16. Miketz - BROTHERHOOD

ONE OF THE MOST powerful human dramas in the Bible is the story of Joseph. The saga of this young man who was sold by his brothers as a slave and rose later to be Prime Minister in the land of Egypt is one of the great gems in world literature. Many an artist has tried his hand at rewriting the story to fit his age. But that was not necessary. The drama is so powerful in the original that it needs no changes.

The Bible relates how famine fell on the land of Canaan, and how the brothers who wronged him had to go to Egypt to buy corn and found themselves confronting Joseph in all the pomp and circumstance of his high and powerful office. While they failed to recognize him, Joseph recognized all of them, but he missed the one person he wanted to see most, namely his younger brother Benjamin. Finally, sending the brothers home with provisions, he laid a stern injunction on them: If ever they came again to Egypt for more supplies, they must bring Benjamin with them. When the time came and their food was exhausted, and they had to go again to Egypt for corn, Judah said to his father Jacob who was afraid to send the young lad along, "The man warned us saying you shall not see my face unless your brother is with you" (Gen. 43:5).

I want to dwell on this sentence, for it is one of those powerful verses in the Bible that proclaims a timeless truth, and that fits numerous contexts of life. "You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you." This is the season of the year when people talk and make much ado about brotherhood. There is hardly a public speaker who doesn't extoll its virtues. But even a cursory reading of the daily press makes us realize what a clash there is becween this beautiful and lofty ideal and the ugly and cruel reality. The truth remains nevertheless that the most realistic voices of our time are proclaiming that brotherhood is an inexorable necessity; that without it there can be no happiness, stability, or peace in the world. As a matter of fact, our entire civilized way of living, everything we cherish and hold dear, keeps saying to us, "You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you." There is no other choice for us all.

This lesson is taught by the animal world. The enormously large animals which did not learn the science of cooperation are now extinct. The dinosaurs are no longer around, and we are told on good authority that the lions and tigers are transient guests on this globe, and are doomed to extinction. But the little fellows--the ants, birds and bees--and the other creatures that have learned the art of living together in peace will survive.

Public health is saying that. It took many centuries to learn that no one can be safe from epidemics until all are safe. Contagion does not distinguish between races, creeds or political parties. It treats all men alike. It is equally important for all to know that the cures for the scourges of mankind came from all kinds of men. The plague of smallpox was largely defeated by an Englishman, rabies by a Frenchman, the wonder drug streptomycin was discovered by Prof. Selman Waxman, a Jew, and the vaccine against polio by two other Jews. Thus from birth to death we are served by a host of men representing different races and creeds.

Economic welfare is saying the same thing. Poets and prophets are no longer the only ones who preach the fraternity inherent in the verse, "You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you." A business slump, an energy crisis, a gasoline shortage, financial difficulties in one city, affect all economic strata of the land. And contributions toward the welfare, prosperity and progress of America and the world were made by a diverse breed of men representing different regions and climes.

Public morals is likewise quoting the same verse. In our cities and towns, the moral tone of the community has diverse means of expression--radio, television, movies, newspapers, magazines and books. Since these cannot be easily kept out of our homes, no home is morally safe while the ethical tone of the nation is low. There is no hope of government of, by and for the people, unless we create a climate of liberty, equality and fraternity The blessed face of stability and peace will be with us only when our neighbors will be considered as brothers.

Look at our shrinking world and see. As the earth keeps growing smaller, as jets cross continents at speeds faster than the speed of sound, the ideas of brotherhood and unity no longer belong in the realm of idealism. The ominous fact confronts us on all sides that we must either learn to live together or perish.

A story is told about a young lad who strayed from his home in a small town in Maine. It was a cold day and snow was falling. When the parents discovered that the child was missing, they first began to search for him in the homes of neighbors and friends. When he could not be found within the limits of the town, they began to search for him in the neighboring fields and woods. After a while the entire population became alarmed and all were eager to help. They ran around frantically in all directions, calling the boy's name, bur their search was fruitless. When a wise man saw what was happening, he summoned the people and said, "This will never do. Let's organize this search properly and we are bound to succeed. Let us all join hands and march through the fields and woods and we will find the child." When they did as they were told, when everyone in the community joined hands, they came upon a pile of snow. They brushed aside the snow and found the frozen body of the lost child. The heartbroken parents cried out in grief, "Oh, if only we had joined hands earlier!"

How I wish and pray that the message of this tragic story and of the verse which forms the text of this sermon would be taken to heart by nations and men! The world would then be a more decent place to live in, and life more peaceful and serene.

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