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The Weekly Share – 29 Kislev

Food For the Soul

G-d and The Butler

In [the Parshah Miketz] we read that Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, was imprisoned alongside Pharaoh’s royal butler. Joseph befriended the butler and carefully followed his case. When the butler was exonerated, Joseph beseeched him to appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf. The Torah informs us that the butler forgot about Joseph, causing him to languish in prison for two more years. The Midrash explains that this was because Joseph should have placed his trust in G‑d, not the butler.

Why was it wrong for Joseph to ask the butler for help? Was he not meant to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity placed in his path? The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the person who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d will be his security.” The Midrash explains that this verse refers to Joseph. Joseph fulfilled the first half of this verse, but not the second. He trusted G‑d to provide an opportunity for salvation. He believed that G‑d had placed the butler in his path. But once the butler arrived, Joseph looked to him for redemption. The butler became his security, not G‑d.

Joseph’s mistake was that he should have realized that he had no way of knowing if his attempt to have the butler intercede for him would bear fruit. For all he knew, G‑d might not have intended at all to bring about his salvation through the butler. He should have realized that while he was meant to pursue the avenue placed before him, he was not meant to rely on it for certain that this would be the avenue that G‑d will choose.  In point of fact, the butler did bring about Joseph’s salvation in the end. But Joseph may have been punished for taking it for granted. Instead of the butler bringing up Joseph’s case before Pharaoh immediately, he promptly forgot his promise, and Joseph languished an additional two years in prison before Pharaoh’s need for a dream interpreter reminded the butler of the imprisoned Hebrew slave.

Even when we seize the initiative and succeed, we must search for G‑d’s covert hand that orchestrates and choreographs our success. Joseph should have continued to trust in G‑d even as he negotiated with the butler. If the butler would succeed, gratitude would be due to G‑d. The butler was only a medium through which G‑d would deliver liberation.

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

Shabbat Shalom

Kindle 6 Lights before sunset

In commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah we kindle the Chanukah lights—oil lamps or candles—each evening of the eight-day festival, increasing the number of lights each evening. For tonight we kindle six lights. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 6th day of Chanukah).

IMPORTANT: Because of the prohibition to kindle fire on Shabbat, the Chanukah lights must be lit before lighting the Shabbat candles, and should contain enough oil (or the candle be big enough) to burn until 30 minutes after nightfall.

Mind Over Matter

Chanukah Business

Why do we go to work on Chanukah? On other Jewish holidays, work is not permitted. Because the light of those days is too pure to enter the mundane world. To be part of such a holy day, we must temporarily leave that world behind.

But on Chanukah there shines a far more intense light, the light of the six days of creation that was hidden for the World To Come. A light through which all mysteries are revealed, all questions answered. A light so powerful, it can enter our everyday world of work and business, and encompass everything we do. And make that shine as well.

On Chanukah, there shines a light that reveals the divine within everything, everywhere.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

The Soul Cannot Be Imprisoned

Even in jail, Joseph retained, and was mindful of, his spiritual heritage-the teachings of his father. This heritage was his light with which he overcame the darkness of prison. It filled him with hope, joy and delight. The constraints of prison did not fetter him. It was but a temporary confinement, and immediately upon his release he rose to rule over all of Egypt. The prison-house of Joseph is an allusion to this world into which the souls of Israel-the “children of G‑d”-are made to descend, to become vested in finite bodies in order to observe Torah and mitzvot. The analogy with a prison is noted especially during the time of the galut (exile). Thus, we must remember Joseph and the events of his life. We must realize that the very idea of confinement is alien to us, because Jewish life is essentially unrestricted. The present era of constraints is undoubtedly only temporary. It is merely a step toward the ultimate goal of illuminating the world. The fulfillment of this mission will be followed immediately by the final redemption of Moshiach.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I Got A Story

The Art of Delegation

When I was twenty, a friend and I spent a weekend organizing a shabbaton in a small synagogue somewhere in America. The rabbi of the congregation was a wonderful person who had been in his position for over fifty years. I remember looking around at the tiny vestibule of the poky little synagogue, and the sparse crowd of congregants, and wondering how a person with such obvious talent and charisma could have spent so long in the one place and have seemingly so little to show for all his efforts.

I glimpsed a partial solution to the mystery as I started setting up the tables for the meal; right behind me, every step of the way, came the venerable octogenarian, straightening chairs and reorganizing my cutlery settings. The man was congenitally unable to let go. He took personal charge of the children’s service, demonstrated to the waiters the correct method of serving soup, led the Grace after Meals and interrupted every speaker with a running commentary of corrections and suggestions. He worked so hard and meant so well, yet the shabbaton was a shambles.

