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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yosef’

Parshat Vayigash

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Section 456 (g) 1 of The Military Selective Service Act (as amended through July 9, 2003) states: “Regular or duly ordained ministers of religion shall be exempt from training and service.” Based on this clause, clergy, including rabbis, have been exempt from the draft since the Civil War. The essential rationales for this exemption are twofold. The first is the realization that clergy serve an important role in society; to deprive people of their clergy would be detrimental in the long run. The second is that “those who are dedicated to preaching G-d’s peace should not have their hands stained with the blood of human war” (TIME Magazine April 7, 1967, “Should Ministers Be Draft-Exempt?”). Even though there are “just wars,” clergy who oppose war on principle should not be forced to serve.

Interestingly enough, at the height of the Vietnam War, there was opposition to this exemption from some clergy themselves. By being exempt, clergy who vigorously opposed the war could not protest the war by being conscientious objectors. By having the exemption withdrawn they would be able to register on record as objectors.

An interesting concern highlighted in the TIME article is more mundane. Some clergymen felt that “exemption from service unfairly and unnecessarily sets the cleric apart as a privileged member of society.”

The exemption of clergy from military service was not an American innovation. In fact, it was a carry over from Europe, where clergy had been exempt from service, as well as from various state taxes. A review of this week’s parshah demonstrates that clergy already enjoyed a protected status from Biblical times. When Yosef, at the height of the famine, redistributed the land in Egypt (40:21), he left the priests’ property alone. The Torah states (40:22): “Only the land of the priests he did not purchase, since it is a law from Pharaoh, and they ate their allotted portion that Pharaoh gave them, therefore they did not sell their land.”

Rashi, in his commentary to passuk 21, explains why Yosef moved all the Egyptian people from their original property after he purchased their land. Yosef was concerned that his brothers would be viewed with disdain since they were immigrants. By moving the entire population around, everybody in a sense was a newcomer, thus lessening his brothers’ embarrassment. While this explanation helps us understand why Yosef purchased the land and moved people around, it does not help us understand why he left the priests’ property alone.

A simple historical explanation is that in ancient times kings were very much at the mercy of the clerics. It is therefore no surprise that the priests were exempt from Yosef’s policy. Pharaoh could not chance alienating such an important group of people. The literal reading of the verse supports this since it attributes the policy to Pharaoh. The Rosh in his commentary, however, attributes the policy to Yosef. When Potifar’s wife accused Yosef, it was the priests who came to his defense by examining the location of the tear in Yosef’s garment. In appreciation of this gesture, Yosef returned the favor to the priests by not taking their land.

Later commentaries explain Yosef’s policy as a proactive measure to save Bnei Yisrael. By exempting all priestly classes in Egypt from taxes, Yosef paved the way for the tribe of Levi’s exemption from slavery. According to this approach Yosef was the initiator of the policy and Pharaoh went along with it. What Pharaoh did not realize was that by allowing the priests of all nations living in Egypt to enjoy a special status, he was ensuring that the guardians of Bnei Yisrael’s religious conscious and vision would be available throughout the hard years of slavery to encourage and inspire the Jewish people. Had the tribe of Levi been enslaved as well, all would have been lost. There would have been nobody to prevent total assimilation and spiritual despair.

As we saw with respect to the Military Selective Service Act, many countries for one reason or another, have found it prudent to exempt clergy from military service. Often the reasons are political and not spiritual in nature. However, we learn from Yosef’s example that every organization would be wise to have people who are assigned the responsibility to encourage others and help them stay focused on the vision. This is especially true on those days when the minutiae they are involved with threaten to overwhelm them.

I recall many years ago once being on a three- day overnight in camp. Being on the chinuch (educational) staff, I was not directly involved in setting up the campsite. While the counselors who were in charge of setting up the site were organizing their campers, it suddenly began to pour. The counselors began running around feverishly trying to set up the camp as quickly as possible. Although not directly involved in the setup, I went in the rain from counselor to counselor joking with them and encouraging them. Unfortunately, the trip was canceled, but I nonetheless learned a valuable lesson that day. When we returned to camp one of the senior counselors told me that he appreciated my being there. He especially appreciated that I was willing to get drenched to encourage them, and that I didn’t stay on the side in the dry shed. At the time I didn’t give it much thought. But I realized after his comments that I also played an important role that day.

