What makes them important is their message: “All the sheaves will bow down to me; all the heavenly bodies will give me honour!”
The way things worked out, it actually happened that Joseph, originally resented and put firmly in his place, became the effective head of the family and held in his hands the destiny of the tribe.
His youthful egotism and ambition, however, irritate the reader.
We know that there are youngsters who enjoy giving orders and bossing others around. We often say, “He’ll grow out of it!” Sometimes we are more positive and say, “There’s leadership there! He obviously has potential – let’s wait and see!”
The question is wider than one family and one sibling. It goes to the nature of human society.
Can society manage without leaders? The answer is clearly no. Pir’kei Avot tells us that without leadership, people would eat each other alive.
The question is what kind of leadership and what relationship there is between leader and followers. Judaism objects to leadership that imposes itself on the community and denies the people a say. It does not agree with a leader giving him/herself airs and boasting, “I’m the greatest!”
A recent book about Israel as a start-up nation describes the easy relationship between Israeli leaders and followers, but emphasises that when it comes to decisive action, the leader has to be heard and heeded.