Everybody likes a good story. This obvious truism explains why most of us find the book of Genesis more "interesting" than the book of Leviticus with its detailed description of the temple service. Often when hearing a speaker it the stories that we remember and a good speaker always has a good story for every occasion. Of course the stories in the Torah are there not just to peek our interest but to teach crucial lessons in morality, inter-personal relationships and our relationship with G-d. The lessons which must be derived from these stories are so important that the Torah often devotes much more space to them than to actual laws by which we must live. The Rabbis commenting on the inordinate amount of space devoted to the successful efforts of Abraham's servant to find a wife for Isaac state "the chatter of the servants of the patriarchs is more pleasing than the Torah of their children".
Often the Torah does not tell us the whole story in one fell swoop but rather puts fragments in different places. After all it is not the story that is important but its message. A prime example can be seen regarding the sale of Joseph. Joseph's ten older brothers are tending to their sheep in Shechem . Unexpectedly, from afar they see Yosef approaching. The brothers quickly discuss plans for dealing with him and his dreams. When Yosef arrived they ripped off his coat and threw him into a pit that unbeknownst to them was full of snakes and scorpions. What was Yosef doing? Did he plead for help, did he ask his brothers for forgiveness or was he perhaps lying there unconscious? The Torah does not tell us. At this point in the story it is not relevant as the Torah is focusing on the crime of the brothers in selling Yosef. What the Torah does tell us immediately after informing us that Yosef was thrown into a pit was that they sat down to eat bread. What callousness! They had just thrown their brother into a pit and they went to sit down to enjoy a meal.
We next meet up with the brothers 22 years later when due to famine in their native Israel they are forced to go down to Egypt to seek sustenance. Of course by this point Joseph is the Viceroy of Egypt and in charge of the allocation of the meagre food supplies. Did the brothers feel remorse for what they had done or did they go on enjoying their meals? The Torah while not directly answering this question does seem to suggest that the fate of Joseph had been weighing on their mind for these past 22 years. After being accused of spying and actually being held in jail for three days the brothers are ordered by Joseph to bring Benjamin down to Egypt . Immediately the brothers say to each other that this ordeal is as a result of our ignoring the pleas of Yosef when we through him into the pit 22 long years ago.
Obviously this had affected them greatly and 22 years later they see themselves being punished for their cruelty. Interestingly it is only here when the brothers have come for food that we are told that Yosef had been screaming when thrown into the pit. It was the ignoring of his pleas not the actual sale which the brothers blamed for their misfortune. When one can ignore the cries of a fellow human being it is high time for soul searching. Let us make sure that at this time of Chanukka when we are cognizant of light which is a symbol of sharing that we do not forget the pleas of those less fortunate than ourselves. Shabbat Shalom .