Shabbat to Share

Food For the Soul

Pharoah’s contrition

In the Parsha Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35) the slavery in Egypt is approaching its final stages. The ten plagues are beginning to descend upon a hapless Egypt. Though Pharaoh’s reactions are not spontaneous — his reversals and broken promises were foreordained — still, men of free and not pre-determined will, often emulate him.

It was after the second plague, Pharaoh had assured Moses that Israel would be freed, and the plague was in fact lifted. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart”1 and repudiated his pledge. His promises were forgotten when the pressure was removed.

G‑d is a refuge in distress, but not if He is otherwise ignored. Pharaoh set the example of promising to do good when he was suffering from a plague, but he promptly “hardened his heart when there was a respite.” The time of respite, that is the test of faith. Suffering, desperation, and calamities may impel one toward religion and G‑d, and they can well mean the start of a truly religious life. But the person whose religion is in direct proportion to his suffering is an apt pupil of Pharaoh, hardly a worthy teacher.

From an article by Rabbi Zalman Posner


Shabbat Shalom

The “small” tasks

Some individuals feel that their purpose in life is to revolutionize the world, to revamp society. It is not worthwhile to devote their superior talents to correcting small matters. The “simple” matters of Shabbat laws and Shabbat observance, keeping kosher, the laws of marital life or the details of blessings to be made over food do not befit their exalted status. [But] if the Almighty interests Himself and watches over even the smallest detail of the universe; if bringing lice and hail upon the Egyptians is not too “lowly” a task to be associated with G‑d’s great name—then [we] too should give attention to the smallest detail. It is precisely in the “simple tasks” of teaching [and practicing] the Torah laws pertaining to day-to-day living, that G‑d’s kingly presence finds expression.

Adapted from an article by Rabbi Yitschak Meir Kagan


Mind Over Matter

Illumination, not elimination

Try terminating a bad thought, and you’ll only get more stuck in it. But if you actively exchange the thought for another “track,” it will cease to exist. Not because you’ve won it over, but because you moved on to something better.

The famed Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk put it this way: “I don’t expect my chassidim not to sin. I expect them not to have time to sin.” Moreover, a person constantly involved with good eventually reaches the point where he ceases to sin not only due to a lack of time, but due to a lack of interest; not just in practice, but in principle. Our sages put it so eloquently when they said that the way to dispel darkness is by adding light. Night is banished through the process of illumination, not elimination.

From an article by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson


Moshiach Thoughts

“I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, I shall rescue you from their service, I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you to Myself for a people… And I shall bring you to the land…” Va’eira 6:6-8

The Messianic redemption, including its highest stage, is inherent already, even now-indeed, ever since the exodus-except that it still needs to become manifest in our physical reality. Consciousness and realization of this fact makes it so much easier to overcome all and any impediments and obstructions, in this world in general, in the era of the galut (exile) in particular, and especially so nowadays, at the very end of the galut, when we are on the threshold of the Messianic age and Moshiach is about to come.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Faith instills confidence

Charlie Adler, a Canadian Radio Show host, asked why our forbearers, who had less than us, looked forward with optimism, while we, who have more than they ever did, are pessimistic about our future. Daily headlines warn us of market meltdowns and a severe oncoming depression while blogs, magazines and op-eds warn of collapsing empires, environmental calamities and mega terror attacks. Why are we so eager to believe the prophets of doom? What filled our ancestors with confidence and fills us with foreboding?

One caller suggested that it is rooted in our lack of faith. Our grandparents believed in G‑d and were thus imbued with a basic faith about the future. Our generation has relinquished its faith in G‑d and placed its hope in its own resourcefulness. We have replaced the almighty G‑d with the almighty dollar. When our ambition creates a blanket of financial security we can view the future with promise. But when our security blanket wears thin there is little left to buoy us and we fill instead with foreboding.

The religious values that provided comfort and security two generations ago were discarded in the last generation. Religious ethics were rejected as prohibitive and restrictive. Religion and faith were turned in for freedom, peace, humanism and love. Discipline, ethics and values were turned in for indulgence, greed and excess. This carried us for a while. It increased our ambition, enhanced our productivity and we reaped generous reward.

But ambition and creativity alone cannot keep us atop the dynamic forces that buffet us in life for long; we were bound to crash. When the gravy train slowed down it was time to turn back to the values that built our great nation. But by the time we were ready to turn back we found there was nothing to turn back to. We had journeyed so far from our original mindset that return was inconceivable. How do we pull ourselves up, when we have spent decades dragging ourselves down?

