Shabbat to Share

Food For the Soul

Differences in spiritual stature

What is our image of a spiritual person, a man or woman of G‑d? Torah teachings present us with a number of different possibilities. In our Parshah Miketz (Genesis 41:1–44:17) we learn about a highly interesting figure: Joseph.

Joseph and all his brothers are regarded by the Sages as having been highly spiritual men. The Torah records some of the conflicts and paradoxes in their lives. Nonetheless, each of them had sufficient spiritual power to found an entire tribe, a whole section of the Jewish people. In fact, Joseph founded two tribes: Ephraim and Menasseh.

The Sages point out an interesting distinction between Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was the creator and administrator of a vast system which centralized the food production of Egypt. By contrast, his brothers were shepherds, leading quite solitary lives pasturing their flock on the slopes of the ancient Canaanite countryside.

The Sages tell us this contrast indicates a difference in spiritual stature. For some people, an intimate relationship with G‑d can only be maintained in a quiet atmosphere, remote from the hurly-burly of daily life. The brothers, contemplative mystics, are in this category. But Joseph was on a higher level. He could maintain his bond with the Divine at the same time as playing a highly active role in a complex civilization.

For us in the 21st century, both examples are relevant. The contemplative style of the brothers relates to certain moments in the day, and Shabbat. The vigorous active style of Joseph provides the example of how we should be during the week, with every moment full, significant and effective — while at the same time, continuously, we maintain our awareness of and bond with G‑d.

By Dr. Tali Loewenthal


Shabbat Shalom

When to do the laundry?

Among the ways of honoring the Sabbath is wearing a clean garment. One’s Sabbath garments should not resemble one’s weekday clothes. A person who does not have a different garment for the Sabbath should allow his robe to hang low, so that his [Sabbath] clothing will not resemble the clothes he wears during the week. Ezra ordained that the people launder their clothes on Thursday as an expression of honor for the Sabbath. But not on Friday, so that they will have time to engage in other Sabbath preparations (Magen Avraham 242:3).

By Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (“Maimonides”); translated by Eliyahu Touger


Mind Over Matter

Confinement

Joseph’s confinement was only physical, not spiritual. Even in jail, he 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.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, even in its present state of lowliness and galut (exile),with the light of Torah and mitzvot. 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Moshiach Thoughts

From exile to royalty

When Joseph interpreted correctly the dreams of Pharaoh, he also solved the riddle of all his troubles to that point, for everything led progressively to his becoming the viceroy in Egypt. The Jewish people, too, are presently in the dungeon of a harsh and bitter galut (exile). For many years we have been bound and fettered by the shackles of the galut. We must realize, though, that just as Joseph went from confinement to rulership, so too our whole nation will speedily leave the prison of galut and simultaneously ascend to the status of royalty-“children of the King of all kings.” The mystery of the “dream of the galut” will be solved and explained at that point.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Who are you?

When I was younger my father often talked of the proverbial child who never got to school on time. If it wasn’t his pants, it was his hat. If it wasn’t his hat, it was his socks. If it wasn’t his clothing, it was his homework. There was always something missing and he was constantly scrambling to find it. One day the boy penned a list. “Pants and shirt are on the chair, shoes and socks are beside the bed, my homework is in the school bag and my bag is at the door.” After a moment he added, “And I am in bed.” The next morning he awoke to find everything exactly where the list indicated it would be, but he still came late to school. Try as he might, he could not find himself in bed. This proverbial child is us. We are on the constant lookout for gadgets that remind us where we are. A friend recently told me of a new cell phone with a GPS chip. “Now,” he proudly told me, “I can never get lost. My phone will always guide me back home.”

I caught myself reflecting on the first chat that G‑d had with man. Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit and G‑d descended to investigate. Hearing the celestial footsteps, Adam went into hiding. “Ayekah,” thundered G‑d. “Adam, where are you?” G‑d surely knew where Adam was, but he wanted Adam to know it too. Adam had sinned and G‑d called him on it. “You have only been alive for ten hours and you have already defied my will? What’s with you, asked G‑d? Where are you?”

This kind of question cannot be answered with a GPS signal. Because this is not so much a question of “Where are you,” but of, “Who are you?”

