Cry Baby Cry
Did you ever notice how much Joseph cries in the story of his descent to Egypt? More than once, when the brothers stood before him, he’s forced to excuse himself and cry from his emotions. He cries when he sees Benjamin for the first time. After revealing himself, he cries on the shoulders of all of the brothers. Then he cries on Benjamin’s neck. When he sees his father after 22 years, he cries. I once counted (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Torah mentions Joseph’s crying 8 times, (and we all know how connected Joseph is to Chanukah, so it’s no coincidence).
Why does Joseph cry more than any other character in Tanach? There were others who experienced pain and suffering too, but why is he always crying?
If I would have to find Joseph’s one defining quality, I would say it is his clear recognition of Divine Providence. After twelve years in prison, he is whisked out of the dungeon and pushed before Pharaoh, who says to him, “I hear you know how to interpret dreams”. He answers, “It’s not me! The Lord will provide Pharaoh with peace”. This is how he rose to the top of every place he found himself, as Rashi (Genesis 39:3) points out “the name of Heaven was frequently in his mouth”. The most stark example of his oneness with the Divine plan is what he says to brothers right after he reveals himself to them. “But now don’t be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you”. His ability to see Divine Providence is truly amazing!
So why is he alway crying?
In Torah 250 Rebbe Nachman explains the meaning of tears. He says that all the pain and suffering of this world stems from lacking the knowledge of Divine providence. If we truly appreciated that Hashem is running things behind the scenes, we wouldn’t experience any suffering. The problem is that we feel like nature is running it’s course, which causes us great anguish. When somebody cries from pain he’s lacking that understanding of Divine Providence. The tears that come out of his eyes are infused with awareness of Hashem and a clearer vision of His providence. In a certain sense, he loses his own vision and is imbued with God’s vision. This is why after we cry, we feel better. Because crying is transformative. It’s not only an expression of the pain, but it’s also a remedy of that feeling.
I can only imagine those dark years that Joseph was alone in the dungeon. Here is a kid who knew how great he was and believed in his destiny to rule and yet he finds himself all alone, incarcerated in the most corrupt place on earth. I’m sure he shed an innumerable amount of bitter tears to Hashem in that dark place. I bet he cried and cried, but I think that every time he cried he felt somewhat better and he was able to see a little more light at the end of the tunnel. All of his crying gave him the eyes of God, as the Rebbe says. After all those tears, he became absolutely one with the hand of God. This is why he was crying more than anybody else and this is why every where he went he was successful, because his pain toughened him up so much that when he saw something, he saw it exactly as Hashem saw it. His struggles didn’t drown him. In the end, they aligned him.
Maybe this is another meaning of the verse about Joseph (Psalms 105:19) “אִמְרַ֖ת יְהֹוָ֣ה צְרָפָֽתְהוּ”. “The word of God purified him”. The fact that he always spoke of God, and spoke to God in his pain, purified him.