In this era of sensitivity and “trigger warnings,” vulnerability seems a threatening force to be eradicated. Yet, the story of Joseph and his brothers suggests otherwise.
Joseph’s dreams and his father’s favor made him vulnerable to his brothers’ jealousy; we long to protect him from the pit. But vulnerability also leads to reconciliation: Judah shows fear and begs Joseph to imprison him
in place of Benjamin.
When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, it is a response to Judah’s vulnerability, his display of empathy and perspective. What if Joseph’s emotions had not been stirred?
How can vulnerability open us up to change? How are we called to respond to the vulnerability of others: with the cruelty of Joseph’s brothers, or with Joseph’s own ability to forgive, never forget? Rabbi Nikki Lyn DeBlosi, PhD, is Manager of Religious Life at NYU Bronfman Center, where she serves the Reform, LGBTQ, and broader Jewish communities.
Our students are coming of age in a dangerous world; we can teach them to respond to vulnerability with chesed (kindness).