The ancient Egyptians were struck with ten plagues. First the waters turned to blood and then the waters filled with frogs. Blood represents warmth, enthusiasm and a love for life. The Nile turning to blood thus symbolized excessive preoccupation with and excitement for materialism. Frogs are amphibious creatures. They are cold blooded creatures, which on a symbolic level represents spiritual apathy. There is an apathetic spectrum which stretches from initial seeds of doubt to full blown antipathy toward all things G‑dly. This spectrum is represented by the frog.

Egypt was not stricken with frogs until after they were stricken with blood. This tells us that religious apathy and breaches of faith do not occur in a vacuum. It is only after we become overly exuberant about our material successes that seeds of religious doubt are planted. When we put too much stock in material achievement and take excessive delight in material indulgence we dull the voice of our soul and its calling of faith.

When faced with a financial downturn we must embrace a posture of confidence in the future. Not a confidence born of bravado, but one rooted in faith. We must remember the values that generated our past success. We must restore our willingness to work hard, our optimistic and hopeful outlook and our serenity born of faith. To accomplish this we must first reverse the plague of blood, our excessive emphasis on material success. Only then can we address the second plague, that of frogs, by replanting our faith and reigniting our passion for G‑d.

When we thank G‑d for crowning our ambitions with success and humbly attribute our wellbeing to His largess we move from narcissism and entitlement to gratitude and commitment. We become willing to work hard and earn our living rather than sit back and demand assistance. We become willing to look after ourselves, rather than demand that others do it for us.

With this internal transformation we lay the bricks of rebuilding. We invest in our children, our communities and our future. We turn to G‑d in humility, but with certainty; in supplication, but with confidence in our success. With this mindset we can avoid a depression and journey on the path of continued growth.

Edited from an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

Food For the Soul

 I Shall Be

In the Parsha Shemot (which begins the Book of Exodus) Moses makes his appearance on the Biblical scene. He tries to stop the persecution of his brethren, receives a death sentence for his troubles, and is forced to flee to Midian where he marries Zipporah and tends the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. Then, at the burning bush, comes his first divine revelation.

G‑d calls upon the shepherd to go back to Egypt and redeem his people. The mission is nothing less than to face up to the Pharaoh himself and deliver the L-rd’s famous stirring message: Let My People Go!

In characteristic humility, Moses is a most reluctant leader. He seems to be looking for all sorts of reasons as to why he is unworthy of the task. At one point, he asks the Almighty, “Who shall I say sent me? What is Your name?” Now we are familiar with many names that G‑d goes by, but the one G‑d now gives Moses is puzzling:  “I shall be as I shall be.” 

Many commentaries expound on the possible interpretations of this most unusual name. Here is one very powerful explanation. The significance of this name is that it is posed in the future tense. “I shall be as I shall be.” Moses was asking the ultimate existential question. How do I call You, G‑d? “What is Your name,” means how are You to be identified, known, understood?

And G‑d’s answer is, “I shall be as I shall be” — future tense. You want to know me, Moses? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. We cannot necessarily understand G‑d by what has happened in the past. Nor, even, in the present. In the here and now, when we stare life and its ambiguities in the face, we experience tremendous difficulty in our vain attempts to grasp the Almighty’s vision or perceive His vast eternal plan.

To truly understand the Infinite G‑d takes infinite patience. One day, somewhere down the line, in the future, He will make Himself known to us. Only then will we come to really know Him and His inscrutable ways. “I shall be as I shall be.”

In the meanwhile, we live with faith, trust, hope, and a great deal of patience as we see destiny unfolding and we aren’t quite sure what to make of it. And we look forward with eager anticipation to that awesome day when the Almighty’s great name will be known and understood, and we will see with our own eyes of flesh that G‑d is good and His ways are just. May it be speedily in our day.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Bless New Month

This Shabbat (January 9; 25 Tevet) is Shabbat Mevarchim (“the Shabbat that blesses” the new month): a special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) of the upcoming month of Shevat, which falls on Thursday of the following week.

Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the “birth” of the new moon. (See molad times on Chabad.org)

It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat.


