Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  VAYIGASH

December 15, 2018  |  7/Tevet/5779

TORAH FOR YOUR TABLE
POSITIVE CRITICISM AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A JEW
By Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis (z”l)
This parashah is perhaps the most emotional parashah in the Torah. After 22 years of separation, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and declares, “I am Joseph — is my father still alive?” These words were the most devastating admonishment that Joseph could have given to his brothers. Instead of berating them for having sold him into bondage, he simply said, “I am Joseph,” implying, “My dreams, which you attributed to delusions of grandeur, were fulfilled; God did make me king, and He did send you to bow down before me.” But note that nowhere does Joseph actually say those words.
The declaration, “I am Joseph,” was sufficient. He allows his brothers to infer the rest and his question, “Is my father [rather than our father] still alive?” cuts to the core of the issue, for it suggests that they had not conducted themselves as sons should, else they could not have sold their brother and led their elderly father to believe him dead. But again, Joseph does not introduce himself with these words. Rather, with his terse “Is my father still alive?” he invites his brothers to judge themselves.
From this, we learn that admonishment is most effective when used as a mirror and that it can never be accomplished through painful jokes, shouting, cynical remarks, or name-calling. Such tactics can only result in secondary problems that lead to further resentment and alienation.
When Joseph embraces his brother Benjamin, he falls on his neck and weeps profusely, and Benjamin, in turn, does the same. The Gemara explains that Joseph was crying over the Holy Temples that would be destroyed in the land allotted to Benjamin, and Benjamin was crying over the Tabernacle that would be destroyed in the portion allotted to Joseph. The question remains, however, why they chose this particular moment to weep over the Temples and the Tabernacle. The message that the Torah imparts is that, tragically, they foresaw that the very same acrimony that led to the splintering of the House of Jacob would continue to divide our people and lead to the destruction of the Temples. Joseph and Benjamin cried for each other’s pain, teaching us that the only remedy to this plague of hatred is for us to learn to empathize with one another, to feel each other’s pain, and reach out with chesed — exemplifying kindness and love.
In this parashah, we discover some of the ways through which the name “Jew” defines us as a people. When the sons of Jacob are confronted by the irrational accusations of the viceroy of Egypt (Joseph) and realize that the life of their younger brother Benjamin is at risk, then Judah (whose name connotes “Jew,” for a Jew is called a Yehudi) rises like a lion and does battle for his brother. As desperate and as hopeless as the situation appears to be, Judah — a man of complete faith — does not give up. Similarly, we, his descendants, have never given up.
The obstacles that Judah confronts are many. The Egyptian viceroy (Joseph) pretends that he doesn’t speak or understand Hebrew. An interpreter acts as an intermediary, and the evidence weighs heavily against Benjamin. Nevertheless, speaking Hebrew from his heart, Judah cites Jewish sensitivity. One may ask what Judah could possibly have hoped to accomplish by speaking in Hebrew and referring to Jewish values to this supposed Egyptian, Joseph.
A wonderful story about the great Sage, the Chofetz Chaim, explains it all. The Polish government had passed an edict that would have the effect of prohibiting independent Jewish education, thus jeopardizing the continuation of Torah life. The Chofetz Chaim requested a meeting with the Polish president. Even as Judah spoke in Hebrew, the Chofetz Chaim spoke in Yiddish and a Jewish senator stood by to translate. Although the president did not understand Yiddish, the Chofetz Chaim’s heartrending plea touched him so deeply that tears filled his eyes.
When the interpreter began to translate, the president quickly interrupted him and said, “Although I do not speak Yiddish, I understand the words of this holy man. He spoke from the heart, and one heart understands another heart. The edict is rescinded.”
This is the legacy of Judah: If we speak in the name of God, if we uphold our Torah, and are prepared to put our lives on the line for the sake of our brethren, there will be no barrier that we cannot overcome.
We, the Jewish people, have survived the centuries with the Torah as our     guide. Our emunah (faith) has sustained us. We have never lost hope. So, if we feel overwhelmed by life’s struggles, we must remember that we are Jews — descended from the family of Judah.
Let us connect with our Torah, with our faith, and God will surely come to our aid. Let us remember that the name Judah also means “to give thanks and praise to God.”
Ultimately, that is probably the most compelling definition of us as a Jewish people: In times of joy as well as in times of adversity, we give thanks to our Creator; we never give up, knowing that He will always protect us.
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STRAIGHT TALK
The True Challenge of Giving
By Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt   Tikun UK
Why Joseph is called a Tzaddik?
Joseph is the only biblical figure referred to specifically as “haTzaddik” — “the righteous one.”
We know that the Bible is full of righteous individuals. What is it about Joseph that marks him out as the paragon of righteousness more so than others?
There is one personality trait that we find epitomized in Joseph: He takes responsibility. Starting with his brothers, he tells his father the mistakes they are making. It’s not the best way of doing it, but his motivation is sincere. In Potiphar’s house, he ends up running the show. In prison, he ends up running the show. When he leaves prison, he ends up running all of Egypt. When his brothers come to Egypt, he first helps them grow past their mistakes, and then provides for the whole family.
We often think of a righteous person as someone who does a lot of good. But how much good? How does one quantify? The Torah answers for us: It’s not enough to just “do a lot of good.” In order to be truly good, you have to take responsibility for others.
We all have a good part that wants to give and to share. And that part will naturally express itself at times. Even the most selfish of people will feel like giving sometimes. But the challenge of giving is not when you feel like doing so. It is to give when you don’t feel like doing so. And when you take responsibility for others, you are committing to giving even when you don’t feel like doing so.
Giving to a homeless person in the street means dropping some money into his cup. Taking responsibility for him means sitting with him and talking about what his needs are and then figuring out how to solve those problems. It’s not quite as comfortable as dropping him a few pennies. Giving to an office colleague means making her a cup of coffee when you’re making one yourself. Taking responsibility would mean proactively approaching her when she seems down, giving her your time, then suggesting concrete ways you could be of assistance.
Giving to your partner means responding to their needs and sharing. Taking responsibility, however, means rebuking them sometimes, even though it might cause friction. It means listening to them and understanding them, not just expressing your own opinion. It means taking time to figure out how to help them grow, then actively and patiently encouraging them to move in that direction even though they might resist initially.
The one who is willing to take responsibility for others in all areas of life — no matter where it might take him — is the truly righteous person. That was Joseph.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The best present you can give your children is your presence”

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JOKE OF THE WEEK

Little Avi’s teacher, Morah Emma, is reading her class the story of Chicken Little. She begins reading the part where Chicken Little tries to warn the farmer. “So, Chicken Little went over to the farmer and said, ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”
Morah Emma then asks her class, “What do you think the farmer then said?”
Little Avi raises his hand. “I think he said, ‘I can’t believe it! A talking chicken!”

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SHABBAT SHALOM

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