In our Torah portion this week, we read that Jacob sends 10 of his sons to go buy grain in Egypt. He holds back his youngest, Benjamin, however because he is afraid that harm might befall him. (Genesis, Chapter 42, verse 4) Jacob is very protective of Benjamin since his other son Joseph disappeared and he believed that he had suffered a horrible death, devoured by wild animals. Jacob is understandably afraid to let another favorite son go out into the sometimes dangerous world.
Jacob’s reluctance to let Benjamin out into the world reminds me of how I sometimes (okay, maybe more than sometimes) am afraid to be vulnerable, and hold a part of myself back. I am afraid to let a part of myself show that might be rejected. Yes, like Jacob, I may have a good reason- perhaps I was hurt in the past and am afraid to experience the same kind of suffering again.
Yet I wonder what would happen if I allowed all of myself to be present more often- if I engaged with the world more fully and without fear?
Perhaps allowing Benjamin to venture out into the world would afford Jacob some valuable new information from his son. Perhaps if we allow a vulnerable part of ourselves to come out at the right time, we will learn more about our deeper selves and about others we are in relationship with.
This Torah portion inspires me to experiment with opening myself to vulnerability more than I usually do. Jacob only thought that his son Joseph had been devoured by wild animals. In truth, Joseph had not only survived but even grown on many levels - in stature, in wealth and spiritually. Jacob was ruled by his grief and fear in not allowing his other favorite son to encounter the world. Perhaps I can remember that even if a part of me was hurt in the past, it’s not a reason to keep hiding parts of myself in the future. In fact, when I look at things through eyes of clarity and truth, I can see how I’ve grown and become very strong and able on many levels, despite (or because of) hurts and challenges. I can let this truth embolden me as I risk being more vulnerable, slowly but surely over time.
Might you consider being a bit more vulnerable rather than hiding parts of yourself because of past hurts? How might this Torah portion inspire you?
May we all experience a Hanukkah where we see the inner light in ourselves and are not afraid to let it shine.
I am a Rabbinic Chaplain in the Jewish Renewal tradition who brings a light-filled and joyful Judaism to others who want to experience the beauty of Jewish spirituality.