Parshat Vayeshev: Genesis 37:1-40:23; Amos 2:6-3.8.
Lately, all we seem to be hearing is that we should “go green.” Now, some might say that means we should root for the Spartans. Being a Wolverine, I find that unconscionable.
Today, when the effects of global warming are becoming more apparent, “going green” means that we should be mindful of the environment and choose to be better stewards of the planet.
One of my favorite midrashim is from Ecclesiastes Rabbah. It is as much of a word of advice as it is a warning. We learn that when God created the first human beings, He showed them the beauty and bounty of the Garden of Eden and warned them to treat the garden with great care. God told them that the world was created for them, and if they take advantage and destroy the world, there will not be another created in its place. The “go green” reminders and exhortations we are hearing now are reminiscent of this valuable information given thousands of years ago by God. We have not heeded the warning.
Green can also be a way of describing someone who is jealous. Shakespeare included this expression in Othello. Iago warns Othello of jealousy and refers to it as the “green-eyed monster” that mocks that which it feeds off. In this case, green is not the color you want to be.
This week’s portion is all about color. Joseph received a beautiful coat of many colors from his father, Jacob. His brothers, in turn, become green with envy. They ae jealous of the affection and favoritism their father is showing Joseph, and they decide to do away with him. The beautiful coat is then stained with goat’s blood and returned to their father as proof that his beloved Joseph has been killed by wild beasts.
All this color: all misused, all misplaced and misunderstood.
All of these colors combined leave us with a sense of blackness. Black, for many cultures, signifies mourning. Jacob was engulfed in blackness hearing of the death of his son. The brothers were shrouded in blackness after having heaved Joseph into a pit and succumbing to their envy.
Jealousy is dangerous. It can lead us to do horrible things. It is a driving force, but not a positive one. We should never allow ourselves to be overcome with jealousy and let it choose our behavior.
Joseph’s brothers are tragic examples of what can happen when jealousy takes over rational thought. We must try to keep our feelings of envy in check, realizing what we are jealous of and work to acquire what it is we want.
Replace those feelings of envy with accomplishment. Just as we have this one world, we each have just one life to live. Let us work to fill it with beautiful color and light and strive to eliminate the blackness.
Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny is a rabbi at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. This article originally appeared in the JN Nov. 29, 2007.