Anger Management

The brothers could not speak peacefully with Joseph because they allowed their anger and resentment to control them, rather than asserting their control over their anger.

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Jacob's sons couldn't make him into a fair and wonderful father, who treated all of his children equally; it's possible, however, that with grace, prayer, and self-examination they could have "guarded" themselves from the corruption of the spirit that follow from extended hate and anger. By giving ourselves over to negative, bitter emotions, we give up our freedom of choice, to an extent.

Thus, Joseph's brothers "could not" speak to him peaceably; they gave free reign to their resentment, and it ruled them. Had they chosen to avoid someone they disliked, that's another matter, but by allowing themselves to be filled with their anger, it ruled them, and led them down a path where they ended up throwing Joseph in the pit, and selling him into slavery. Their hatred of another, born out of their pain and feelings of rejection and jealousy, turned them into something worse than what they hated. Joseph was arrogant, but the brothers became violent.

The story does have a happy ending, but in the meantime, Joseph becomes a slave, Jacob lives in grief, and at least a few of the brothers live uneasily with their guilt (to judge from their words much later)--which all could have been avoided, perhaps, had there been an attempt to cleanse the soul of poisonous emotion, and live closer to ideals, despite the circumstances.

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Rabbi Neal J. Loevinger

Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger is currently the rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Poughkeepsie, NY. A former student at Kolel, he served as Kolel's Director of Outreach from late 1999-2001. He was ordained in the first graduating class of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism, and holds a Master's of Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto.