Joseph and Forgiveness

I just read Stephen Mitchell’s Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness, a retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son who is sold into slavery by his brothers.  It is a story we are all familiar with, and one that has spawned many books and movies.

In the forward of his book, Mitchell explains that what attracted him to the story was “what it left unsaid” in the sparse, concise narrative.  “It cries out for the ancient Jewish art of midrash, or creative transformation — a way of inhabiting the text in order to deepen your understanding of it.”

I confess a particular fondness for midrash-type narratives that encourage deeper reflections on biblical stories.  And whether one names this book fiction or midrash, it is an engrossing read.  (I read the book in a single sitting.)  The story of forgiveness is powerful, but so too is the depiction of the growth of Joseph’s faith in God (as well as a growth of humility), and his conviction that “a misfortune is a blessing that has not yet been recognized,” that “behind its sometimes fearsome disguises [blessing] was always waiting to be discovered.”

As in any good work, the insights are timeless, transcending the specifics of the story…

…that forgiveness doesn’t have to be deserved or earned, but acceptance of forgiveness requires awareness of wrongdoing and remorse.

…that there is always God’s blessing, even in in our misfortune.

…that in a state of inner alertness we can and will find the voice of God.

You might consider adding this book to your Lent reading.


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