Redemption in the Dark Pit

Vayeshev By :  Jason Gitlin Project Manager, ReFrame: Experiential Education in Congregational Schools Posted On Dec 5, 2015 / 5776 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the ‘and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation

—Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

In his poignant classic on freeing oneself from the chains of physical and mental slavery, Bob Marley begins with an allusion to the story of Joseph. We read this week of his brothers stripping him of his coat, casting him into a pit and selling him as a slave to Midianite merchants.

“Joseph’s” pit, where Marley initially situates us, is a place of darkness where light struggles to get in. We are at a time of year, and a place in time, where one can likewise feel a surrounding darkness. These darkening days have a way of heightening our vulnerabilities and fears about the world around us. The Syrian refugee crisis, the attacks in Paris, events in Israel, and our own role and reactions to not only these crises but more personal challenges, can all feel increasingly daunting in the growing darkness.

The story of Joseph reminds us that the source of our social darkness is most often how we treat our brothers and sisters (both literally, in the case of Jacob’s children, and figuratively). The brothers’ broken relationship, however, also serves as a source of eventual redemption when Joseph’s strength and maturity help to heal the rift later on. Marley tells us, in another possible allusion to Joseph (Jacob’s blessing for him in Gen. 29:44), that despite the tribulations, Joseph’s hand was made strong by God, offering us a message of hope.

At this time of the year, between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, many of us are gathering with friends, family, and community, affording opportunities to heal familial rifts and recommit ourselves to bringing light to a dark word. Whether reaching out to loved ones or holding the shamash candle, may we be strengthened by the hands of Joseph and Bob Marley as we continue the work toward redemption.