Organizations need to follow Yosef’s example and make sure when the inevitable dark days come there will people available to direct its members towards the light.

Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.

Parshat Vayigash

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

      Section 456 (g) 1 of The Military Selective Service Act (as amended through July 9, 2003) states: “Regular or duly ordained ministers of religionshall be exempt from training and service.” Based on this clause, clergy, including rabbis, have been exempt from the draft since the Civil War. The essential rationales for this exemption are twofold. The first is the realization that clergy serve an important role in society; to deprive people of their clergy would be detrimental in the long run. The second is that “those who are dedicated to preaching G-d’s peace should not have their hands stained with the blood of human war” (TIMEMagazine April 7, 1967, “Should Ministers Be Draft-Exempt?”). Even though there are “just wars,” clergy who oppose war on principle should not be forced to serve.
 
         Interestingly enough, at the height of the Vietnam War, there was opposition to this exemption from some clergy themselves. By being exempt, clergy who vigorously opposed the war could not protest the war by being conscientious objectors. By having the exemption withdrawn they would be able to register on record as objectors.
 
         An interesting concern highlighted in the TIME article is more mundane. Some clergymen felt that “exemption from serviceunfairly and unnecessarily sets the cleric apart as a privileged member of society.”
 
         The exemption of clergy from military service was not an American innovation. In fact, it was a carry over from Europe, where clergy had been exempt from service, as well as from various state taxes. A review of this week’s parshah demonstrates that clergy already enjoyed a protected status from Biblical times. When Yosef, at the height of the famine, redistributed the land in Egypt (40:21), he left the priests’ property alone. The Torah states (40:22): “Only the land of the priests he did not purchase, since it is a law from Pharaoh, and they ate their allotted portion that Pharaoh gave them, therefore they did not sell their land.”
 
         Rashi, in his commentary to passuk 21, explains why Yosef moved all the Egyptian people from their original property after he purchased their land. Yosef was concerned that his brothers would be viewed with disdain since they were immigrants. By moving the entire population around, everybody in a sense was a newcomer, thus lessening his brothers’ embarrassment. While this explanation helps us understand why Yosef purchased the land and moved people around, it does not help us understand why he left the priests’ property alone.
 
         A simple historical explanation is that in ancient times kings were very much at the mercy of the clerics. It is therefore no surprise that the priests were exempt from Yosef’s policy. Pharaoh could not chance alienating such an important group of people. The literal reading of the verse supports this since it attributes the policy to Pharaoh. The Rosh in his commentary, however, attributes the policy to Yosef. When Potifar’s wife accused Yosef, it was the priests who came to his defense by examining the location of the tear in Yosef’s garment. In appreciation of this gesture, Yosef returned the favor to the priests by not taking their land.
 
         Later commentaries explain Yosef’s policy as a proactive measure to save Bnei Yisrael. By exempting all priestly classes in Egypt from taxes, Yosef paved the way for the tribe of Levi’s exemption from slavery. According to this approach Yosef was the initiator of the policy and Pharaoh went along with it. What Pharaoh did not realize was that by allowing the priests of all nations living in Egypt to enjoy a special status, he was ensuring that the guardians of Bnei Yisrael’s religious conscious and vision would be available throughout the hard years of slavery to encourage and inspire the Jewish people. Had the tribe of Levi been enslaved as well, all would have been lost. There would have been nobody to prevent total assimilation and spiritual despair.
 
         As we saw with respect to the Military Selective Service Act, many countries for one reason or another, have found it prudent to exempt clergy from military service. Often the reasons are political and not spiritual in nature. However, we learn from Yosef’s example that every organization would be wise to have people who are assigned the responsibility to encourage others and help them stay focused on the vision. This is especially true on those days when the minutiae they are involved with threaten to overwhelm them.
 
