By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
In the beginning of Parashas Mikeitz, there is a description of how the brothers enter Egypt to purchase food. They declare their innocence, and the prime minister of Egypt (who is actually Yosef) denounces them as spies. Later on in the parashah, the brothers expressed their guilt over the sale of Yosef, saying, “Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother” (42:21). Yosef, who overhears their conversation, is overcome with emotion, and the pasuk describes how he turned away from them and cried.
In his sefer called Growth Through Torah, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin offers an insight into human nature that can be learned from this episode. He explains that it is human nature to deny one’s wrongdoings. While there are a number of reasons that people deny or cover up their mistakes, the most common reason is fear of a loss of respect in the eyes of others as a result of owning up.
In actuality, however, admitting one’s shortcomings often has the opposite effect and in fact leads to an increase in respect in the eyes of others and the creation of positive feelings. A weak person tries to cover up his wrongdoing; a stronger and braver person apologizes when he is wrong. In general, a sincere apology that comes with recognition of what was done wrong is usually met with feelings of forgiveness, whereas denial and blaming of others is usually met with anger.
Rav Shimshon Pincus, zt’l, explains the cycle of the yamim tovim and the relationship between Klal Yisrael and Hashem, using a parable of a husband and wife. Chanukah, explains Rav Pincus, represents the time after the first fight. Rav Pincus explains that the “fight” was the temporary lapse in the connection between Hashem and Klal Yisrael that occurred when Klal Yisrael’s commitment to Torah and mitzvos weakened during the time of the Chanukah story. Chanukah, which commemorates the miracle at the end of the story, is “after the fight,” when the connection between Klal Yisrael and Hashem was strengthened. In a real growing relationship, a “fight” can become an opportunity that strengthens the bond between the couple.
Let us learn from Yosef’s reaction to hearing his brothers admit they were wrong to sell him. Let us keep that in mind this week when faced with the choice to either play the blame game or own up to our wrongdoings. May Hashem give us the strength to apologize to our spouses when we are in the wrong, and may that result in the stronger relationship between husband and wife that is hinted to in the chag of Chanukah—a relationship that is strengthened by a setback and only brings the couple even closer together.
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail email@example.com.