7 min read
GOOD MORNING! Mark Twain wrote a fascinating article, "Concerning the Jews," in the Harper's Magazine in 1897. In the epilogue he concludes:
"The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"
If Mr. Twain had looked in the Torah and the Prophets, he would have found the following prophecies setting forth the covenant between the Almighty and the Jewish people for eternity. Prophecies for eternity backed by the Almighty are the secret of the Jewish people's immortality. Here they are:
"And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations, an eternal covenant, to be your God and the God of the descendants after you." (Genesis 17:7)
"Thus, even while they are in the land of their enemies, I will neither reject nor obliterate them, lest I break My covenant with them by destroying them, for I am the Lord their God. I will remember them because of the covenant I made with their original ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God." (Leviticus 26:44-45)
"Because the mountains may move and the hills may be shaken, but My love shall never move from you, nor My covenant of peace be shaken, said God, Who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)
"As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says God. My spirit, which rests upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouths of your children's children, says God, from now and forever." (Isaiah 59:21)
"Thus says God, Who establishes the sun to light the day, the laws of the moon and stars to light the night, Who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, Whose name is the Lord of Hosts: 'If these laws of nature would ever give way before Me,' says God, 'only then shall the offspring of Israel cease to be a nation before Me for all time.' " (Jeremiah 31:34-35)
"But fear not, O Jacob My servant, neither be dismayed, O Israel, because I shall redeem you from afar, and your children from the land of their captivity; and Jacob will again be quiet and at ease and none shall make him afraid. Fear not, O Jacob My servant, says God, for I am with you. For I will topple all the nations to which I have driven you. But of you I will not make a full end. I will correct you in just measure, but I will not utterly destroy you." (Jeremiah 46:27-28)
The story is told of King Louis XIV asking the philosopher Pascal for some proof of a supernatural force in the world. "Why ... the Jews, your majesty," replied Pascal, "the Jews."
Vayigash, Genesis 44:18 - 47:27
We left off last week with Joseph's pronouncement that he was keeping Benjamin as a slave for stealing his wine cup. Judah steps forward to challenge the decision and offers himself as a slave instead of Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with emotion, clears the room of all Egyptians and then reveals his identity to his unsuspecting brothers.
The brothers are shocked! They suspect Joseph's intentions, but accept his offer to bring the extended family to Egypt. Jacob is initially numb and disbelieving of the news, but becomes very excited to see his son.
The Torah recounts the 70 members of Jacob's family which went down to Egypt. Jacob reunites with Joseph, meets Pharaoh and settles with the family in the Goshen district. During the famine, Joseph buys up all of the property and people in Egypt for Pharaoh with the grain stored during the seven good years.
* * *
based on Twerski on Chumash by
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"When they (the brothers) related to him (Jacob) all the words that Joseph had spoken ... the spirit of their father Jacob was revived" (Gen. 45:27).
This verse refers to the brothers telling their father that Joseph was alive after Jacob had mourned for Joseph the past 22 years. Why didn't Joseph send a message to his father that he was alive and well -- and, by the way, the ruler of Egypt? Secondly, why did Joseph ask his brothers "Is my father still alive?" when they already told him that Jacob was still living? What does it mean that "the spirit of their father Jacob was revived"?
Joseph knew that Jacob had prophetic vision. He assumed that Jacob knew exactly what had happened to him and where he was and therefore his father concurred with what the brothers did with him. It did not occur to Joseph that Jacob was deprived of the Divine spirit which allowed him prophecy. When Judah told him that Jacob said, "You know that my wife bore me two sons. One has left me and I presumed: Alas, he has surely been torn to pieces, for I have not seen him since!" -- it was then that Joseph realized that Jacob had lost the Divine spirit.
The Talmud says, "The righteous are considered alive even after their death, whereas the wicked are considered dead even when they live" (Berachos 18a). The Torah considers the essence of human life to be spirituality rather than biology. Animals, too, breathe, look for food, seek shelter, reproduce and care for their young. Some show a degree of intelligence. Man is more than just an animal with greater intelligence. Man is a creature that can be master of his biology rather than a slave to it. A human being without spirituality is nothing more than an animal with intellect. He lives biologically, but is spiritually dead.
When Joseph asked the brothers, "Is my father still alive?" -- he was not asking if he was physically alive, but if he was spiritually alive. When Jacob found out that Joseph was alive he was spiritually revived!
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No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars
or sailed to unchartered land,
or opened a new doorway for the human spirit
-- Helen Keller