Joseph and his Ten Brothers

    April Passover 2005 Edition            
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Opinion & Society


Brothers Ten

By James Vasquez

A vast array of carriages,
Spreads o’er the desert sand,
Each bearing Pharoah’s emblem for,
They came at his command,

To carry Israel to a place,
Of endless sun and light,
Deliv’ring all our people from,
A famine’s grievous blight.

Tomorrow then, our journey ends,
Through endless wastes we’ve come,
We hungered and we thirsted till,
Our swollen tongues were numb.

And strangers to this land we’ll be,
Yet holding high our hopes,
For he who rules this vast domain,
From plains to distant slopes,

Himself has now decreed that we,
Should here new lives embrace,
Forsaking famished lands to find,
Beneath his sway a place.

And thus each child you see this eve,
Each father of a clan,
Alights and walks with sprier step,
Than when he first began.

And how this came about, dear friend,
I venture now to tell,
If but a moment of your time,
You’ll lend and listen well.

Now brothers ten we were when first,
We ventured ‘long this trail,
We bore what coins we had at hand,
In hopes they would avail,

To purchase grain from him who ruled,
For we had heard that he,
Though stern could show a kindly face,
And hear a beggar’s plea.

How different then our state from years,
A distant past had known,
When shepherding our father’s flocks,
And grain was amply sown.

And things at home went well those days,
Though Joseph clearly thought,
A notch above us all he was,
And modesty forgot.

It happened in a field afar,
We saw him come one day,
And as a slave to foreign lands,
We sent him on his way.

Our father mourned as fathers should,
When we his cloak displayed,
And with that garment feigned his death,
Its blood-soaked sleeves well frayed.

And ridding, thus, our household of,
This one most vexing son,
We sought to carry on our ways,
Just as we’d always done.

And life denied us not those goods,
Of table and of dress,
But when the rain withheld its gift,
We soon lacked food to bless.

‘Twas then our father called us ‘round,
And solemnly decreed,
That forthwith taking leave we should,
To Egypt’s land proceed.

"And carry there these silver coins,
With haste before we die,
Be off," he said, "and purchase grain!"
Nor waited our reply.

I’ll not forget when first we stood,
Before that august throne,
Of marble with fine gold inlaid,
And jewels so richly shown.

We knelt and then full prostrate lay,
Our fears allowed no less,
And finally he inclined to speak,
Our persons to address.

"You’ve come as spies, I ascertain,
Our weakness to explore,
Think not your purposes are hid,
Or I your ends ignore."

Now he who spoke those frightful words,
All Pharoah’s might did wield,
And naught was done throughout the land,
Without his mandate sealed.

And how our fears arose just then,
When this dire charge we heard,
His rule was such our lives could end,
If he but spoke the word!

And I, no braver than the rest,
But as the elder son,
Beseeched in quivering tone that he,
Of all such thought be done.

"As honest men we’ve come," I said,
"A bit of food to buy,
And ten we are, and one remains,
And one did surely die.

"Our father now an aged man,
Abides in Canaan’s land,
And such the famine in that place,
We’ve come at his command."

But little did my words avail,
"’Tis as I thought," he said,
"For spies you are, by this I’ll know,
If else you prove, instead.

"Let one remain in custody,
While, amply bearing grain,
The rest return to family,
That each his life may gain.

"And fearing God I grant this boon,
But you must then return,
And bring your younger brother, thus,
Your lives you’ll rightly earn."

Quite desperate for our straits just then,
And finally baring truth,
We gravely talked among ourselves,
Recalling deeds of youth.

"Our sin at last has found us out,
Demanding what we owe,
We saw our brother’s sore distress,
But would no mercy show."

"His blood has now returned," I said,
"Upon his very kin,
And did I not advise you then,
To keep your hands from sin?"

And confident I was that he,
Who sat upon the throne,
The harder would have judged us all,
If he our tongue had known.

The matter then was settled and,
We left for home that day,
While Simeon remained behind,
To languish and to pray.

Our fears, ‘twas clear, were not yet past,
For in our bags, we learned,
Upon arriving home each coin,
Of silver was returned!

We greeted father and to him,
Recounted our sad tale,
And asked he grant us Benjamin,
Returning o’er the trail.

And hardly is it needful that,
Our father’s firm reply,
I tell you now except to say,
He much preferred to die,

Then lose another son beyond,
The two that now were lost.
"No, Benjamin shall stay," he said,
"With me what e’er the cost."

Poor father! How was he to know,
The famine would not lift,
And each of us was soon to meet,
Some fateful end, and swift.

And when our grain was fully gone,
He then, resignedly,
Once more to Egypt sent us off,
That frightful man to see.

Now when we gathered ‘fore the throne,
His eye, it seemed, did rest,
So strangely on young Benjamin,
As if some wish, repressed,

Was found most deeply in his soul,
But shortly, then, he bade,
That we should to his house proceed,
Where we a feast surveyed.

And once again a harrowing fear,
Possessed us to the core,
What base design, we asked ourselves,
For us was now in store?

