“[Joseph] sent his brothers on their way, as they left, he said to them, ‘See that you do not become agitated on the way’” Genesis 45:24
V In Hebrew, the phrase is al tirg’zu b’darech, tirg’zu from the word brogez – better known as broiges –“ to fall out, to argue or become agitated”.
What is this agitation that Joseph is so concerned about? The classic commentator Rashi gives several explanations. The first is that as can so often happen with scholarly types, they will start arguing about some minute hair-splitting aspect of Jewish law and get distracted from the journey.
Alternatively and perhaps more plausibly, they will argue among themselves about whose fault it was that Joseph ended up in slavery and who is to blame for the subsequent events and end up with dissent.
As with every verse in the Chumash, there is the simple meaning – p’shat - and there is the allegorical meaning.
Rashideeper explanation Rashi gives is that Joseph is warning his brothers not to rush in their haste to return to their father, putting themselves at risk: “Do not take large steps and enter the city while It is still light”.
What is the problem with taking large steps? The Talmud gives a fascinating answer where it is discussing different etiquette for a Torah scholar. “Some say he may not take long strides, as they said: A long stride takes away one five-hundredth of a person’s eyesight” (Berachot 43b). In other words, taking large steps leads to blindness.
Is the Talmud speaking of physical blindness? I would humbly suggest it is speaking more metaphorically to teach us a simple, yet incredible life lesson.
When you are excited by something new and you want to grow, do not be tempted to run before you can walk. Do not rush to take giant steps as this may affect your clarity of vision. Start with small steps and build up gradually so you maintain a clear, healthy perspective and avoid being blinded by your new-found excitement.
As a rabbi, I have sometimes been in the counter-intuitive position of telling somebody to “slow down” in their Jewish observance as they may be jumping ahead without a clear set of goals or thinking about the consequences.
Personal and spiritual growth is great. It is what Judaism is all about. To be effective, growth requires not sudden bursts of excessive energy, but small, measured steps which are made with a clear vision and perception and calculated to last well into the future.