Don't Be Quarrelsome On The Way

Joseph's warning to his brothers not to quarrel on their way instructs us as well in our relationships with our families and the larger Jewish community.

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Judaism has always reflected this tension--adherence to timeless standards, but always renewing those standards in the light of developing communal understandings and ongoing social need. We must take care never to stop our passion for ideas, but we must also be on our guard, lest our ideas cease referring back to reality, to questions of how to live a more moral, more holy, more fully human life.

A third possible reading of Joseph's warning is that Joseph sees that his brothers are now wealthy because of his gifts. And wealth brings tensions that are often unexpected. Worried that his brothers might feel the pressures of their wealth and therefore begin to quarrel about how they live together, Joseph urges his brothers not to allow money to divide them.

We, too, face that challenge. American Jewry is a comfortable community. As one consequence of our wealth, we have raised up a large number of different organizations, movements and institutions, all vying for our attention, our energy and our resources.

Can we see those different movements and institutions as complementing one another, contributing to a communal life that is multi-layered and profound? Or will those movements and institutions perceive each other as competitors, in which case a great deal of energy will be wasted on trying to impede the growth and health of each other's ways of being Jewish?

As we travel on the road, we do well to remember Joseph's advice: "Do not be quarrelsome on the way!"

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.