It’s hard to hand over control; trusting others to do the job without you. It is so tempting to insist on staying in the loop, finessing and finicking every single detail. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and isn’t the only way to guarantee perfection doing it yourself?  But you can’t do it all. You have to be willing to lean on others and work together for a common goal. Many hands make light work and the mark of a successful leader is the ability to step back and allow others their turn in the limelight.

When I think of successful models of leadership I think of the Rebbe who empowered so many to live for his vision and trusted them to work out the details for themselves. The Rebbe didn’t usually tell us what to do or how to do it; he just inspired us with the self-confidence to try, and then allowed us to map out our own path to success.

Yet, as I write this, I think back to the thousands of hours the Rebbe devoted to serving the needs and whims of individuals. If he had mastered the art of delegation why did he personally have to stand for hours every Sunday handing out dollar bills for people to place in charity? Why personally sign the thousands of letters that went through his office? Surely the proper function of a leader is to decide policy and set the general tone and direction, and then to allow his faceless bureaucrats to grease the wheels of routine governance.

Perhaps an answer can be sourced from this week’s Torah reading. Joseph was “the ruler of the land” (Genesis 42:6), and also the most successful Jew to ever stride the world’s financial markets. It was his drive and sense of vision that saved the world from starvation. Yet the very same verse continues: “He was the one who provided grain to all the people of the land.” I can just imagine the scene: Joseph standing at the front door of his granary, greeting every one of the thousands of starving peasants with a smile and cheery word and personally handing over the precious grain that meant life in times of famine.

Sure, he would have had sufficient flunkeys and lackeys to take care of the nitty-gritties of corporate governance and routine existence, yet a true leader never forgets that to serve the simple needs of the common people is the highest calling to which one can aspire.

It is so difficult, yet so crucial, to maintain balance; thinking globally, acting locally. Trusting others to lead in their own right, yet never removing oneself entirely from the mundane wants and needs of the entire flock. There is no shame in asking others for their help, or learning how to delegate, but never, ever insulate yourself in an ivory tower of privilege. True leadership doesn’t mean doing it all yourself, yet being a true leader means doing it all for others.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

Food For the Soul

Serenity or Struggle?

We often hear that the goal of life is personal serenity. We can all relate to this. No problems, no difficulties. Every day is peaceful and calm. The sun is always shining. It sounds good! “But — wait a minute,” you say. “What if a person has things to achieve in life? Can you always be calm and peaceful? Might there not be something worth struggling for, worth striving for? Isn’t there something we want to achieve?” Of course, there is! First, there is the struggle and the effort — then comes the tranquillity. You worked hard, you achieved something, and now you have earned your right to take it easy!

It sounds simple and clear. Yet [the Parsha Vayeshev ] gives a different view. Let us see how.
Jacob had been away from his home for many years. During his time in Laban’s house, he had faced many difficulties. However, he had fathered many children. Then on the journey back to the Holy Land, his beloved wife Rachel died. When he reached his home region he thought at last he would be able to live in peace. At this point, however, came the upsetting events with Joseph. The conflict between Jacob’s sons led to Joseph being kidnapped and sold. Jacob’s contentment turned to grief.

On this, the Midrash comments: Jacob wanted to live in calm serenity — but instead came the anguish about Joseph. The righteous people want to live in serenity in this world: is it not enough for them that they will enjoy the World to Come?

We live in a world of struggle. Personal victory lies in making the right step at the right time and facing each situation in a true way. It is a drama with many ups and downs. It also never ends: even if one lives to 120, spiritually one never retires and one never grows old. Instead of finally sitting back and taking it easy, there is fulfilment of the deepest, most important kind: facing the challenge, and taking another step forward!

Dr. Tali Loewenthal

Shabbat Shalom

Proudly Jewish, no matter what

As the “Black Death” plague decimated Europe, Christians accused the Jews of causing the plague by poisoning the wells. This Shabbat commemorates that terrible time in history. On the 23rd of Kislev 5109 (Nov. 15, 1348), Rudolph of Oron, bailiff of Lausanne, sent a letter to the mayor of Strasburg informing him that certain Jews of Lausanne had “confessed” under torture that they together with their coreligionists had poisoned all the wells in the Rhine valley. This resulted in the masses persecuting and killing tens of thousands of Jews throughout Europe. (Visit for a history of anti-Semitism.) As repugnant as anti-Semitism is, Rabbi Yossy Goldman writes: “in a strange, perverse way it may have contributed to the stubborn determination of Jews over many generations to identify Jewishly, stand up for their convictions, and live by the principles of our faith no matter what.”

Observing Shabbat and the upcoming holiday of Chanukkah are important ways to stand up and be counted as proudly Jewish, no matter what. Chanukah begins Sunday evening, December 18, 2022 and continues through Monday, December 26, 2022

Mind Over Matter

Go Down Like Joseph

You are Joseph. Your soul descended into a world that overwhelms you with its bigness, its coldness, and its apathy to change. It’s only natural to feel that you have been sold as a slave, or even surrendered as a prisoner. That you are no more than a victim of circumstances. Yet the reality is that your descent into this body in this world was carefully planned in the heavens. That, as you descend, you are empowered to rule.

To make change from within—which is the only lasting change. To make of this world a Moshiach kind of world, a world that recognizes the divine wisdom it contains is, after all, an inside job. What is your strategy?
Do the same as Joseph: Wherever G-d has planned for you to be, whether managing a home, sitting in a prison cell, or strategizing a plan to head off an environmental crisis, do your job as a proud Jew, with integrity, with lots of mitzvahs, and with G-d’s name on your lips. Then, as Joseph, in all you do you will succeed.

From an article by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

When she gave birth, there were twins…

“When she gave birth, there were twins… and he called his name Peretz, and afterwards his brother… and he called his name Zarach.” (Veyeishev 38:27-30)

Peretz is the direct ancestor of King David and Moshiach. The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 85:1) notes: “Before the first enslaver of Israel-Pharaoh-was born, the ultimate redeemer of Israel (Moshiach-Peretz) was already born.” With the birth of Peretz, our sages note there, the Almighty created the light of Moshiach. G-d thus brought about the remedy and cure before the affliction-before the Egyptian exile and all the exiles that followed thereafter, including our present one. This “light of Moshiach” confers upon Israel the strength and ability to succeed in their exiles to “break through” all obstacles and impediments in their service of G-d, until their good deeds will effect the coming of Moshiach of whom it is said, “The poretz is gone up before them.” Zarach, Peretz’s twin, also alludes to the redemption. His name means “shining forth.” The Messianic Kingdom will shine forth and illuminate throughout the world. All mankind will benefit from its bright light, as it is written: “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by the brightness of zarchech (your shining forth)” (Isaiah 60:3).

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I Got A Story

The Child In The Pit

While Reuben was away, the brothers sold Joseph into slavery. When he returns to rescue him, the boy is gone and he rends his garments in grief. But where was Reuben when the sale took place? Why wasn’t he there with his brothers at the time? Where did he suddenly disappear?

Rashi gives two possible explanations: 1) It was his turn to go and serve his aged father. The brothers had a roster, and Reuben’s time had come, so he was back at the ranch. 2) Reuben was busy doing teshuvah (repentance), with sackcloth and fasting, for the sin of interfering with his father’s marital life (as per Genesis 35:22).

I remember hearing the Lubavitcher Rebbe ask: According to the second opinion, Reuben left Joseph in the pit to go and busy himself with “sackcloth and fasting,” i.e. his own repentance for his sins. So let’s take a look and see what happens as a result. Reuben is absent, so Joseph is sold into slavery and taken down to Egypt. There he is imprisoned on false charges and, one day, rises to sudden prominence by successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He becomes viceroy of Egypt, then meets his long-lost brothers when they come searching for food during the famine. After revealing his true identity, he brings his father Jacob and the entire family down to Egypt, where he supports and sustains them.

And that is precisely how the Jews became slaves in Egypt. It all started with Joseph being taken from the pit and sold to the Egyptians. Why? Because Reuben decided to be busy doing teshuvah! I remember the Rebbe thundering, “The whole Egyptian exile can be traced to Reuben’s ill-timed teshuvah! When a young Jewish boy is languishing in the pit, this is not the time to be worrying about your own spiritual state. That is the time to save a Jewish child!”

Of course, teshuvah is a wonderful mitzvah. In a way, it is the greatest mitzvah of all, because it can repair the damage done by failing to observe all other mitzvahs. And yet, there is a time to do teshuvah and a time to save lives. And when a life is in danger, even teshuvah really must wait.

The analogy of the Jewish child in the pit resonates powerfully today. It is about saving lives not only physically, but also spiritually. How many millions of Jewish children are at risk spiritually? And how many Jews, indeed how many rabbis, are preoccupied with their own personal spiritual upliftment and ignore the plight of young people “in the pits”?
It is a sobering thought, and one that demands a response.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman