In the end of last week’s Torah portion, we are left with a cliffhanger: How will the brothers, the sons of Israel, respond when Benjamin, their youngest brother, is suddenly seized on trumped-up charges? Will they abandon him?
I can’t help but think back to the 1960s Batman TV series. There was always a cliffhanger with a two-part show. At the end of the first part, Batman and Robin would be left with their lives threatened by a psychotic killer: the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, even King Tut, a Pharaoh-type enemy.
Batman, or Bruce Wayne, grew up a spoiled child in the lap of luxury in stately Wayne manor. At a tender young age, when returning from a movie with his parents, they encounter a street mugger who murders his parents in front of him in cold blood.
This traumatized Bruce as a tender adolescent. He dedicates his life to avenging their senseless deaths, bringing criminals to justice and helping others avoid the pain he has experienced. Bruce applies himself with dedication to his detective studies and to acquiring fighting skills through mental grit, sweat, and toil. His Sherlock Holmes method of solving crimes is more intellectual than brute muscle.
Yosef is also cultivated as a carefree child, lavished with the love of his brothers and father. He then gets under the skin of his brothers when his father shows him favoritism with a multicolored cape and he reveals his dreams of ruling over them. Suddenly, Yosef receives a rude awakening when he is thrown into a life-threatening pit of snakes and scorpions by his very own brothers. He is then sold into slavery, a trauma not many people can recover from.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Yosef dedicates himself to his dreams of helping others. Even though he is shackled into slavery, he doesn’t despair. He is clever and rises to the occasion. He swiftly advances to become the manager in Potiphar’s household but has a setback. He is accused of forcing himself on Potiphar’s wife when he rejects her advances. He is convicted of attempted rape, but even while imprisoned he is not despondent. He helps others with his talent for interpreting dreams.
Yehuda, Yosef’s brother, also makes the front page of the Canaan Post with a sex scandal. He courageously apologizes and admits to being the father of Tamar’s baby in order to save her life from the mob who want to lynch her for being pregnant and unwed. Yehuda is a changed man. Yaakov understands that life must go on and trusts Binyamin, his youngest son, with Yehuda to win the release of Shimon.
When Binyamin is seized, Yehuda heroically steps up to help Yosef. He risks his life with the psychopathic Egyptian King Tut who is clearly playing with them. He conveys the pain that his father, Yaakov, would feel with the loss of his second son by Rachel. Yehuda selflessly demonstrates his love for his father and brothers. Yosef feels the pain in his voice and sees a different, transformed Yehuda. Yosef is able to forgive his brothers and is blessed with his family reunited. Something Batman can only fantasize about.
Batman hides his identity behind a mask, Yosef the Hebrew is disguised wearing an Egyptian outfit and is able to carry out his plan. Bruce Wayne is described as a socialite playboy; Yosef is described as being so handsome he attracts unwanted attention.
The growth and transformation of Bruce Wayne, Yosef, and Yehuda teaches us that the pain we experience in life can help strengthen our resolve and allow us to triumph over adversity. While Hollywood can paint Batman as being pure in his convictions, the Torah describes our forefathers, our avos, as real people with real struggles and models of growth.
I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom, and remember: Next week, same bat time, same bat channel.
By Uncle Dovie