Perhaps more than any other narrative arc in Torah, the Yosef story is one of the subtle searching that we do throughout life.
I’m not talking about why Yaakov didn’t search for Yosef when he was reported dead. I’m not talking about the fabricated search for the “special cup” among the sacks of brother’s wheat years later. Or even the existential search for faith and meaning Yosef undertook when he was thrown underground – both when his brothers threw him into a pit and later when he was jailed in Egypt.
The searches in the Yosef story are more subtle.
The brothers search for the reason Yaakov favors Yosef above them. While the reason is as simple as it is illogical (Yosef the answer to Yaakov’s search to reclaim at least a fragment of Rachel, the love of his life.) it is unsatisfying. And even so, it doesn’t excuse Yosef’s own behavior, telling everyone of his dreams.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong about dreaming. It’s the way Yosef goes about sharing them. It’s one thing to dream about sheaves of grain. But to announce to all the brothers that it is THEIR sheaves – the embodiment of their place in the world – bowing down to his is just a bit too much. And then to take it a step further and include Yaakov and his mother in the mix.
To my ear, that smacks of someone who is trying to figure out – searching for – the boundaries. Children do it all the time. pushing further and further until they find a limit (it may be the limit of a parent’s patience, but a limit never the less). In the early parts of the story, it appears Yosef is searching for the limit to what his father’s unconditional love entitles him to.
Much later, Yosef constructs an elaborate scheme to intercept his brothers, discover what they know and how they feel, entrap them psychologically and emotionally. These can all be viewed the actions of a man searching for a safe path back home.
In these days that lead up to Rosh Hashana, may we all merit fruitful searches, both of the internal and external kind.