We live in an ambiguous age and we often find it difficult to identify our true selves. We must decide who and what we really are. At our very core, in our heart of hearts, at our point of quintessence, who are we? Am I a professional or a family member, a husband or a friend, a patriot or a Jew? What is my main role? What is in the forefront? What describes the true me?

We, in the Diaspora, live among host cultures that are larger and more dominant than our own. We often dress like them, act like them and talk like them. We often befriend them, join their social circles and identify with them. The question, “Ayekah?” echoes through the corridors of time. It pierces the veil of history. Its unceasing demand prompts us to take a stand. We need to prioritize between the many hats that we wear and choose from the many values that we juggle. What are my primary concerns? Are my secular studies more important than my Torah studies? Is acceptance in the right social circle more important than belonging to the Jewish nation? Is my commitment to my host nation greater than my commitment to Torah?

When Jacob’s sons sold their brother Joseph to the Egyptians, he was a young lad who looked and acted like a Jew. When they met him again twenty-two years later, they didn’t recognize him. He was a full grown adult and every bit the Egyptian prince. He dressed, behaved, talked and walked like a prodigy of Egyptian culture.

This wasn’t the young Jewish lad they had last seen at home. He may have been the same man, but he was not the same person. This wasn’t Joseph. This was an Egyptian prince. Little did they know that this was just a facade, that on the inside Joseph was a passionate, devout and utterly committed Jew. His dress belied his inner nature. His manner obscured his true identity. The brothers had no way of knowing this. To them he was an Egyptian.

Like Joseph, we too must ensure that our diaspora accouterments do not affect our Jewish identity. Our Jewish GPS signal must ring with clarity as we continually ask ourselves the timeless question, Ayeka? Are we keeping faith with the Jewish spark that we carry within?

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

Food For the Soul

Swinging from exile to redemption

In Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt. For thirteen years he suffered slavery, imprisonment and derision, but eventually ended up as the viceroy of all Egypt. From this position he was able to save his family and thousands of others from starvation during the terrible years of famine. This pattern is the key to the concepts of exile and redemption. The divine promise of redemption depicts an exalted state of being and consciousness for all humanity. However, in order to achieve this, there must also be the “down” swing: the bitterness and darkness of exile. Our problem is that, sometimes, many people lose hope. After the Holocaust, there was widespread despair about the future of Judaism, especially as regards to traditional observance and knowledge. Miraculously, there has been a wonderful rejuvenation of Jewish scholarship and traditional life. Jewish knowledge and Jewish observance, in Israel and elsewhere, has moved into a happy, joyful upward swing.

In the life of an individual or of a community, there can be comparable jarring events which threaten to shake the person from his or her seat. Gradually, one comes to terms with the new situation, and makes a step forward. The challenge is to keep sitting firmly on the swing, holding on tight as it goes through what seems like the lowest point, with faith in G_d that soon it will reach the exalted heights.

The Chanukah festival also expresses this pattern. The Jewish people had reached the depths of assimilation to Greek culture and idolatry. This process began as something voluntary among wealthy Jews, and then became enforced by government decree on everyone. The sacred Temple was defiled, and Jewish study and observance were banned. Then, the Maccabees gathered together, defeated the Syrian-Greek troops, and restored the Temple. When they lit the golden menorah, although they had only one day’s supply of oil, miraculously it stayed alight for eight days, nationwide return to Judaism. Thus again the swing soared upwards. Whatever happens, hold on tight! 

Adapted from an article by Dr. Tali Loewenthal


Shabbat Shalom

Time to reflect

I remember that when I was a student in university, I spent many Shabbat days alone. There was either nowhere to go or nowhere that I wanted to go for a meal. It wasn’t ideal. Shabbat is a beautiful day that is best shared and not passed alone, but at the time I didn’t have many options. I’ll never forget how those moments alone of reflection made me incredibly in tune with myself, my goals, and my direction.

Now as a wife and mother, I bask in the beauty of quality family time that Shabbat gives us, and while I recharge physically from Shabbat to Shabbat it also remains the only time when I can unplug the phones and plug into Elana.