         I recall many years ago once being on a three- day overnight in camp. Being on the chinuch (educational) staff, I was not directly involved in setting up the campsite. While the counselors who were in charge of setting up the site were organizing their campers, it suddenly began to pour. The counselors began running around feverishly trying to set up the camp as quickly as possible. Although not directly involved in the setup, I went in the rain from counselor to counselor joking with them and encouraging them. Unfortunately, the trip was canceled, but I nonetheless learned a valuable lesson that day. When we returned to camp one of the senior counselors told me that he appreciated my being there. He especially appreciated that I was willing to get drenched to encourage them, and that I didn’t stay on the side in the dry shed. At the time I didn’t give it much thought. But I realized after his comments that I also played an important role that day.
 
         Organizations need to follow Yosef’s example and make sure when the inevitable dark days come there will people available to direct its members towards the light.
 

         Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.

Parshat Mikeitz

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

      “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” might be a clich?, but people ignore it at their own peril. Whether a person is going for a job interview, trying to sell a product or trying to convince people to join his organization, the first impression is critical. It can make the difference between success and failure. The first impression frames the “ideal” picture of a person (or product) for people seeing him for the first time.
 
         Looking back to when I was in seventh grade, I realize now that one of my teachers taught me this lesson in a very real way. As a young teacher, this person felt he could increase his influence with his students by playing ball with them. If his students respected him as a ball player, they would be more open to his suggestions for taking their Judaism more seriously. To convince them of his ball playing ability he came down to the gym one day after school. Everybody was shooting around when he got on the court and joined us.
 
         Shooting from the top of the key he took ten shots – nine of which went in swish. Leaving the gym later that evening he explained to me that it was imperative that he hit those first shots. The students’ opinion of his ball playing would be determined in those first five minutes. Because he hit those first baskets, even if in the future he would miss a lot of his shots, the kids would think that he was just having a bad day. But had he missed those first shots, no matter how many baskets he would make in the future, the kids would merely attribute it to luck. Thus, that first night on the court determined the ideal picture my friends and I had of him as a ball player.
 
         The message of this story applies to all walks of life. Leaders must be especially sensitive to the importance of making good personal impressions, as well as presenting their organizations to prospective members in the best possible light.
 
         In this week’s parshah, Yosef realized that his future came down to the first impression he would make on Pharaoh. Whether he would remain a prisoner for the rest of his life or become a major player in Am Yisrael’s destiny would be determined in the first few minutes of his encounter with Pharaoh. In light of this, we understand Rashi’s comment (41:14) that he shaved and dressed in a manner respectful and appropriate for meeting the king. Yosef recognized the opportunity G-d was giving him. He realized that meeting Pharaoh under such crisis-laden circumstances was no less than a job interview. As such, Yosef understood the importance of appearing in a distinguished manner, so that Pharaoh could envision him serving in his court.
 
         The key for Yosef, however, was with respect to how he would interpret Pharaoh’s dream. In this regard as well, Yosef impressed Pharaoh. Realizing that Yosef was guided by G-d, Pharaoh hired him immediately. The impression was so strong that Pharaoh proclaimed to Yosef (41:39): “there is no one as understanding and intelligent as you are.” To appreciate this episode in contemporary terms, as soon as Pharaoh was convinced of what needed to be done to avoid the crisis, he ended the interviewing process and hired the first job candidate. You can’t make a better first impression than that.
 
         The importance of making a good first impression helps us understand a fascinating answer of Rav Yosef Engel (1859 −1920) in his work Gilyonei HaShas (Shabbat 21b) to the Pnei Yehoshua’s question regarding the necessity of the Chashmonaim finding a jug of tahor oil. Since the law is that, if the majority of people are tameh, the Temple service can be performed b’tumah, it seems that the Menorah could have been kindled with impure oil, with no harm suffered. The essence of Rav Engel’s answer is that although, generally speaking, tumah is permitted in the Temple when people are temaim en masse (as was the case by Chanukah), this rule does not apply when a holy utensil or a Kohen is initiated into the Temple service. The reason is that the initiation sets the tone for the future. If at the initiation tumah is allowed, it will not bode well for the future. The ideal of this particular utensil or Kohen will be forever tainted in people’s minds.
 
