This week’s parasha is about Joseph, a stunning success story of a young immigrant who rises from lowly servitude and imprisonment to become the leader in charge of economic policy and second in command of a great empire. How did he do it?
A partial answer is imbedded in a curious juxtaposition that occurs early on in the story. Joseph, we are told, is a “youth” with his brothers and a “son of old age” to his father. These two descriptions taken together reveal that Joseph was able to be a “youth” with the young and a “a son of old age” with the elderly. The Torah is telling us that Joseph possessed the right instincts to relate to people of different generations. Today, we refer to someone with this trait as having a high social or emotional intelligence, and the research indicates that being adept at handling encounters and relationships in a broad range of social situations can be a key to overall success in life.
Being in a community does not necessarily mean being “best friends” with everyone in that community. But fruitful and effective community participation does require a penchant for relating to a variety of needs in the group, and being willing to embrace diversity helps a lively bunch of people retain its cohesiveness. Joseph drew on these personal strengths in his rise to leadership in ancient Egypt. Striving to emulate Joseph is a step towards being a leader in the modern community of today.
Rabbi Mitch Levine