From an article by Elana Mizrahi


Mind Over Matter

Pushing with both hands

When dealing with immoral and destructive thoughts and impulses, “You must push them away with both of your hands” (Tanya, ch. 12). What does this mean? By fighting and arguing with the impulse, you give it validation. In effect, while pushing it away with one hand, you are inviting it to return with your second hand. At times, you can push away a negative thought with one hand only. Pushing an impulse away with two hands means that you simply and silently dismiss it from your brain. Without argument, fanfare or drama, you just make it very clear that it is unwelcome in your life and you must move on to alternative thoughts and actions. You do not validate it in any way, not even by arguing against it. You simply do not attribute any power or significance to it. That is what it is called pushing it away with both hands. Sooner or later, it will cease trying to come back.

From an article by Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson


Moshiach Thoughts

Light the world

It will not do to kindle Chanukah lights on the table on which we eat or work, and then to open the door to allow the light to shine outward as well. The light must be lit “by the door,” that is, one must exert efforts to illuminate the street. This will hasten the fulfillment of the divine prophecy, “Even if darkness covers the earth and a thick cloud the nations, G‑d will shine forth on you” (Isaiah 60:2). And just as in those days “they kindled lights in Your holy courtyard,” we shall merit again to kindle lights in the Sanctuary, in the third and eternal Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) to be established by Moshiach.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Answering the call

A few weeks ago, a friend invited my family for Shabbat dinner. On the table, I noticed a highly unusual item. Alongside the delicious food and beautiful dishes was a live walkie-talkie placed close to the father.

My friend’s husband is a volunteer for Hatzalah, a Jewish volunteer ambulance service that provides emergency pre-hospital care. As a paramedic, he is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing life-saving assistance. The Torah permits (actually, commands) us to break the laws of Shabbat to save lives.

My friend told me that her husband often gets called in the middle of the night, occasionally, a few times a night. Sometimes, just as he is falling into a deep sleep, he’ll need to jump out of bed again. As the only paramedic in the area, he averages two to three calls every Shabbat.

Though her husband has a full-time job and is the father of a busy household of many children, including a toddler, he still finds time and energy for this holy work. My friend (who also works) and her children are incredibly proud of him. The kids speak passionately about his activities even though it means that their father might leave a family celebration, and that each of them has to pitch in more to help. The family understands the precious mitzvah of saving lives, and knows that their encouragement and support enables him to do it.

In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave. While deliberating what to do with him, the brothers decide to throw him into a pit. “The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Gen 37:24) If the pit was empty, isn’t it obvious that there was no water in it? The Talmud (Shabbat 22a) learns from this unusual wording that although there was no water in the pit, there were scorpions inside. The Chassidic masters comment on this passage: The mind and heart of man are never empty.

If there is no life-nourishing “water,” there are “snakes and scorpions in it.”

In our lives, we need to be busy with something meaningful. Our minds and hearts are not empty vacuums; they will quickly fill. “Water” refers to Torah and its nourishing teachings. If our minds are occupied with Torah teachings—and our hearts and schedules are jam-packed with good deeds—there won’t be any space for negativity to creep in.

Not all of us need to be like my incredibly selfless friend, on call day and night saving lives. But as I left my neighbor’s home, I realized that despite how busy we all think we are, how much fuller our schedules can actually become. Let’s find something positive that we feel passionate about and let’s work on filling up our days (to the brim!) with meaningful acts.

By Chana Weisberg

Food For the Soul

Wrestling with a torch

In this week’s Parshah  (Vayishlach; Genesis 32:4–36:43)  Jacob returns to the land of Israel, traveling to meet his brother, Esau, after a 20-year stay in Haran. The night before he meets his brother, Jacob encounters a mysterious man, and they wrestle all night long: Who is this man? What is the meaning of this encounter? The sages teach that the man wrestling with Jacob was Esau’s guardian angel disguised as a man. Before Jacob could reconcile with his brother, Esau, he first had to wrestle with Esau’s guardian angel. The Kabbalists elaborate, explaining that Jacob and Esau represent conflicting aspects of life: spiritual and material, body and soul. Body and soul are in constant warfare, each trying to draw the other towards what they appreciate and enjoy. The body tries to pull the soul towards materialism, while the soul tries to pull the body towards spirituality.

This struggle between body and soul is not fought via intercontinental ballistic missiles. Body and soul are not waging warfare from different continents. Body and soul are literally hugging each other; they are as close to each other as two entities can possibly be. Body and soul are wrestling.

