Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27 )
GOOD MORNING! I once had the pleasure of attending a wedding in Jerusalem. It is the custom in Jerusalem for poor people to collect tzedakah (charity) at weddings. Personally, I find this uplifting for two reasons: (1) there are many opportunities to give tzedakah, and (2) one can feel like a Rothschild by giving a Shekel (worth about a quarter). Most people give half a Shekel or less (at the time of this wedding).
I also had the pleasure of sitting next to an old friend who had moved to Jerusalem. While he is a genuine philanthropist and gives generously to important causes, his attitude to the continuous flow of requests was far different than mine. Every time someone approached, he pulled inward, put up a shield and did his best to be invisible. I'd say he felt that he was under attack, under a barrage of outstretched hands.
Being the perpetual do-gooder that I am, I decided to help my friend get more joy out of life by appreciating the opportunity before him. "You know, this is fantastic! In Miami I just don't feel good unless I give $18. Here I can make people happy with the equivalent of a quarter!"
"Yes," says my friend, "but you don't know if they are for real! I have it on good authority that many of them are frauds!"
Undaunted, I responded, "Maybe so, but you rarely know for sure. However, the Almighty deals with us measure for measure. Perhaps if we give when someone else doesn't really need, the Almighty will give us though we don't need.
"While one must generally verify that the tzedakah recipient is legitimate to fulfill the commandment of giving a tithe of one's income, one can look upon the few coins as a kindness to another human being even if he doesn't qualify as tithe-recipients. And the small amount one gives does not have to come from one's tithe accounting.
"Personally, each year I budget several hundred dollars in my 'rip off' account --for the plumbers, electricians, car repairmen, storekeepers and others who take unfair advantage of me. I figure the financial cost is far worth the peace of mind and mental health of not getting physically and emotionally distressed over the losses."
I then continued, "When I first came to yeshiva (a Torah academy of higher learning) at the age of 22, one of the first questions I asked my rebbie (teacher) was 'If I have $100 to give, should I give it to one individual where I can make an impact or $1 to 100 people?' My rebbie wisely replied, 'Give $1 to each of 100 people. Then when the 101st person asks you for help, you will have compassion for him and feel the pain of not being able to help another human being.
"If you give $100 to one person, then every time each of the next 99 people will ask for your help, you will feel bombarded. You will feel that you are being unfairly treated. You will ask yourself 'Why can't they realize what a generous and righteous man I am? Don't they know that I really helped one person?' You will harden yourself and always be on the defensive. It's better to have the joy of giving, of saying a kind word to another human being and becoming a more compassionate person!"
A few moments later another poor person made his way around our table with his hand outstretched. When he came to my friend, my friend looked up, smiled and asked if the person could give him change for 10 shekels so that he could give to others as well. The Sages tell us that one can recognize a Jew through three character traits. A Jew is merciful, morally sensitive and does kindness. And that well describes my friend!
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.
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from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"Then Judah approached him (Joseph) and said, 'If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord's ears' " (Gen. 44:18).
What did Judah intend to do?
Judah indicated that he wished to speak very softly, virtually whispering "a word in my lord's ears." What was the purpose of that? Furthermore, why does the Torah bother to tell something that does not appear significant?
The Torah is coming to teach a lesson in communications: If what you have to say really has merit, speaking softly and gently will enable you to be heard. Shouting is a giveaway that your argument is weak; the other person will tune you out and just think of his rebuttal.
King Solomon says, "The gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king over fools" (Ecclesiastes 9:17). A soft voice can actually drown out a shout.
Judah believed that his argument for the release of Benjamin was very convincing. In order to impress Joseph that what he was about to say was valid, Judah said, "I am going to say it to you softly."
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