The parsha of Vayeishev has one of the most well-known stories in the Torah. Most Jews, and many Christians, are very familiar with the story of Joseph’s coat of many colors given to him by his loving father Jacob. We are told that Jacob favored Joseph over his other sons because he was a son “of his old age.” The consequences of this favoritism starts out tragically, but by the end of the story it is revealed to be a triumph for the will of G-d. So how does an ancient Jewish story have any guidance for us in the 21st Century – the age of social media?
The first lesson is that although technology may change rapidly, human nature does not. The reason this story resonates with us today is because we recognize the human nature involved. We comprehend that a parent who favors one child over another will most likely cause problems with the other children. We are aware that a child seemingly boasting of this relationship with his siblings in the family will only exacerbate the tensions between them. In short, we can identify dysfunctional families because they also exist today. Human nature has not changed over thousands of years even if we have computers, Twitter, and the internet. Technology does not replace the need to be cognizant of human nature.
The second lesson is a story of courage, one of the finest parts of human nature. Joseph was almost murdered because of his dream interpretations – and yet he persisted. He recognized the truth of his gift from G-d and continued to use it even if it caused others to be envious of him. It was this same gift which drew the attention of Pharaoh who elevated him to the lofty position of administering the Pharaoh’s kingdom. If he had not used the gift due to the trouble it brought upon him, he would not have achieved the status he did. He also would have been unable to use his gift to save his family and hundreds of thousands of human lives (Egyptians).
So how are we to be courageous today? By using our own G-d given gifts to make the world a better place regardless of the risk. Like Joseph we may have to ignore the danger of being out of step with our families, and even our society, in order to persist with the truth. It is very difficult to be the one light shining in a sea of darkness, but we also know that only if we use our gifts will we know the true reason for our existence. With courage, we can be like Joseph and have a very positive impact on perfecting our families and our world.