Maseh avot siman lebanim . The actions of our forefathers are a sign to the children. Unfortunately we have applied this famous principle not only to emulate the traits of our founders but to the less glorious chapters of brotherly fighting. Beginning with Cain and Abel through to Yosef and his brothers the constant fighting amongst family has led to the rise of many nations, nations that are not necessarily friendly to their long lost relatives. Of course the brotherly fighting was the immediate cause of Egyptian (and subsequent exiles) and is the reason the era of the third Temple with its blessings of peace has not arrived. Our inability to learn the lessons of brotherly hatred continues to haunt us today.
It is not only brothers who seemed unable to get along. Sefer Breisheet bears testimony to the all to common tensions of parent and children; an earlier version of the generation gap. This generational tension afflicted not only the Avot but also Adam and Noach.
Let us take a look at the sad estrangement of Yaakov from his own children. In studying the relationship of Yaakov towards his children we tend to focus on his (misplaced) favouritism towards Yosef and the inconsolable grief he experienced when hearing about the fate of his son. "All his sons and his daughters tried to console him but he refused to be comforted" (37:33). However equally sad is the estrangement of Yaakov from his other children. While the Torah directly tells us no less than three times that the bothers hated Yosef there does not appear to be much love lost towards their father. "When his brothers realized that their father loved him the most they hated him and they could not say a peaceful word to him" (37:3). Clearly the cause of their hatred towards Yosef was Yaakov. Perhaps one can suggest that the phrase "they could not speak peace to him " is also a reference to Yaakov.
Their negative feelings towards their father may help explain their seemingly bizarre recounting of Joseph's fate to their father. Why did the brothers have to say anything to Yaakov? Why did they not remain silent pretending that they never even saw Yosef? Would it not have been simpler to let Yaakov assume that he went missing on his way to Shechem?
Apparently the brothers had it in for Yaakov too. "The brothers took Yosef's coat; we found this; try to identify it. Is it your son's coat or not" (37:31-32). Presumably they wanted Yaakov to connect the "death" of Yosef to the coat he had made for him. They did not even say a word about Yosef. They just sent the coat and let Yaakov figure out by himself what had happened. While the Torah tells us the children arose to comfort Yaakov this was only after the Torah describes Yaakov mourning for "many days".
They had nothing to say on that fateful day probably because they really had no interest in offering comfort to their father who they felt, like Yosef, got what he deserved. Furthermore the Torah does not actually record what if anything they said to their father. Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar (18 th century) in his commentary Or HaChaim explains that they meant to offer comfort by their presence. Yaakov by focusing on the blessings of being near his remaining children would gain a sense of comfort. However his estrangement from these children was so great that "he refused to be consoled".
While Yaakov mourned the brothers got on with their lives. "And at that time Judah left his brothers he married" (48:1-2).
It would be another twenty-two years before any words are spoken amongst the family. "And Jacob saw that there was food in Egypt and he said to his sons. Why do you look at one another? I have heard that there are supplies in Egypt . Yosef's ten brothers went to buy grain in Egypt" (42:1-2). Not a word was spoken by the brothers to their father. They just left without saying a word. How sad.
And so the pattern continued with minimal interaction between father and child. Even when the family was reunited Yaakov could not even trust Yosef to bury him in Israel without an oath; and Joseph had to be called and told that his father was sick.
Chanukah is the festival of lights. Light symbolizes sharing and unity as unlike material possessions light can be shared by all. The story of Joseph and his family is always read on Shabbat Chanukah. May we merit to work together to bring light into our families and a world so full of darkness. Shabbat Shalom!