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Parashat Mikeitz and Confronting The Past

Parashat Mikeitz and Confronting The Past

I consider Stefanie Steinberg’s “Joseph Brothers Bowing Before Him” a masterpiece. I hung it with pride in my office for 25 years, and now it hangs in my family’s home.

Stefanie is my mother-in-law. At age 94, she is still an active artist.

She is also the subject of a magnificent exhibition conceived and curated by Pastor Ursula Sieg of Bad Segeberg, Germany. The exhibit is about Stefanie’s life and travels from Breslau, where she was born, to San Francisco, CA, where she lives today.

In this week’s Torah portion, parashat Mikeitz, Joseph rises from the dungeon to become second in command of all Egypt. During a famine many come to Joseph to buy food; his brothers are among them. They do not recognize Joseph, but he recognizes them. He has been waiting for them, and now, years after they threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave, they bow before him.

When Stefanie Steinberg heard that my wife Vickie and I planned to work in Germany for 10 weeks in 2014 she said, “Why do you want to go there?”

But after she saw that students were studying her life and her journeys, and after she heard their voice messages expressing their appreciation to her, she began to soften.

Like Joseph’s brothers did to him, Germany once did unspeakable evil to the Jews.

In the biblical story, Joseph tested his brothers until he knew their repentance was sincere.

Similarly, Germany has sincerely shown its desire as a nation to ask forgiveness and make restitution for the horrors they inflicted on our people.

We cannot undo the past, but resolve we can shape a better future for our children, grandchildren and all the generations to come.

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is a former president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, CT. He currently serves Bat Yam Temple of the Islands in Sanibel, FL. A prolific writer, he is the author of several books, the most recent of which is …And Often the First Jew. Rabbi Fuchs earned a D. Min in Biblical Interpretation from Vanderbilt Divinity School, which, in 2017, named him its “Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.”

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs
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