“These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph was seventeen years old, being a shepherd, he was with his brothers with the flocks (...)” (Genesis 37:2)
We read that Joseph was a shepherd and he was with his brothers.
We see that there is a signal of leadership by being a shepherd with his brothers, by looking after them, as it actually happened in his future life.
“So he [Israel] said to him, 'Go now and see to your brothers' welfare and the welfare of the flocks, and bring me back word'.” (37:14)
This leadership is also underscored by his father.
“And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat.” (37:3)
In this context we must inquire about the reasons of Israel's preference for Joseph. The answer is fully given by Joseph's life throughout the Torah's narrative. Joseph's life is the answer, and in particular the way he related to his brothers from beginning to end.
We have said that the children of Israel represent traits and qualities in our consciousness with the utmost potential to reveal God's presence in the material world. By His presence we refer to the ways and attributes with which He reveals to us and His creation.
These ways and attributes are specific qualities derived from His love, because all emanates from His love that also sustains all that He has created. In this sense, we all are destined to reveal God's love in all aspects of life, through all levels of consciousness.
This also means that we do it through our highest potentials represented by the children of Israel. The potential for goodness exists in everyone's consciousness, meaning that the twelve Hebrew tribes integrate the goodness we are and can manifest in the material world. And there is a leading, guiding and directing one among them, and that is love.
Love is the true firstborn because it not only is the natural and primordial conductor of all aspects of life, but also what redeems us from the illusions that divert us from the destiny we referred above. Joseph became the firstborn because he manifest love's ways and attributes as the material manifestation of God's love.
“For Judah prevailed over [from] his brothers, and the prince [the Messianic consciousness] comes from him, but the birthright is Joseph's.” (I Chronicles 5:2)
This explains Joseph's dreams in which his brothers bowed to him. Indeed they bowed before Joseph after they came down to Egypt to buy food. In a deeper meaning they bowed in reverence and devotion to love as our essence and true identity. Love is the true sustenance we pursue either in the good times or amid the darkest moments we may encounter. (See in this blog our commentary on Vayeishev: “Israel as the Firstborn” of November 12, 2011).
Love is our right to be born, the bearer of the birthright as the direction we must give to all dimensions of consciousness. Love is the cause and the effect that makes life meaningful, and we must conceive it as the motivation and also the outcome of such motivation.
All we discern, think, feel, sense, speak and do must be inspired, motivated and induced by love's ways and attributes simply because love is what we are and have in order to exist in the world.
Countless times we have emphasized that we can't survive without love, and we have to be aware of this truth permanently. We all pursue love because life is not complete or fulfilled without love. This is why we also look for God as the source from where all came to exist. In the highest level of consciousness we know that we belong to the One who created us and sustains us. We reach out to God's love because we know that His love is our essence and true identity.
We understand Joseph as the extension of his father Israel, as the one most loved by him. Joseph's full awareness of love led him to thrive amid the darkest situations he lived through. Indeed there is darkness in the realm of negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and passions as ego's fantasies and illusions that pretend to deny love's prevalence and regency.
“(...) so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully.” (Genesis 37:4)
This is the result of the rejection of love as our true identity, and there is no peace when love is absent.
The situation gets worse in our consciousness when we allow hatred, envy and cruelty to take over our discernment, thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts. Once they rule we can fall deep in the worst predicament where destruction and death prevail.
“(...) and they continued to hate him.” (37:5)
“So his brothers envied him.” (37:11)
“(...) they plotted against him to put him to death.” (37:18)
“So now, let us kill him.” (37:20)
Negative traits and trends not only reject love's qualities but pretend to deny their regency and dominion over all levels and dimensions of consciousness, by making appear as real “dispossessing” love of its attributes.
“Now it came to pass when Joseph came to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his shirt, of the fine woolen coat which was upon him.” (37:23)
This only can happen in the negativity of ego's fantasies and illusions. We can't dispossess or strip love of its qualities and attributes, because love is the source of life, in contrast to ego and its illusions.
Certainly we can sale our essence and identity, even trade it for the mirages built by ego's materialistic desires, but we can't kill love because it is part of us and we are part of it.
“'Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but our hand shall not be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh'. And his brothers hearkened.” (37:27)
We learn from our negative thoughts, speech and actions, as we also learn from our separation from love as our essence and identity. Choosing hatred, envy, jealousy, cruelty, greed, coveting, indolence, indifference, and other negative states of consciousness engenders also negative outcomes and consequences.
These are the famines that make life barren and sterile, from which we cry out loud to be redeemed. The famines that only love eases. Let's be aware time and again that our negative choices bear their own punishments. God does not punish us for transgressions against our own well being. Transgressions provide their punishments because they carry their negative outcomes.
The Prophet reminds us in the haftarah for Vayeishev, that when we separate from the goodness of who we are by rejecting and abandon love, we also separate from God's love.
“(...) says the Lord (…) and you commanded the prophets saying, 'Do not prophesy.' Behold, I will oppress your dwelling place, as a wagon full of sheaves is oppressed. And escape shall be lost to the swift, and the strong shall not gain strength, nor shall the mighty man deliver himself.” (Amos 2:11-14)
When love is rejected, God's love is also denied. In our separation, the illusions with which we replaced love don't deliver us from the darkness they impose on us.
“And he who holds the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not escape, neither the rider of the horse shall not deliver himself. Even the bravest among the mighty shall flee naked on that day, says the Lord.” (2:15)