         On Chanukah the Chashmonaim were rededicating the Temple after several years of its being defiled. The lighting of the Menorah marked the rededicated Temple’s initiation. As such, the actions of the Chashmonaim during the rededication set the tone for the Temple’s future. The Chashmonaim, according to Rav Engel, did not want to rely on the leniency of tumah being permitted en masse. Too much was at stake. Under the leadership of Yehudah, the Chashmonaim understood what all leaders have to realize − “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
 

         Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.

Parshat Mikeitz

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

      “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” might be a clich?, but people ignore it at their own peril. Whether a person is going for a job interview, trying to sell a product or trying to convince people to join his organization, the first impression is critical. It can make the difference between success and failure. The first impression frames the “ideal” picture of a person (or product) for people seeing him for the first time.
 
         Looking back to when I was in seventh grade, I realize now that one of my teachers taught me this lesson in a very real way. As a young teacher, this person felt he could increase his influence with his students by playing ball with them. If his students respected him as a ball player, they would be more open to his suggestions for taking their Judaism more seriously. To convince them of his ball playing ability he came down to the gym one day after school. Everybody was shooting around when he got on the court and joined us.
 
         Shooting from the top of the key he took ten shots – nine of which went in swish. Leaving the gym later that evening he explained to me that it was imperative that he hit those first shots. The students’ opinion of his ball playing would be determined in those first five minutes. Because he hit those first baskets, even if in the future he would miss a lot of his shots, the kids would think that he was just having a bad day. But had he missed those first shots, no matter how many baskets he would make in the future, the kids would merely attribute it to luck. Thus, that first night on the court determined the ideal picture my friends and I had of him as a ball player.
 
         The message of this story applies to all walks of life. Leaders must be especially sensitive to the importance of making good personal impressions, as well as presenting their organizations to prospective members in the best possible light.
 
         In this week’s parshah, Yosef realized that his future came down to the first impression he would make on Pharaoh. Whether he would remain a prisoner for the rest of his life or become a major player in Am Yisrael’s destiny would be determined in the first few minutes of his encounter with Pharaoh. In light of this, we understand Rashi’s comment (41:14) that he shaved and dressed in a manner respectful and appropriate for meeting the king. Yosef recognized the opportunity G-d was giving him. He realized that meeting Pharaoh under such crisis-laden circumstances was no less than a job interview. As such, Yosef understood the importance of appearing in a distinguished manner, so that Pharaoh could envision him serving in his court.
 
         The key for Yosef, however, was with respect to how he would interpret Pharaoh’s dream. In this regard as well, Yosef impressed Pharaoh. Realizing that Yosef was guided by G-d, Pharaoh hired him immediately. The impression was so strong that Pharaoh proclaimed to Yosef (41:39): “there is no one as understanding and intelligent as you are.” To appreciate this episode in contemporary terms, as soon as Pharaoh was convinced of what needed to be done to avoid the crisis, he ended the interviewing process and hired the first job candidate. You can’t make a better first impression than that.
 
         The importance of making a good first impression helps us understand a fascinating answer of Rav Yosef Engel (1859 −1920) in his work Gilyonei HaShas (Shabbat 21b) to the Pnei Yehoshua’s question regarding the necessity of the Chashmonaim finding a jug of tahor oil. Since the law is that, if the majority of people are tameh, the Temple service can be performed b’tumah, it seems that the Menorah could have been kindled with impure oil, with no harm suffered. The essence of Rav Engel’s answer is that although, generally speaking, tumah is permitted in the Temple when people are temaim en masse (as was the case by Chanukah), this rule does not apply when a holy utensil or a Kohen is initiated into the Temple service. The reason is that the initiation sets the tone for the future. If at the initiation tumah is allowed, it will not bode well for the future. The ideal of this particular utensil or Kohen will be forever tainted in people’s minds.
 
