I'm sure the following scenario happened to you in some form or another at least once. It's happened to me—many times.
My husband is late coming home from work. It's six fifteen and he should have been home at six. Then it's six thirty and he still hasn't called. Six forty-five I try his cell phone. No answer. Seven o'clock and still no sign of him. Rage and nervousness boil within me. I get ready to lecture. "You should've called…you should've..." At seven fifteen I grow nervous. Perhaps he's been in an accident. Perhaps he's run away. I've been a horrible wife; I've lectured him too many times; I forgot to send lunch with him this morning; it's no wonder that he’ll never return.
Seven twenty. The door opens. It's my husband. "Where were you?" I shout. "Why didn't you call?"
"I was at the mall exchanging the towels you asked me to take care of. I couldn't call because my phone was broken."
Kaboom! Just like that my story evaporates. Oh, why did I shout? Why didn't I hear him out first?
Embarrassment fills my being. It's the feeling that comes from a collision of reality, unfounded beliefs and unreasonable actions.
It's the feeling that overwhelms Yosef's (Joseph's) brothers after he reveals himself to them. Until that moment the brothers are certain that any bad that has befallen them is the result of Yosef's vengeance toward them. After they are accused of being spies and Shimon (Simeon) is taken captive, the Torah states: "And they said to one another, "Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us." (Genesis 42:21). The brothers were certain that whatever misfortune had befallen them was a result of their selling Yosef to the Ishmaelites.
But then Yosef reveals himself. He says. "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" (Ibid 45:3). There is no blame there, only love. Alone in his chambers with his brothers Yosef inquires after his father's wellbeing. No revenge or payback. Brotherly love has always coursed through his veins.
"…But his brothers could not answer him because they were startled by his presence" (Ibid).
Rashi, commentator on the Torah, explains the words they were startled by his presence to mean that the brothers were embarrassed. For through Yosef's simplistic revelation, the brothers realize that the whole case they had built against him is faulty. Yosef had always loved them. And they? What had they done?
And I? And we? What of the negative feelings I allow to build up? What of the stories we conjecture?
The story of Yosef and his brothers is a story well learned.
Translated and adapted by Chaya Sara Ben Shachar