Closing the Book

Kurzcommentar Parashat Va-yehi, Genesis 47:28-50:26

In The Godfather II, winner of six Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1974), the weak older brother Fredo betrays his crime-boss brother Michael Corleone. Michael knows Fredo has set him up and confronts him. In a chilling scene Michael, kisses Fredo and declares that he forgives him.

But we know he does not. A scene at the end of the movie shows Mama Corleone lying in her coffin, and it is clear that with their mother dead Michael will order Fredo’s execution. The movie ends with Michael alone pondering who he is and who he might have been.

How different is the ending of the book of Genesis!

Joseph’s brothers throw him in a pit and sell him as a slave, but he overcomes their betrayal to rise to the position of second-only-to-Pharaoh in Egypt.

Although Joseph forgave his brothers, they fear that with their father Jacob dead, Joseph will exact revenge. (Genesis 50:15)

But unlike Michael Corleone Joseph has no interest in revenge. Rather he proclaims: “Am I in place of God? Although you thought to do me evil God has turned it to good enabling me to save many people.” (Genesis 50:20)

What an amazing contrast!

The Godfather II ends with retribution, but the Book of Genesis—which begins with fratricide and details a bitter catalogue of sibling rivalries—ends with genuine forgiveness and reconciliation.

Like Genesis’ characters we suffer betrayal and deceit. We can choose to harbor resentment and anger or, we can grow through our pain and become better people.

Genesis ends with an exquisite challenge: To never lose hope that our lives have purpose and meaning and—as Joseph does–allow the Eternal One to turn the evil that befalls us to good.



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