To establish a covenant with remarkably righteous individuals such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is easy. But to maintain it with an entire nation is an almost impossible task. Mistakes will be made and wrongs committed. How, then, can the covenant be held together without rejecting anyone?
On a certain level the story of Joseph and his brothers teaches us how the Children of Israel are able to remain together as one even when they may have strayed from each other or God.
It is Joseph who orchestrates the repair of the family through a series of tortuous tests. When he hears Reuben utter words of remorse for the way the brothers had almost murdered Joseph by the pit some 20 years earlier, he held back his tears, wanting to be sure that they had indeed changed.
This explains the demand that Benjamin (son of Rachel, along with Joseph) be brought before him. Then he frames Benjamin with stealing his goblet under the threat of being punished with slavery. The scene should have been familiar to the brothers. Would they do to him as they had done to Joseph and let him be taken as a slave? This time the same Judah who suggested the sale of Joseph steps forward to say: “Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy”(44:33). He is literally willing to step into Benjamin’s shoes. It is at this point that Joseph reveals himself, thereby reuniting the family.
No longer will one part of the family be rejected, as had been the case with Ishmael and Esau. The story of the Jewish nation will now be one in which repentance and reconciliation become key tools for our continued survival.