THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“And these are the names of the children Israel, who came into Egypt” Genesis 46:8
This week’s Torah portion deals with Joseph’s elevation from prison in Egypt. Joseph is asked to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. He interpreted them in such a favourable manner for Pharaoh that he appoints Joseph as viceroy over Egypt, then the most powerful nation in the known world.
As Joseph’s star waxes, the stars of Jacob and his sons in the land of Canaan begins to wane. There is a famine in Canaan and Jacob is forced to ask for grain from Egypt, as morally corrupt as it was powerful. This results in Jacob and his sons eventually going down to Egypt, beginning a brutal slavery that lasted 210 years.
The Midrash quotes a verse from Job which is used to describe the parashah, “God places an end to darkness”. While this verse aptly describes Joseph’s ascent from the darkness of prison, it certainly does not do justice to the weakened state of the rest of the fledgling Jewish people. This is the genesis of their exile. How can it possibly seen as an end to darkness, when it is essentially the start of their darkness?
Cognitive psychology suggests that some people distort their thinking by employing a polarised view of any given scenario. This essentially refers to seeing things literally in terms of black or white, without seeing the spectrum of colours that may exist between those two colours. For example, a depressed individual may see their life as being completely without happiness and discount those moments of joy when they occur, because their mind cannot compute light in a world of darkness. The joy does exist, but not for a human being who refuses to see it.
The Midrash suggests that while the Jewish people may have faced their first real crisis as a nation, that does not mean to say that hope could not be found, even in the darkest of times.
All we need to do is to search for that small spark of light, because even the smallest spark of light can expel the darkness. A spark of hope can undo the darkest depression, revealing those things around us with greater clarity than ever before. All that is needed is to search for it.