There is light and there is also darkness. To live means to experience both.
In his sermon of December 20, 1964 Rabbi Olan engages with this dichotomy through the story of Joseph and his journey from a spoiled, over-confident young man to a mature man of understanding and faith. How can this story teach us about overcoming despair?
Joseph’s first inkling of the darkness was when his brothers, jealous of him, threw him into a pit and left him to die. The second stage in this transformation came when Joseph was able to acknowledge his own contribution to his plight, which “laid the foundation for a victory over despair.” And the third stage was the realization that “adversity brought out in him qualities of endurance and courage he never experienced before.”
This process culminates in Joseph’s experience of his religious faith. “He was not alone during the times of his despair and suffering.” Thus he was later able to save his brothers and father during a famine and turn his back on vengeance. Rabbi Olan asserts that “there are two basic attitudes toward life…the materialistic or the irreligious, which holds that all is matter devoid of purpose or goal. The other is the spiritual or religious, which asserts that besides matter there is spirit which gives direction, purpose, and meaning to human efforts.”
“We must choose the view of life upon which we act and move.”
*Written by Frances Olan.*