The Joseph Story: Part I

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The inspiration for our name, “Joseph House,” comes from the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). In that story, the young man Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and ends up incarcerated in an Egyptian prison. The story tells us that just before compromising on slavery instead of murder:

“His brothers saw coming him from a distance. Before he came near to them,
they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes that master
dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits… and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” (Gen 37:18–20)

In the Jewish text Genesis Rabbah (84:2), a commentary of sorts on the book of Genesis written sometime between 300-500 C.E., the Rabbis discuss this story. “The Rabbi said, [When Joseph’s jealous brothers saw him coming from afar], ‘They exclaimed, “Behold! Here he comes wrapped in his dreams.”’” This Rabbi is doing a bit of word play, referring literally the beautiful coat that was a gift from Joseph’s earthly father, Jacob. Genesis 37:23 tells us that “When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore.” For the brothers this coat was a tangible symbol of the Father’s Love as well as the favoritism that infuriated them.” “Come now,” the brothers said, “We will see what becomes of his dreams.” But the Rabbis of Genesis Rabbah said “While they were saying, ‘We will see,’ God was also saying, ‘We will see.’” (With all the authority of the one in charge of providence!), “We will see” whose words will be fulfilled, the brothers’, or God’s, who was the giver of those dreams, and never left Joseph’s side.

I love that Joseph House is built on this story, that this mission, intervenes and says, “Let us see whose words will be fulfilled, the system that is content to see the dreams of prisoners die, or a far-reaching love that intends to see those dreams come to fulfillment. This is the work we aim to do at Joseph House and we ask you to join us.

by Sonya Cronin

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