The root word in Hebrew for “wrestle” also means “torch”. With its use of a single root word, the Holy Tongue teaches us about the goal of this wrestling match between body and soul. The goal is not to obliterate material concerns and pleasures from one’s life. The goal is to create a torch. A torch is not a single candle, but many points of combustion merged together. To create spiritual light, the soul must not retreat from the world; it must embrace the material world and fuse it into a torch of light. It must use the objects and pleasures of the material world as a tool to spread spiritual light. It must use the material blessings it has and fuse them into a torch, producing light, warmth and inspiration to illuminate the world. We wrestle with the material, we embrace it, we elevate it. We weave it into our soul’s torch.

Adapted from an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman


Shabbat Shalom

The Shabbos goy

Many people believe that whenever they wish to do something forbidden on Shabbat, they can just ask a non-Jew to perform the act for them. Commonly known as a “Shabbos goy,” the friendly gentile is seen as the panacea to all Shabbat needs.

In fact, we may not ask a non-Jew to desecrate Shabbat. However, one may ask a non-Jew to perform an act that is itself forbidden on Shabbat if it will facilitate the observance of a mitzvah, benefit a sick person or a child or for other specific situations. Similarly, there are instances where a Jew may benefit if the non-Jew performed the forbidden act for his or her own benefit, without being asked.

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner


Mind Over Matter

Why did G-d create Darkness?

G-d turned out the lights so we could make decisions on our own. Free choice is the quintessential expression of G‑d, for He alone is truly free. G‑d breathes within the human being, and so we too become free to choose our path home.

Darkness, confusion and the possibility of evil—all this then has a purpose of its own: It provides a stage for us to find G‑d within ourselves, when we make the right choice, all on our own.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Moshiach Thoughts

What will the Redemption be like?

One of the most important aspects of the Redemption is the promise of the ingathering of the exiles from the Diaspora, with all Jews settling in their tribal portion of the Holy Land. We are assured that no Jew will be left behind—including the Ten “Lost Tribes.” The rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem will be the central focus of all humanity—as Isaiah says, “My home will be considered a ‘House of Prayer’ for all the nations.”  

The Messianic Era will be one of tremendous prosperity and all the nations of the world will be preoccupied with one pursuit: the study of G‑d and the Torah. Furthermore, while our present-day knowledge of G‑d is limited to intellectual perception, when Moshiach will teach about G‑d, we will actually “see” what we are studying.

Chabad.org


Have I Got A Story

Chanukah alone at home

This year Chanuka begins Thursday evening, December 10, 2020 and continues through Friday, December 18, 2020. Karen Kaplan, who’s become somewhat of an expert at spending Jewish holidays alone at home because of the Coronavirus, shares her holiday plans in Chabad.org:

“A big part of Chanukah this year will be spent connecting with my friends and family on Zoom, Facetime, and other platforms. I do not spend the day in pajamas. I don’t settle for challah, a jar of peanut butter, and a bottle of cheap kosher wine for Shabbat dinner. Taking shortcuts makes me feel shortchanged. So, this Chanukah, I’ll set the table with my nice dishes, open the wine I’ve been saving for company, and polish the menorah. I’ll get the kitchen messy making latkes from scratch instead of buying frozen ones. I’ll wear my favorite blouse, even though I have to iron it. My enjoyment of the holiday – and every day – is in direct proportion to the effort I make.”

Multiple menorahs

“Although you can only say the blessings over one menorah, you can light as many as you want after that. Many homes have multiple menorahs. Over the years I’ve collected eight of them. I’ll use a different one each night for saying the blessings. And I’ll get extra sets of candles so I can put other ones in other windows. How can there ever be too much light on a dark winter night? The candles will multiply each night, becoming brighter and brighter, until the darkness is banished entirely.”

Music

“Nothing resets my mood like music. From Maoz Tzur to  the more modern compositions, I’ll rotate through old and new Chanukah classics. I’ll spin like a dreidel and dance the hora, and be a complete klutz doing it, because I’m as graceful and light on my feet as a three-legged elephant. And I’ll sing along with the music, loud and off-key as usual. If the neighbor’s dog isn’t howling along with me, I know I’m not singing loudly enough. There’s a level of silly that can only be achieved when no one is watching. That’s what I’m aiming for. You should, too!”

