Former chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l, claims that the concept of forgiveness was introduced in this week’s Parasha, Vayigash. He says the first recorded moment where one human being forgives another is when Joseph forgives his brothers.
While it is true that there are moments of forgiveness earlier in the Torah, it is God forgiving humans, not humans forgiving humans. In ancient literature we see what might be called an appeasement of anger; enough time passes and you are no longer angry. While that is definitely one strategy for dealing with anger, it does not create connection and intimacy. Forgiveness goes beyond not being mad anymore. Forgiveness builds bridges and draws people closer together. In fact the name of the Parasha, Vayigash, means to draw near.
The other piece of important information we draw from the Joseph story is that it is never too late to give up on repairing a relationship. When there seems no hope, when the relationship seems too strained, when we might even think the person with whom we want to repair is no longer available, there is always a flicker of possibility.
This has been an incredibly difficult year. Our relationships have sustained a lot of wear and tear. Remember, it is not too late to repair with someone. It is not too late to build a bridge. Reach out to that person with whom you feel distant. See if you can reconcile a division, or at least come to a place of respectful disagreement. The message from Torah this week is to draw near. May we have the courage to do exactly that.