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Vayeshev 5768

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! When I was in High School (Beaverton High School), I was placed in an advanced English class. During one of our units studying poetry, I was instructed to take a modern day poem and analyze it. My teacher was infuriated when I explained a rhyming couplet as having no special significance - the poet chose the word because he needed a rhyme (this was in the olden days when poems still rhymed...). He gave me an "F" on the assignment!

___Since I was fortunate enough to have analyzed a poem of a living poet, I wrote the poet to enquire what special meaning was imbued in this particular rhyming couplet. I will never forget the look on my teacher's face when I showed him the poet's response - "I had nothing special in mind with that particular couplet; I just needed a word which would rhyme." (And yes, he did change my grade!) So, in honor of my high school English teacher (as well as a lesson for me ...), I present:



___The Torah tells us that, "... Moses was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth." The classic question is: Moses wrote down the words of the Torah; how is it possible for him to be humble after the Almighty tells him that he is the most humble man in the world?

___The answer lies in the definition of humility. Humility is not being a nebik - meek, unassertive, pitiful, downcast loser. Humility is knowing exactly what your talents and capabilities are - and recognizing that they and everything else is a gift from the Almighty. Moses understood that he was the only prophet to ever speak "face to face" with the Almighty; he also understood that this level of prophesy was a gift from God. Humility is an inward attitude.

___Humility is a requisite for learning Torah. Torah is compared to water - life-giving wisdom which flows to "low places." If one is humble, there is room for Torah to enter; if one is too full of himself, there is little room for anything else.

___When one realizes his smallness in comparison with the entire universe and the power of the Almighty, one will have humility. When one realizes the vast amount of knowledge that one is missing and the mistakes that one has already made, one will have to have humility. When one realizes the frailty of the human body and how even the strongest person eventually becomes weak and dies, one will have to have humility. The only way to have arrogance is to lack awareness of the total picture of reality. Moses had the highest level of awareness of reality and therefore was the most humble man.

___Why does a person need humility? A person with true humility will learn from others, will ask questions when he has doubts, and will be open to criticism. When one has humility, he does not feel a need to gain power over others or to feel above them by focusing on their faults. He will not act upon slights and escalate quarrels; he will ask for forgiveness and not blame others. He can see the good in others and therefore, love them. (Love is the emotion of pleasure one feels when focusing on the good in others.)

___An arrogant person demands that everything should be exactly as he wishes. He lacks patience and this causes him much frustration and suffering. A person with humility finds it easy to accept things not being the way he would have wished them to be. He focuses on the positive in each situation and circumstance. He has more joy in living.

___The humble man stands up for truth and righteousness, unaffected by the opinion of others. He understands the reality of what is important - God, Torah, truth - and not his ego.

For more on "Humility" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

___This week's portion includes four stories: (1) The selling of Yosef (Joseph) as a slave by his brothers - which eventually positioned Yosef to be second in command in Egypt and enabled him to save the known world from famine. (2) The indiscretion of Yehuda (Judah) with Tamar (Tamar).... (3) The attempted seduction of Yosef by Potifar's wife, which ends with her framing Yosef and having him imprisoned . (4) Yosef interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the wine steward (who was reinstated and forgot to put in a good word for Yosef) and the baker (who was hanged).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

___Yosef's brothers were envious of him. The Torah tells us:

"And they hated him and they were not able to speak to him for peace." (Genesis 37:4)

___This is the literal translation. What can we learn from this verse?

___Rabbi Yonoson Eibeshutz commented that it is possible that if the brothers would have spoken the matter over with Yosef they would have been able to make peace. The problem was that they were not talking to each other. This is what frequently happens when people are in the midst of a feud. One does not want to listen to the other. However, when one person tells another that how he perceives that the other person wronged him, the other person might apologize and accept upon himself not to do it again. (This works even better if the one initializing the conversation can apologize for something that he did to the other person.)

___If people involved in a heated dispute will talk things over with each other calmly, they will often see that they have nothing to argue about. Even if they still disagree in the end, the heavy emotionalism will be greatly diminished. When you hear clearly how the other person views the situation, you will see why he thinks as he does and you yourself will look at it differently.

___When you are involved in a dispute with someone else, try to talk things over with him/her in a calm manner. It is important to repeat over the other person's position. Keep asking, "Is this and this what you mean?" By doing this, much harm will be avoided!

* * *

Chanukah Dvar Torah

___Last week I left you with the following question: If enough oil was found to burn in the Temple menorah for one day and the oil lasted for eight days, then the miracle was really only for the seven additional days of lighting. Why then do we celebrate Chanukah for eight days and not seven?

___Here are a few possible answers mentioned in the Book of Our Heritage (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242):

  1. The first day commemorates the military victory. The other 7 days are for the miracle of the oil.

  2. The discovery of the one remaining jar of oil marked with the Cohen Gadol's seal was a miracle. One day is celebrated for this.

  3. The discovered oil was divided into eight portions to last the eight days required for the production of new oil. Until new oil could be produced, the Menorah would be lit only briefly each night. Miraculously, the small portion of oil burned the entire day. Thus, each of the eight days was a miracle.

  4. All the oil was emptied into the Menorah, but after the lamps had burned all night, they were found the next morning still filled with oil. Therefore, each day was a miracle.

  5. The very fact that our ancestors did not despair from lighting the lamps the first day, though they knew that they would not be able to light again until new pure oil could be produced in 8 days' time, was a great miracle. It is this optimism which enables the Jewish people to endure through all generations and every exile!

(or go to

Jerusalem 4:00
Guatemala 5:13 - Hong Kong 5:20 - Honolulu 5:30
J'Burg 6:27 - London 3:38 - Los Angeles 4:26
Melbourne 8:07 - Mexico City 5:38 - Miami 5:13

New York 4:12 - Singapore 6:37 - Toronto 4:25


Some drink from the fountain of knowledge;
others just gargle.

In Memory of
Arthur & Bertha Goldman
Leonard & Evelyn Savage

With love, Ellen Goldman


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