Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )
GOOD MORNING! I have a dim memory of a television show from my youth entitled, "Who Do You Trust?" The show was not entitled "Is There Anyone You Trust?," because, ultimately all of us trust in someone or something.
People trust in their intelligence, their power, their connections, their charm, their knowledge and even in their money. For those who trust in their money it is ironic that on the money --the American dollar bill -- it advises "Trust in God." From a Torah point of view, we Jews have always known what the American dollar bill advises -- Trust in God! Yes, make your efforts, use your intelligence, your knowledge, your connections, your power, your charm, even your money -- but know, that ultimately, one must trust in God, for God has the power.
It is commonplace that people put their trust in what they can see and touch and relegate the Almighty to a last resort. (No atheists in the foxhole!) What is not commonplace -- until recently --is the new phenomenon of trusting in one's delusions. I am distressed when I hear on the radio Shimon Peres or a man from an Israeli think-tank say to the affect of: We must believe that Yasser Arafat will honor his word; if we don't then we have no one to negotiate with and make peace; if we have no one to make peace with then how can we live here and endanger our lives and the lives of our children?
If a known murderer is holding a gun leveled at your heart and tells you that he plans to kill you, to think that the man will listen to reason is a definition of insanity. To think that Yasser Arafat will keep any word -- other than his avowed intention to destroy the Jewish state -- is a definition of insanity. Barak cannot make concessions fast enough to keep up with Yasser Arafat's appetite and demands.
Ultimately, there is a message from the Almighty here that we must do teshuva, to return to the Torah and to fulfill the Almighty's commandments. As it says in the Torah, "So you shall observe the entire commandment that I command you today, so that you will be strong ... so that you will prolong your days on the Land that the Almighty swore to your forefathers to give them and to their offspring ..." (Deuteronomy 11:22-25).
However, we must also use whatever legitimate means we can to stop this insanity. Perhaps your letter will make the difference! You can write Mr. Barak (fax: 011-972-2-670-5475 -- I understand that they change the fax number frequently --email:email@example.com), President Clinton (fax: 202-456-2461 -- email: firstname.lastname@example.org), President-elect George Bush (413-460-2609 -- email: advice@BushCheneyTransition.com).
I truly intended to discuss the commandment to Trust in God, but got sidelined as the situation in Israel is very much on my mind. I would like to give you the principles for trusting in God as taught in the wonderful classical book on developing spirituality, Duties of the Heart (available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242):
7 PRINCIPLES OF TRUSTING IN GOD
- The Creator of the universe loves me more than anybody else in
the world possibly can.
- The Almighty is aware of all my struggles, desires and dreams. All I need is to ask Him for help.
- The Almighty has the power to give me anything I want.
- There is no other power in the universe other than the Almighty. Only He can grant me success and give me what I want.
- The Almighty has a track record for giving me more than I am asking for.
- The Almighty gives with no strings attached. I don't need to earn
it or deserve it. He will give it to me anyway.
- The Almighty knows what is best for me and everything He does is only for my good.
Portion of the Week
The parsha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed 17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons, Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, "May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" -- they grew up in the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah). (The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.") He then blesses each of his sons individually with blessings. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.
A large retinue from Pharaoh's court accompanies the family to Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma'arat Hamachpela, the burial cave purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of Joseph and his binding the Israelites with a promise to bring his remains with them for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of Israel.
Thus ends the book of Genesis!
On his deathbed, Jacob asks his son Joseph to take him out of Egypt and to bury him in Hebron in the cave where Avraham, Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka were buried. Joseph agrees, but Jacob isn't satisfied and says, "Swear to me!" And Joseph swears (Genesis 47:28-31). Why did Jacob insist on Joseph swearing that he would bury him in the family plot? Didn't he trust Joseph?
Jacob was savvy. He understood what his request would mean to Pharaoh and how difficult it would be for Joseph to fulfill his request. Pharaoh would take a double offense. First, he would feel that after all that he had done for the Jews, Egypt wasn't good enough for them even to bury their dead. Secondly, he would feel that the Jews' allegiance was elsewhere ... in the land of Canaan (Israel). Therefore, Pharaoh would not be inclined to grant Joseph's request.
Rabbi Obadiah Sforno tells us that Jacob made him swear so that he "would have a valid, strong excuse in case Pharaoh decides to forbid it." Jacob understood the power in giving one's word and the respect that an oath had in the eyes of heads of states. And thus it was. Pharaoh gave permission because of the oath! Pharaoh responded to Joseph's request and said, "Go up and bury your father according to the oath that he made you swear."
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 12:
Guatemala 5:33 Hong Kong 5:40 Honolulu 5:50
J'Burg 6:47 London 3:57 Los Angeles 4:35
Melbourne 8:27 Miami 5:22 Moscow 4:05
New York 4:19 Singapore 6:56
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
One can be a victim of fate
or an initiator of new destiny.
-- Esther Wachsman,
mother of Nachshon,
of blessed memory
In Loving Memory of
Rena Rachel Rivka bas
Binyamin HaCohen Zemel
by her children