         On Chanukah the Chashmonaim were rededicating the Temple after several years of its being defiled. The lighting of the Menorah marked the rededicated Temple’s initiation. As such, the actions of the Chashmonaim during the rededication set the tone for the Temple’s future. The Chashmonaim, according to Rav Engel, did not want to rely on the leniency of tumah being permitted en masse. Too much was at stake. Under the leadership of Yehudah, the Chashmonaim understood what all leaders have to realize − “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
 

         Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.

Parshat Vayeshev

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

        Why did crime drop dramatically in New York City during the 1990′s? While many factors certainly contributed to the drop, criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling suggested an intriguing explanation that became known as the “broken windows” theory. The essence of their argument is that in rundown neighborhoods, exemplified by the many broken windows in the area, more crimes will be committed. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes” (The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, New York, Little, Brown and Company. 2000, p.141).
 
         In large cities, problems such as graffiti and panhandling, are examples of “broken windows” in as much as they reflect a loss of control of the streets. Kelling argues (as quoted by Gladwell) “If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passersby, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place.”
 
         In the mid 1980′s the New York City Transit Authority hired Kelling as a consultant. Following his advice, the Transit Authority made an all-out effort to clean up graffiti from all trains. Likewise, the head of the Transit Police, William Bratton ordered his officers to vigorously pursue fare jumpers and other relatively minor offenses. Sure enough, crime went down on the subways as a sense of order was restored.
 
         When Mayor Giuliani appointed Bratton Police Commissioner of New York, he expanded his “broken windows” policies to the city at large. By cracking down on small crimes and quality of life issues, order was restored to the city.
 
         Gladwell concludes that a criminal “far from being someone who acts for fundamental, intrinsic reasons and who lives in his own world – is actually someone acutely sensitive to his environment, who is alert to all kinds of cues, and who is prompted to commit crimes based on his perception of the world around him” (p.150).
 
         While it must be pointed out that there are people who argue with this theory and attribute the drop in crime primarily to other factors, keeping the streets clean and orderly has certainly made a difference. Not only did it help bring crime down, it has also helped keep crime down. Clean streets imply order and control, thus discouraging potential criminals from committing crimes. Unfortunately, there will always be crime, and police will need to respond to it. However, by implementing the lessons of the broken windows theory, fewer crimes will be committed.
 
         In this week’s parshah we are introduced to two types of leaders. While Yosef the dreamer is a visionary and proactive leader, Reuven is the ultimate reactive one. That Yosef is a visionary leader is evidenced in his dreams heralding a new future − and not just a future, which is a continuation of the status quo. That he is a proactive leader becomes clear at the beginning of Parshat Mikeitz when he instructs Pharaoh how to manage his economy to best avoid the pain and dangers of the famine. Additionally, Yosef advises Pharaoh how to use the coming crisis to consolidate his own power and strengthen the empire.
 
         Reuven on the other hand exemplifies the reactive leader. Although Reuven never did anything to improve the brothers’ relationship with Yosef, when the relationship hit critical mass, and the brothers were about to murder Yosef, Reuven devised a plan to save Yosef by temporarily placing him in the pit. The unfortunate fact that Reuven’s plans were undermined by circumstance does not detract from Reuven’s good intentions. The Midrash Rabbah (84:15) describes that as a reward for Reuven being the first one to attempt to save Yosef, his tribe merited having the first city of refuge built within its boundaries upon conquering the land of Israel.
 
         After analyzing the Midrash, the connection between the city of refuge and Reuven’s attempt at saving Yosef becomes obvious. Both are responsive measures. The city of refuge offers safety to an accidental murderer after the fact. It does not address the underlying reasons that the killing occurred, namely the cheapening of the value of life. Reuven − who likewise never addressed the underlying cause of Yosef’s brothers’ hatred of him, but rather only attempted to save him after the fact − was rewarded with an institution that served a similar purpose.
 
         Reuven represents the leader who attempts to solve a crisis. Yosef represents the leader, who through visionary leadership, avoids the crisis to begin with. In the real world, both types of leaders are necessary. However, the greater the amount of visionary and proactive leadership there is in an organization, the less need there will be for reactive leadership.
 
         The Gemara, Bava Metziah (85b) relates a dispute between Rav Chanina and Rav Chiya. Rav Chanina argued that his approach to learning Torah was superior because if, G-d forbid, the Torah would be forgotten he would reestablish it. R. Chiya argued that his approach was superior because he would ensure  the Torah would not be forgotten in the first place.
 
         Our national history has called upon the approaches of both Rav Chanina and Rav Chiya. At times Torah learning has had to be reestablished. However, as a people we have ultimately survived because of visionary and proactive leaders such as Rav Chiya, who ensured that the Torah was never fully forgotten.
 

         Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com

Parshat Vayeshev

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

        Why did crime drop dramatically in New York City during the 1990′s? While many factors certainly contributed to the drop, criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling suggested an intriguing explanation that became known as the “broken windows” theory. The essence of their argument is that in rundown neighborhoods, exemplified by the many broken windows in the area, more crimes will be committed. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes” (The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, New York, Little, Brown and Company. 2000, p.141).
 
         In large cities, problems such as graffiti and panhandling, are examples of “broken windows” in as much as they reflect a loss of control of the streets. Kelling argues (as quoted by Gladwell) “If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passersby, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place.”
 
         In the mid 1980′s the New York City Transit Authority hired Kelling as a consultant. Following his advice, the Transit Authority made an all-out effort to clean up graffiti from all trains. Likewise, the head of the Transit Police, William Bratton ordered his officers to vigorously pursue fare jumpers and other relatively minor offenses. Sure enough, crime went down on the subways as a sense of order was restored.
 
         When Mayor Giuliani appointed Bratton Police Commissioner of New York, he expanded his “broken windows” policies to the city at large. By cracking down on small crimes and quality of life issues, order was restored to the city.
 
         Gladwell concludes that a criminal “far from being someone who acts for fundamental, intrinsic reasons and who lives in his own world – is actually someone acutely sensitive to his environment, who is alert to all kinds of cues, and who is prompted to commit crimes based on his perception of the world around him” (p.150).
 
         While it must be pointed out that there are people who argue with this theory and attribute the drop in crime primarily to other factors, keeping the streets clean and orderly has certainly made a difference. Not only did it help bring crime down, it has also helped keep crime down. Clean streets imply order and control, thus discouraging potential criminals from committing crimes. Unfortunately, there will always be crime, and police will need to respond to it. However, by implementing the lessons of the broken windows theory, fewer crimes will be committed.
 
         In this week’s parshah we are introduced to two types of leaders. While Yosef the dreamer is a visionary and proactive leader, Reuven is the ultimate reactive one. That Yosef is a visionary leader is evidenced in his dreams heralding a new future − and not just a future, which is a continuation of the status quo. That he is a proactive leader becomes clear at the beginning of Parshat Mikeitz when he instructs Pharaoh how to manage his economy to best avoid the pain and dangers of the famine. Additionally, Yosef advises Pharaoh how to use the coming crisis to consolidate his own power and strengthen the empire.
 
         Reuven on the other hand exemplifies the reactive leader. Although Reuven never did anything to improve the brothers’ relationship with Yosef, when the relationship hit critical mass, and the brothers were about to murder Yosef, Reuven devised a plan to save Yosef by temporarily placing him in the pit. The unfortunate fact that Reuven’s plans were undermined by circumstance does not detract from Reuven’s good intentions. The Midrash Rabbah (84:15) describes that as a reward for Reuven being the first one to attempt to save Yosef, his tribe merited having the first city of refuge built within its boundaries upon conquering the land of Israel.
 
         After analyzing the Midrash, the connection between the city of refuge and Reuven’s attempt at saving Yosef becomes obvious. Both are responsive measures. The city of refuge offers safety to an accidental murderer after the fact. It does not address the underlying reasons that the killing occurred, namely the cheapening of the value of life. Reuven − who likewise never addressed the underlying cause of Yosef’s brothers’ hatred of him, but rather only attempted to save him after the fact − was rewarded with an institution that served a similar purpose.
 
         Reuven represents the leader who attempts to solve a crisis. