The tragedy of Kobe Bryant has been on my mind and those who were wary of eulogizing his memory because of some very unsavory events in his past. I can't comment upon these events other than to say his behavior was awful and he betrayed those dear to him. However, he appeared to work very hard to patch things up with his family and move on with his life. With his passing numerous stories have sprung up showing his tendency to help others especially in cases where no one knew what he was doing.
One of the things we struggle with is letting go of the past--either ours or others. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Also just heard this week about someone hurt over 20 years ago that is not ready to move on. They are still not ready to give the other person a chance.
I can't really judge other people I have a hard enough time taking care of myself. In our Triennial Torah cycle we are reading the story of Joseph. An amazing story of betrayal, treachery and yet ultimately redemption.
The proud and arrogant Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers led by his older brother Judah. Joseph goes through incredible pain and unfair treatment before finally becoming the viceroy of Egypt. In this capacity he receives his brothers who are looking for the grain that only Egypt has.
Joseph tricks them into bringing his brother Benjamin to Egypt on their next trip and then plants his silver cup in Benjamin's grain sack to test his brothers and see if they will abandon Benjamin the way they abandoned him so long ago. Joseph has made a break with his past. He has two sons and he has named them specifically to cut off his history. He named the first Manasseh which means "forgetting" because he has forgotten his father's household. He names the next one, Ephraim, meaning fruitful because he has been made fruitful in the land of his affliction. In other words he is done with home.
Seeing his brothers is a wake up call and excruciating. God is forcing him to face his past and his home. When he sets Benjamin up and threatens to imprison him, Judah makes a valiant plea for Benjamin's freedom saying he can't watch his father die in grief after losing another son. He pleads with Joseph to imprison him instead and let Benjamin go. This breaks Joseph and he reveals himself to his brothers.
What we often miss in the story is the breaking of Judah. After Joseph's being sold into slavery, Judah departs from his brothers and marries a Canaanitess name Shua. She bears him three sons. Heartbreakingly the two oldest sons die and then Shua dies. Finally Judah has a moral failure when he fails to offer the widow of his sons, Tamar, to his son Shela to maintain the family name and then ends up getting Tamar pregnant himself. When Judah comes to Egypt he is a different man. He knows the anguish of a Father who loses his son, a man who loses his wife and the deep sense of shame and loss that accompanies moral failure. His speech to Joseph is genuine and Joseph knows it
In the end, they both had to let go of the past and move on. In a beautiful twist, Joseph, the man who wanted to forget his family and the land of his inheritance, instructs his family to bury his bones in the land of Canaan.At least sometimes, it pays to let go of the past and just move on.