Torah Weekly

For the week ending 22 December 2012 / 8 Tevet 5773

Parshat Vayigash

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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With the discovery of the goblet in Binyamin's sack, the brothers are confused. Yehuda alone steps forward and eloquently but firmly petitions Yosef for Binyamin's release, offering himself instead. As a result of this act of total selflessness, Yosef finally has irrefutable proof that his brothers are different people from the ones who cast him into the pit, and so he now reveals to them that he is none other than their brother. The brothers shrink from him in shame, but Yosef consoles them, telling them that everything has been part of G-d’s plan. He sends them back to their father Yaakov with a message to come and reside in the land of Goshen. At first, Yaakov cannot accept the news, but when he recognizes hidden signs in the message which positively identify the sender as his son Yosef, his spirit is revived. Yaakov together with all his family and possessions sets out for Goshen. G-d communicates with Yaakov in a vision at night. He tells him not to fear going down to Egypt and its negative spiritual consequences, because it is there that G-d will establish the Children of Israel as a great nation even though they will be dwelling in a land steeped in immorality and corruption. The Torah lists Yaakov's offspring and hints to the birth of Yocheved, who will be the mother of Moshe Rabbeinu. Seventy souls in total descend into Egypt, where Yosef is reunited with his father after 22 years of separation. He embraces his father and weeps, overflowing with joy. Yosef secures the settlement of his family in Goshen. Yosef takes his father Yaakov and five of the least threatening of his brothers to be presented to Pharaoh, and Yaakov blesses Pharaoh. Yosef instructs that, in return for grain, all the people of Egypt must give everything to Pharaoh, including themselves as his slaves. Yosef then redistributes the population, except for the Egyptian priests who are directly supported by a stipend from Pharaoh. The Children of Israel become settled, and their numbers multiply greatly.


G-d’s Witnesses

“And Yehuda approached him.” (44:18)

A tramp standing by a traffic light. Suddenly, a big Rolls Royce limousine about half a block long pulls up right next to him. The tramp stands immobile and somewhat alarmed. One of the tinted windows in the back of the limo rolls down with an expensive electronic purr. From inside the car emerges a hand wearing a white cotton glove. The hand is waving a crisp $20 bill. Silently the gloved hand beckons to the tramp with the money. Like a silent Charlie Chaplin comedy, the tramp does a double take, looks behind him, convinced that the hand must be beckoning to someone standing behind him. Then he realizes the $20 bill is for him. The tramp cannot believe his luck. He beams from ear to ear, and back again, walks up to the hand, and takes the money. Just as quietly and mysteriously as it arrived, the Rolls Royce glides away from the sidewalk and is soon lost in the traffic. The tramp stands there gazing after it for a long time.

The next day, the Rolls-Royce again draws up next to him. This time, the tramp is somewhat less surprised but no less grateful. Overjoyed, he again takes the money.

The next day the same thing happens, and the next and the next and the next...

This goes on for a month.

One day, the Rolls Royce draws up at the lights but the window doesn’t go down. After a few seconds the tramp knocks on the glass, but it doesn’t go down. So he knocks harder and then starts to shout, “Where’s my twenty dollars! Where’s my twenty dollars!”

Gratitude is proportionate to the extent that we understand that we received something that wasn’t our due. If we think that something is due to us, why should we be grateful?

“And Yehuda approached him.”

The name Jew comes from the name Yehuda. We are Yehudim or Jews. We are not called Jews by coincidence. In Hebrew, a name defines the very essence of a thing. If the name Yehuda means to thank, that must be the essence of being Jewish — that’s our name. We are the ‘thankers.’ The Hebrew for “to thank” is l’hodot. However, there is another meaning to the word l’hodot. It can also mean “to admit.” What’s the connection between giving thanks and admitting?

To the extent that we admit we received something and we really didn’t deserve it, to that same extent will be our gratitude and to that degree we will give thanks.

“And Yehuda approached him.”

We are Jews because we thank G-d for everything we have, however big or small. A Jew admits that everything comes from G-d. That is how Yehuda — the Jewish People — are able to approach, to come close to G-d.

“And Yehuda approached Him.”

The job of the Jewish people in this world is to be quite literally ‘G-d’s witnesses’. (Not to be confused with Brand X who would also like to claim this job as their own). The job of the Jewish People is to testify by the way we live our lives that there is a G-d in the world. As it is written: “You are My witnesses.

So if our job is to be the Witnesses, why are we called the Thankers, or the Admitters?

The foundation of all belief in G-d is to admit that life is one gigantic gift. If a person doesn’t feel that he was given anything, he will never look for G-d, he will never look further than his own nose.

If I sensitize myself to the gift I will sensitize myself to the Giver.

Atheism is not the root of ingratitude. Ingratitude is the root of atheism.

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