So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. — Genesis 37:14
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeishev, which means “and he lived,” is from Genesis 37:1—40:23, and the Haftorah is from Amos 2:6—3:8.
By the time the relationship between Joseph and his brothers had all but deteriorated completely, Jacob was desperate to preserve his family. He sent Joseph on a peace mission to his brothers, just to check on them and make sure all was well. “Go and see if all is well with your brothers . . .”
The Jewish sages teach that there was a piece of advice in Jacob’s directive as well. They present an alternative reading of the verse: “Go and see what is well with your brothers . . .” In other words, enough with seeing what is wrong with them – go find out what is right with them! Find their good points and focus on them, instead of pointing out all of the places where they need improvement.
In the 16th century, Michelangelo created one of the most spectacular pieces of art that the world has ever seen. Michelangelo’s David is a 17-foot, intricately carved statue of the famous King of Israel. But what’s really interesting about that monumental piece of art is the fact it was made from a slab of marble all other artists of the time had rejected. Many abnormalities in the piece of stone persuaded many talented sculptors that beauty could not be created from such an imperfect piece of marble.
But Michelangelo inspected it and saw the true potential within that stone. Michelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo wasn’t just great at creating art – he was also a master of finding it. He knew how to see the good and the beauty in everything.
And that’s just what Jacob wanted his precious child Joseph to learn. He wanted him to find the beauty in his brothers. To see good in them. To discover God in them. Even if they had some imperfections. Unfortunately, this parental lesson came a little too late for Joseph. The damage was already done, and the brothers had already sealed his fate.
But it’s not too late for us. We can take Jacob’s advice and salvage many relationships on shaky ground. What do we see when we look at other people? Do we see their imperfections? Do we see them like Michelangelo’s colleagues saw that flawed, pitiful marble slab? Or can we look at people through the eyes of a master artist and see what is beautiful about them?
While others may see an imperfect and rough human being, we can choose to be the ones who discover the beauty hidden within. And once we see the beauty and goodness hidden in the people around us, they just might see it, too.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President