I love drama. Who doesn’t love a story of lies, deception, romance and ambition? And no, I am not writing about “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I will save that for another time.
The narrative of Joseph is both surprising and familiar. Confusing and predictable. Wondrous and disappointing. Joseph’s brothers were set on his demise, throwing him into a pit, uncertain of whether he would live or die. As the story turns, he is saved, rises in power through Egyptian royalty, and faces his brothers, now groveling before this emotionally wounded man. The brothers return to Jacob, their father and reveal that Joseph, is in fact, alive. Cue the melodramatic music.
In response to their revelation, the Torah says that “his (Jacob’s) heart was faint because he does not believe them.” In Avot d’ Rabbi Natan, Rabbi Shimon says, “Such is the punishment of the liar: even when he tells the truth, he is not believed.” Jacob knew his sons were lying from the start. And though in this instance, the sons are telling the truth, their reputation as liars prevail. Jacob desperately wants to believe that his son is alive, but he understands the weakness of human beings. When we get in the habit of spreading an untruth, the label of “liar” is very hard to wash off.
It’s just stretching the truth. Merely embellishing, exaggerating, inflating. Leaving out some information that nobody needs to know.
But in paraphrasing Rabbi Shimon, once a liar, always a liar. It may work for the drama of the story, but in everyday life, our hearts should skip a beat…not through the tales of liars but through the dreams of those that inspire and lead with love.