Mind Over Matter

Turn the tables

The slave labor in Egypt was meant to be not only back-breaking but demoralizing: The Hebrews were forced to do utterly pointless jobs solely to break their spirits. For the soul, life in the physical world also seems full of pointless pursuits-—traffic tie-ups, trips to the supermarket, paying the bills, carpooling the kids, cleaning the yard and answering emails. These can be crushing preoccupations for the poor soul. But the mystics know an old trick to turn the tables: rather than let the pointlessness break you, you break the pointlessness. Instead of being preoccupied over paying the bills, be preoccupied over a concept in spirituality. In exile, something’s got to “break.” So break your head over [kosher] mystical ideas and free your spirit from the petty preoccupations—-it’s the body’s job to wait in line, not the soul’s.

From an article by Rabbi Boruch Cohen


Moshiach Thoughts

“They cried out because of their slavery, and their plea went up before G‑d. G‑d heard their groaning, and G‑d remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” –Shemot 2:23-25

The Israelites were unable to endure the harsh galut (exile) of Egypt and cried out unto G‑d to redeem them from it. Indeed, G‑d heard their cry and sent Moses to save them. Likewise with our present galut: When we cry out, “Take us out of the galut and bring about the redemption,” the Almighty will surely hear our cry and redeem us. Moreover, our mere being in a state of readiness to call upon G‑d is already enough for Him to respond, as it is written, “Before they call, I shall answer, and while they yet speak I shall hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Freud’s greatest “Freudian slip”

It was Freud’s greatest Freudian slip, and for some reason his commentators, at least those I’ve read, haven’t noticed it.

It appears in his last book, Moses and Monotheism, a strange work if ever there was one. It was published in 1939, by which time Freud had taken refuge in Britain. Had he stayed in Vienna, heaven knows what humiliations he would have suffered before being murdered along with his fellow Jews. For some reason, at this desperate time, Freud wrote a book (he originally described it as a “historical novel”) in which he tried to prove that Moses was an Egyptian. There have been many speculations as to why he wrote it, and I have no wish to add to their number.

Early on in the book, though, there is a most curious episode. Freud notes that several scholars have identified a common theme in stories about the childhood of heroes. The hero’s birth is fraught with danger. As a baby, he is exposed to the elements in a way that would normally lead to death—sometimes by being placed in a box and thrown into the water. The child is rescued and brought up by adoptive parents, and eventually he discovers his true identity. It is a story told about Sargon, Gilgamesh, Oedipus, Romulus and many others. It is also the story of Moses.

At this point, however, Freud notes that in one respect the story of Moses isn’t like the others at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. In the conventional story the hero’s adoptive parents are humble, ordinary people. Eventually he discovers that he is actually of royal blood, a prince. In the Moses story, the reverse is the case. It is his adoptive family that is royal. He is brought up by the daughter of Pharaoh. His true identity, he discovers, is that he belongs, by birth, to a nation of slaves.

Freud saw this and then failed to see what it meant. Instead he changed tack and concluded that the story is a fabrication designed to conceal the fact that Moses was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; he really was a prince of Egypt. What Freud failed to realize is that the story of Moses is not a myth but an anti-myth. It takes a myth and turns it upside down.

Its message is simple and revolutionary. True royalty, the Bible suggests, is the opposite of our conventional wisdom. It isn’t privilege and wealth, splendor and palaces. It’s moral courage. Moses, in discovering that he is the child of slaves, finds greatness. It’s not power that matters, but the fight for justice and freedom. Had Moses been an Egyptian prince, he would have been eminently forgettable. Only by being true to his people and to G‑d did he become a hero.

Freud had mixed feelings about his own identity. He admired Jews but was tone-deaf to the music of Judaism. That is why, I suspect, he failed to see that he had come face to face with one of the most powerful moral truths the Bible ever taught. Those whom the world despises, G‑d loves. A child of slaves can be greater than a prince. G‑d’s standards are not power and privilege. They are about recognizing G‑d’s image in the weak, the powerless, the afflicted, the suffering, and fighting for their cause. What a message of courage Freud might have sent his people in that dark night! Let us at least see what he did not, that the story of Moses is one of the great narratives of hope in the literature of mankind.

By Rabbi (Lord) Jonathan Sacks

Food For the Soul

End of days concealed

In the Parsha Vayechi (Genesis 47:28–50:26) Jacob intends to reveal to his children the time of the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah). But at that moment, “the Divine Presence departed from him.” Jacob understood that he’s not supposed to tell.  So life’s most urgent question remains a mystery. We know that the world will one day come to reflect the infinite goodness and perfection of its Creator. We know that our every positive deed is a step toward that goal, a brick in that glorious edifice. But when will it happen? Why can’t we see the finish-line approaching, why can’t we behold the rising edifice?