Presents

“ I’ll get myself a little gift to open each day. A pair of snuggly socks. A crossword book. A new spice for the kitchen rack. A bar of chocolate. A scented soap. A trip to the dollar store can keep the cost down if your budget is tight. There’s nothing like setting aside something you like and anticipating when you will enjoy it. Knowing it’s there and looking forward to it is half the fun. With the end of the pandemic not yet in sight, give yourself eight days when all you have to do is wait until sundown for a little satisfaction.”

“This year will be different no matter how much we try to make it li other years. I’ll miss the party I always attend, the people I always see, and all the social activities I look forward to each year. When I’m feeling anxious about the future, depressed about the present, or nostalgic for the past, I don’t bury those feelings, or worse, let myself believe that I’ve failed somehow. We’re living in uncharted waters; sometimes it’s smooth sailing, sometimes it isn’t. These emotions are real, and I acknowledge them, but I choose not to make them permanent. It’s Chanukah, a time of miracles, a time to celebrate our history of overcoming challenges far worse than we face now. Let the lights of the candles ignite sparks of strength, joy, and resilience in you!

Car-Top Menorah Parades

Rabbi Menachem Posner writes: “A beautiful new iteration of the age-old imperative to spread the Chanukah message to the masses is the car-top menorah parade, where people with menorahs attached to their cars drive around, spreading awareness, good cheer, and hope. Since you can do this from the safety of your closed car, this is the ultimate socially distanced Jewish ritual. Call your local Chabad to join their parade. If there isn’t one, go online, order a menorah, create an online event for people to sign up, and start your own.”

Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Food For the Soul

Ladder to Heaven

In the Parsha Vayetze (Genesis 28:10–32:3) we read of Jacob’s dream and the famous ladder with its feet on the ground and head in the heavens. “And behold the angels of G‑d were ascending and descending on it.”

Let me ask you what they might call in Yiddish, a klotz kashe (simplistic question). Do angels need a ladder? Everyone knows angels have wings, not feet. So, if you have wings, why would you need a ladder? There is a beautiful message here.

In climbing heavenward one does not necessarily need wings. Dispense with the dramatic. Forget about fancy leaps and bounds. There is a ladder, a spiritual route clearly mapped out for us; a route that needs to be traversed step-by-step, one rung at a time. The pathway to Heaven is gradual, methodical and eminently manageable.

Many people are discouraged from even beginning a spiritual journey because they think it needs that huge leap of faith. They cannot see themselves reaching a degree of religious commitment which to them seems otherworldly. And yet, with the gradual step-by-step approach, one finds that the journey can be embarked upon and that the destination aspired to is actually not in outer space.

When my father was in yeshiva, his teacher once asked the following question: “If two people are on a ladder, one at the top and one on the bottom, who is higher?” The class thought it was a pretty dumb question — until the wise teacher explained that they were not really capable of judging who was higher or lower until they first ascertained in which direction each was headed. If the fellow on top was going down, but the guy on the bottom was going up, then conceptually, the one on the bottom was actually higher.

And so my friends, it doesn’t really matter what your starting point is or where you are at on the ladder of religious life. As long as you are moving in the right direction, as long as you are going up, you will, please G‑d, succeed in climbing the heavenly heights. Wishing you a safe and successful journey.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Doing something special for Shabbat

By instruction as well as by personal example, the sages of the Talmud taught to honor and pleasure Shabbat. “It was said of the sage Shammai that all his days he ate for the honor of the Shabbat. How so? For when he found a prime specimen, he would say, ‘This is for Shabbat.’ Then, if he found a better one, he would set aside that one for Shabbat, and eat the first one . . .” (Talmud, Beitzah 16b)

Rava would personally prepare the fish for Shabbat. Rav Chisda chopped vegetables. Rabbah and Rav Yosef chopped wood. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak would be seen running about on Friday, carrying bundles on his shoulders. Many of these were wealthy men who had numerous servants to do their work; yet they insisted on personally toiling in honor of the Shabbat. (Talmud, Shabbat 119a; Shulchan Aruch, Laws of Shabbat)

Chabad.org


Mind Over Matter

Can we change our lives? 

