forced to come to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, and he prepared a test for them. Without harboring revenge or enmity, he formulated a plan to see if they had repented for their callousness and jealousies. He tested them to see if they truly felt their father’s suffering and were committed to not cause him further pain. He was curious to see if they had risen above their petty jealousies.
Yet Joseph’s test also had another component to it, one directed towards his father’s hasty words. Because of his father’s curse, Joseph lost his mother at seven years old and Benjamin never got to experience his birth mother’s love.
When the brother’s hear that someone stole the Viceroy’s cup they unconsciously repeat the behavior of their father and curse the thief to die. Joseph teaches them to be careful with their words, for no thief deserves the death penalty (Chapter 44):
10 And he said, “Now indeed, so it is as you have spoken. But the one with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be cleared.” The thief will be my slave, but will not be killed or cursed.
I love the Geico commercial, where the plot runs, “We can’t stop you from becoming your parents, but we can save you 15% on car insurance.” We innately repeat our parents’ behaviors. Sometimes this is a great thing, but not always. Especially regarding our children, we need to think beforehand, how do I want to react in a certain situation?
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the founder of a character improvement movement in Eastern Europe in the 19th Century said, “The loudest sound in the Universe is the one that occurs when one breaks his own bad habits.”
Good luck creating your own thunder,
R’ Neil

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