Some would say that this is G‑d’s way of keeping us under His thumb, so to speak. Perhaps if we knew too much, if we saw exactly how our every action and choice fitted in the master plan, we might take too many liberties, developing our own assessments of the goal and our own ideas on how to get there. So better keep man in the dark, so that he plod on toward his destiny in oblivion

The truth, however, is the very opposite. It is precisely because G‑d desired a creative, independent-minded partner to His endeavor, that He made life the mystery that it is. If we were consciously aware of the ultimate significance of our every action, our actions would be lifeless and mechanical — rehearsed lines recited by rote in a play whose script has already been read by every member of the audience.

It is only because each of our deeds, choices and decisions stands out in stark relief against the background of our lives, its train of causes and effects trailing off into the darkness of an unknown future, that our choices are truly ours, our decisions a true exercise of will, and our every deed is a meaningful contribution to our partnership with G‑d in creation.

From an article by Rabbi Yanki Tauber


Shabbat Shalom

G-d’s creation…and the soul of the week

On Shabbat we remember that the world is not ours to do with as we please, but G‑d’s creation. On Shabbat we also remember that G‑d took us out of Egypt and decreed that never again shall we be slaves to any alien master — our jobs, financial commitments and material involvements are the tools with which we fulfill our divine purpose, not the masters of our lives.

Shabbat is the soul of the week — the vision that vitalizes it and the vision towards which it strives. The Kabbalists teach: On Shabbat all the accomplishments of the previous week achieve fulfillment and elevation, and from the Shabbat all endeavors of the upcoming week are blessed. Keeping the Shabbat secures G‑d’s blessing for success for our entire week, and infuses purpose and meaning into our week-long existence.

Chabad.org


Mind Over Matter

The journey and the destination

Does Judaism encourage critical thought? The answer is, absolutely yes. Critical thought is the precursor to wisdom. But critical thought alone is no longer enough because the Torah is no longer just a book of wisdom. It is now a book of divinity. And divinity is received through humility and acceptance.

Torah study is a journey of intellectual and spiritual inquiry. Questions and critical thought are the sign posts that direct our path. Humility and acceptance enable us to reach our destination.

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow


Moshiach Thoughts

We are ready now!

When the pain is so strong that we cannot bear another moment, that’s when we turn to G‑d and beg Him for Moshiach. And that, in itself, is what gives us the strength to overcome the challenge and get through the final moments of exile. This is true especially in our generation, when we have completed all the necessary preparations. At this point, it is inexplicable why there is any delay at all. All that’s left for us is to turn to G‑d and say, “We are ready. Now.”

From an article by Chaya Schuchat


Have I Got A Story

Self sacrifice or self aggrandizement?

Jewish women (myself included) are notorious for advertising their martyrdom, Subtle intonations of what we give to others at our own expense tend to slide into many a conversation. For some reason, everyone else (including other martyrs) seems to find this habit annoying.

I’ve often wondered why my martyrdom seemed to irritate other people, until I came up with this theory: a martyr uses the façade of selflessness to win attention and recognition. In its most pathological form, a martyr is a co-dependant, desperately needing to be needed. Okay, I get how that can be annoying.

Luckily, the Torah provides us with the prototype of a true martyr, a woman (of course) who consistently puts aside her own agenda – but here’s the key – with no strings attached and no hidden motive. Let’s look at the story line.

Towards the end of the Book of Genesis, shortly before Jacob’s death, Jacob summons his son Joseph and is about to bless his grandchildren Manasseh and Ephraim. Suddenly, however, Jacob interjects and, with no introduction at all, proceeds to address Joseph, opening an old wound in their relationship. He tells Joseph, “And when I came from Padan, Rachel died unto me in the land of Canaan on the road…. I buried her there on the road to Ephrat which is Bethlehem.”

In the next verse he is already talking about his grandchildren. What’s this interjection all about?

A few verses earlier, Jacob had asked Joseph to bring his body up from Egypt and bury him in Hebron, in the vaunted Cave of Machpeilah alongside his illustrious parents and grandparents. And now Jacob is telling Joseph, Rachel’s oldest son, that “although I burden you to bring me to be buried in the Land of Canaan, and I did not do likewise for your mother, for she died near Bethlehem—”  Rachel is the only Matriarch not buried in Hebron.

Joseph felt badly that his mother had lost out on the great honor of being buried in the Machpeilah Cave with the rest of the holy matriarchs and patriarchs. Jacob’s request for his own burial must have aroused this latent feeling of disappointment for his mother. “—but know that it was by the word of G‑d that I buried her there, so that she might help her children when Nebuzaradan would send them into exile [to Babylon, after the destruction of the first Holy Temple,] and when they would pass by her way Rachel would emerge from her grave and cry and beseech G‑d to have mercy on them. As it is said2 ‘A voices is heard On High [lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children].’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, ‘There is reward for your work,’ says G‑d… ‘and the children shall return to their own border.'”

How does Jacob soothe the aching heart of his son? In a sense he was saying, “Yes my son, your mother was a martyr, this was her conscious choice. G‑d commanded me to bury Rachel in the outskirts of Bethlehem because this was Rachel’s desire—to give up her honored burial place in order to provide comfort for her children as they passed by her grave, on their way down to exile in Babylon.”

Self-sacrifice was a central theme in Rachel’s life. She allowed her sister to marry the man whom she loved. And she did it with a full heart. Rachel never felt that she lost anything through giving. And she never did.

Listen to Jacob’s words of affection: “When I was in Padan Rachel died unto me.” She was the pillar of my home, and the pillar of my heart. She died on me. Jacob expresses his immeasurable love for Rachel within the context of her self-sacrifice.

He tells Joseph, “Don’t you see my son? This was your mother’s greatness. She gave endlessly of herself but never felt bereft of self-fulfillment. I loved her so, and I just knew that this is exactly where she’d want – where she’d demand! – to be interred. Being buried on the road to Bethlehem so that she could eventually come to the aid of her children—is completely in sync with her life’s legacy.”

True martyrdom is the conscious choice to put personal benefit on hold for the sake of a greater benefit. It leaves no room for self pity or even self aggrandizement. And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, “There is reward for your work.

From an article by Rochel Holzkenner

Food For the Soul

What the soul yearns for

In the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi defines the soul as a flame that seeks to depart from its wick and kiss the heavens. “The soul,” he writes, “constitutes the quest in man to transcend the parameters of his (or her) ego and become absorbed in the source of all existence.” The soul, in other words, is that dimension of our psyche that needs not self-aggrandizement, dominance or excessive materialism. It despises politics, manipulation and dishonesty. It is repulsed by unethical behavior and by false facades.

What are its aspirations? The soul harbors a single yearning: to melt away in the all-pervading truth of G‑d.

Yet, how many of us are even aware of the existence of such a dimension in our personality? How many of us pay heed to the needs of our soul? In response to the soul’s never ending dreams and yearnings that confuse our ego-based schedules and disturb our cravings for instant gratification, we so often take the “Joseph” within us and plunge it into a pit. We attempt to relegate its dreams and passions to the subconscious cellars of our psyche.

When that does not work, because we can still hear its silent pleas, we sell our “Joseph” as a slave to foreigners, allowing our souls to become subjugated to forces and drives that are alien to its very identity. Yet, in each of our lives the moment arrives when our inner “Joseph,” which was forced to conceal its truth for so many years, breaks down and reveals to us its identity. At that moment, we come to discover the sheer beauty and depth of our soul, and our hearts are filled with shame.

In the Parsha Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27) the humiliation that Joseph’s brothers experienced when Joseph revealed himself to them did not stem from the fact that he rebuked them for their selling him into slavery. Joseph’s mere appearance to them constituted the most powerful rebuke: For the first time they realized who it was that they subjected to such horrific abuse and their hearts melted away in shame.

Similarly, when the day will come and we will realize the G‑dly and spiritual sacredness of our own personalities, we will be utterly astounded. We will ask ourselves again and again, how did we allow ourselves to cast such a beautiful and innocent soul into a dark and gloomy pit?

From an article by Rabbie Yosef Y. Jacobson


Shabbat Shalom

Why are Shabbat candles lit 18 minutes before Shabbat?

Strictly speaking, Shabbat begins at sundown, and from that time on it is forbidden to perform certain activities (including lighting Shabbat candles). However, based on the language the Torah employs regarding Yom Kippur, the sages of the Talmud learned that there is actually a mitzvah to add a few minutes to the Shabbat, both before it starts and after it ends. This is called tosefet Shabbat, “adding time on to Shabbat.” According to most, this is biblically mandated. Not only does bringing in Shabbat early ensure that we will not accidentally miss the start time and perform forbidden work on Shabbat, it also demonstrates our affection for the Shabbat.  

From an article by Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin


Mind Over Matter

Staying human despite hardship

Joseph had every reason to be hardened. His youth was most traumatic, filled with pain and suffering. From being despised by his brothers, sold into captivity, the center of a national scandal, spending years in prison, his was not the journey of a normal child. Notwithstanding his difficult past, his emotional disposition proved that he was still in touch with his human side. This is what made him appeal to his people. It is time to re-evaluate and redefine the meaning of leadership. The world needs true leaders today more than ever. Proper ones. Like Joseph the Prince of Egypt.

From an article by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson


Moshiach Thoughts

“. . . fear not to go down to Egypt . . . I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again.”  –Vayigash 46:3-4

Jacob was not sent to the galut (exile) on his own: the Almighty descended with him and guarded him there. Our patriarch Jacob possessed an all-comprehensive soul which compounded the souls of all Jews. “Jacob” thus stands for every single Jew, and his descent to Egypt alludes to Israel’s descent into galut, including the present galut. The Almighty is with us, as it is said, “Wherever they were exiled, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is with them” (Megilah 29a). Moreover, “In all their affliction, He is afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). He Himself suffers their affliction, as it were. Thus, just as Israel is unable to bear the affliction of the galut, so, too, as it were, with the Almighty. Surely, then, He shall hasten the redemption, for as we leave the galut so will He, as stated in our text, “I will also bring you up again.”

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Bread according to the young

“Why do my kids ruin everything?”

Okay, I confess: I’ve emitted that exasperated cry at least once or twice. Maybe even once a week. Like the time my two-year-old dumped all her toys in the toilet and flushed. Or the time my very tech-savvy ten-year-old figured out the password to my laptop and somehow deleted my entire hard drive. Or all the times they’ve emptied my drawers, my refrigerator, my closets, my shelves, and created glorious messes. Need I go on? But in the midst of the chaos and aggravation, there is a little phrase I hold on to that helps me keep my sanity. “Bread according to the young.”

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, we read of Joseph generously supporting his brothers and their families during a famine, after they settled in Egypt: “And Joseph sustained his father and his brothers and his father’s entire household [with] bread according to the young children.”  Rashi interprets the words “bread according to the young” to mean that Joseph provided enough to meet the needs of every family member.

The Midrash explains that Joseph actually provided more than their needs, because children naturally “crumble up more than they eat.”  In other words, it’s part of the package. Children will crumble up their food. They will make messes. They will waste half of whatever you give them. They will get into your things and wreck them. That wastage has to be factored into the family budget.

Joseph provided for his siblings in such an exemplary fashion that we ask G‑d Himself to take note: “O Shepherd of Israel, hearken, He Who leads Joseph like a flock of sheep.”4 On this verse, Rashi comments, “All Israel are called by the name Joseph because he sustained and supported them in time of famine.” The Midrash interprets the verse as a plea to G‑d, to “lead us as Joseph led his sheep”:

Joseph saved during the years of plenty for the years of hunger; so, too, save for us from this world for the world to come. Joseph provided for his brothers according to their deeds, as it says, “bread according to the young”; so, too, provide for us according to our deeds. Rabbi Menachem said in the name of Rabbi Avin: “Joseph’s brothers dealt him evil and he repaid them with good; we, too, have dealt You evil but [ask that You] repay us with good.”

By providing for his brothers in Egypt, Joseph granted them more than their survival during the years of hunger. He bequeathed to his brothers and all their descendants the strength to show forbearance, to repay evil with good, to overlook flaws and forgive mistakes.

And just as Joseph dealt with his brothers, so do we want G‑d to deal with us.

We are G‑d’s children and He generously provides us with all our needs, material and spiritual. But we are children and we don’t appreciate half of what we are given. We squander G‑d’s gifts; we mess up. Even when we do mitzvahs, we don’t fully grasp their value. We do them when our mind is elsewhere, we do them with ulterior motives. Of the Torah that we do study, we only remember and internalize a small fraction.6 Yet G‑d graciously gives us again, and yet again, “bread according to the young.” As Joseph did for his brothers.

G‑d knows that our essential desire is to be close to Him and to fulfill His will. Although in our spiritual immaturity our actions may not always reflect this inner will, we ask G‑d to “provide for us according to our deeds”—to take into account the true spiritual value of our mitzvahs, even when our thoughts and intentions are less than perfect. We ask Him to overlook our imperfections, forgive our messes, and focus on our inner worth—just as Joseph did for his brothers.

From an article by Chana Weisberg