Can we change our lives? Or are we entirely the products of our environments? An example of someone who expressed a highly independent stance, based on G‑d’s will rather than peer pressure, is Rebecca from last week’s Parsha – Toldot. Rebecca was determined to leave her home and travel far away to become the wife of Isaac. This was not just a youthful urge to travel, a quest for a change of scene. Rebecca came from an environment of idolatry. Everyone around her, including her immediate family and the society in which she lived, believed in idols and worshipped them, often in a horrible way. Nonetheless, Rebecca managed to stand above her situation. As the commentator Rashi points out, despite her surroundings, she managed to arrive at and maintain her own independent view of life: “Although she was the daughter of a wicked man, the sister of a wicked man, and her hometown was a place of wicked people, she did not learn from their misdeeds.”

From an article by Dr. Tali Loewenthal


Moshiach Thoughts

Divine Sparks

Through many journeys through many lives, each of us will find and redeem all the divine sparks in our share of the world.

Then the darkness that holds such mastery, such cruelty, such irrational evil that it contains no redeeming value—all this will simply vanish like a puff of steam in the midday air.

As for that which we salvaged and used for good, it will shine an awesome light never known before.

The world will have arrived.

Tanya 37. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Have I Got A Story

Why I Bought A Home

Probably the smartest thing that my wife and I ever did was to buy our own home. I’m not referring to the rental-versus-ownership debate, or reflecting on property prices and interest rates. Rather, I’m commenting on the effect that living locally has had on our relationship with the local Jews.

When I was appointed rabbi of the Hebrew Congregation in Moorabbin, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, and was first getting to know people, my family would commute every Shabbat from where we lived, a short distance away in Caulfield. Friday afternoons would be spent packing kids’ clothing into traveling bags, and chicken soup and cholent into spill-proof containers.

We’d pull in ten minutes before Shabbat, spend a pleasant 25 hours ministering to the natives, and, the moment Shabbat came to an end on Saturday night, we would reverse the process, ready to hightail it back to the eastern suburbs.

We were itinerants with no serious roots. Sure, we would spend time in the area during the week, and honestly strove to give off a veneer of stability, yet we’d made no real commitments to the organization or the people, and could theoretically have pulled the plug whenever we wished.

The moment we signed a mortgage, we demonstrated to all concerned that we were thinking long-term. We were here to stay, and people could begin to invest in us emotionally.

To prove your commitment, you’ve got to act committed. A mentor of mine once told me that whatever we do in life should be done as if that’s what we’ll be doing for the rest of our life. Sure, different opportunities come up, and people do occasionally change jobs, but right now, focus only on the job at hand and do it to the best of your ability.

But is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? Is life a journey or a destination? Is this a process or a product? How can I live my current life to the fullest, while holding out hope that this is nothing but a temporary assignment?

It was this dichotomy that was the subject of a fascinating discussion between our forefather Jacob and his evil father-in-law, Laban.

Jacob and his family are on their way back home to Israel after two decades of working in Haran. Laban gives chase, catches up with the traveling party, and accuses Jacob of disloyalty: “Why did you deceive me? You never stopped longing to return to your father’s house. You robbed me!”

Jacob is having nothing of that. “I worked for you for more than 20 years without rest,” he replied. “Day and night, in the heat and the frost, I was devoted to your employment. I have stolen nothing from you.” I worked for you, but you don’t own me.

And they were both right. Jacob consistently gave more than an honest day’s work for less-than-fair wages. He was totally devoted to his employer’s interests, often at the expense of his own family’s wellbeing. Jacob’s word was his commitment, and he more than lived up to his side of the bargain.

But this dedication to the cause that lay in front of him did not preclude his aspiration towards a higher goal. “Why do you think I come here in the first place?” asks Jacob. “My devotion was not to you, but to G‑d! Even as I toiled away at your tasks, no matter the hours I put in, and irrespective of the prevailing weather conditions, my true focus was to return to my ancestral home.”

Wherever a Jew finds himself in life, whatever the task that lies at hand, he has two symbiotic responsibilities: to give of himself to the best of his abilities, putting down roots and committing himself totally to the cause, while simultaneously praying and longing for the time to come, when the reward for our effort will fall due and we can “return in peace to our father’s home.”

From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum