Appearances can be deceiving. In Sarasota Florida, where I live, it feels like summer, but it is the dead of winter. We just passed the winter equinox, the shortest and darkest day of the year, and in a few days it will be next year.
In our Torah we are reading the last chapters of the book of Genesis. Joseph has risen to the highest position in Egypt, and his brothers are standing in front of him, quaking, knowing only that he is the all-powerful viceroy. They cannot see beyond his Egyptian attire and regal bearing to recognize the man who was once the young brother whom they threw into a pit to die.
For them to know who he truly is, Joseph must reveal himself. In a sense, he must unmask, shed the demeanor of the powerful man he has become and weep on his brother’s necks like a lost child who has finally returned home.
To love and be loved is to be vulnerable. To unmask ourselves, and trust that the ones we love will accept us as we are. With all our flaws and faults and fears. And with all our wisdom and courage and strength. All of it.
Like so many of the men and women we encounter in Genesis, Joseph is anything but perfect. He is sometimes selfish, sometimes aloof, sometimes unkind. And I will hazard a guess that sometimes he is very, very lonely. I can imagine someone saying to him, “How are you?” and Joseph replying, “Fine,” even though inside he was anything but fine. That’s just one of the masks we wear. The expression “to put a good face on things” isn’t far from the truth.
And it is a deeply human trait to put those masks on each other, guessing what the other is thinking or feeling, believing untruths about one another because we haven’t looked closely enough, or taken the time to ask.
As we enter into the new year and the days begin to lengthen, may we find the strength to shed our masks, and the courage to look beyond each other’s. May we be blessed to learn from Joseph and his brothers, and lift the veils that hide us from each other.