"To make us slaves he’s brought us here,"
With stammering tongues we said,
"No doubt he thinks we took our coins,
And to our land then fled."

And to his servant we avowed,
The money we’d restore,
And what he said to us just then,
Amazed us even more.

"Your money I received, fear not,
The treasure in your sacks,
No doubt was put there by your God,
Whose bounty nothing lacks."

Now how were we to understand,
All that to us occurred?
So helpless and confused we were,
For all we’d seen and heard.

But greater yet our wonder when,
We sat with him to dine,
This man who Pharaoh’s praise enjoyed,
And stature near divine.

We gave him gifts that we had brought,
But he took little care,
His interest was in father’s health,
And what we might declare.

And such a look of gladness, then,
I saw upon his face,
When told our father was quite well,
And life did yet embrace.

His eyes then finally fastened on,
Our brother Benjamin,
"May God’s great favor rest on you,"
He said, and called him "son."

And strangely then he hurried out,
As if in saddened mood,
And when returning ordered that,
We all be served our food.

And what a feast! I shan’t describe,
The portions that were brought,
And Benjamin’s was greater yet,
For reasons I knew not.

We left the day that followed but,
Were hardly on our way,
When overtaken by a ward,
Who then had this to say,

"My master’s cup you’ve taken now,
And why this evil deed?
Repaying good with thievery,
You thought you would succeed?"

But we dissented strongly for,
We swore he’d never find,
With us his master’s goods nor yet,
The cup with which he dined.

But there it was! Oh, Benjamin,
How could you thus have dared?
Could you not have resisted sin,
And all our lives have spared?

And we apace were straightway led,
To face that man once more,
And to the ground we threw ourselves,
Some mercy to implore.

But ere a word we uttered he,
In anger questioned why,
We thought this act of treachery,
Might have escaped his eye.

"And know you not," he asked us then,
"That things in darkness done,
Cannot from me be ever hid,
When past or when begun?"

Now fully smitten were we then,
For all our sins, it seemed,
From early years were thus revived,
And how we lied and schemed,

To cover o’er our brother’s plight,
When into slavery,
We sold him on that distant day,
For some ignoble fee.

Then Judah meekly raised his voice,
But lacking all defense,
Said we would be his servants now,
For this unveiled offense.

On hearing this the man declined,
And said we all were free,
To take our leave and Benjamin,
Alone his slave would be.

And Judah then upon his heights,
Ascended with a word,
So spoken as I’d ne’er perceived,
And seldom since have heard,

"When we a second time prepared,
This journey to commence,
Quite mindful of your word we were,
To bring our brother thence,

"We begged our father earnestly,
To send with us the boy,
If we in Egypt hoped once more,
Your presence to enjoy.

"But he refused for in this son,
Our father found his life,
His youngest and the only one,
From his most favored wife.

"And he was sure that losing him,
Death’s harbinger he’d greet,
Descending to a lonely grave,
His destiny to meet.

"But wasted fields surrounded us,
For lack of precious rain,
And soon the reaper’s scythe appeared,
Its grim reward to gain.

"I thus avowed to father that,
The blame I’d ever bear,
If Benjamin was not with us,
Returning homeward there.

"I beg my lord this plea to hear,
And let me be your slave,
Fulfilling to my father thus,
The word I justly gave.

"And by this kindly act of yours,
My father will be spared,
Such sorrow as he’s never known,
Nor yet its pain has shared."

And suddenly, then, the man arose,
Dismissing servants all,
And wept so loud his cries went forth,
Resounding through the hall.

"Now look upon me, brothers, and,
Your full attention give,
For I am Joseph whom you sold,
And does my father live?"

But terrified at what he said,
With mem’ries flooding by,
We could but speechless stand and gape,
As he then bade us nigh,

"Yes, I am Joseph," he assured,
"And naught you have to fear,
For God, in truth, and not yourselves,
To rule has brought me here.

"And lord of Pharoah’s house I am,
As lord of all this land,
To save a people for himself,
He placed me in command.

"Now hasten and your father tell,
Of all my honor here,
And bring him to this land at once,
With flocks and children dear.

"For yet remain five years before,
The famine ends its blight,
And here you’ll prosper well each day,
In some most pleasing site."

And with these words he threw his arms,
Around young Benjamin,
"My brother with his eyes beholds,
I am his father’s son!"

The tears gushed quickly from each eye,
This man so greatly feared,
In truth was Joseph, fully now,
To each of us endeared.

And what a time of welcoming,
We finally did enjoy,
And knew at last just why it was,
He favored so the boy.

He sent us off well laden and,
The last thing he did say,
Which showed how well he knew us, was,
"Don’t argue on the way!"

Tomorrow one last time we’ll be,
Before our brother, prone,
And father will behold him there,
His son upon the throne!

What wisdom does our God possess!
What power effects his will,
That ‘spite his people’s bent to sin,
He ever triumphs still.


from the April Passover 2005 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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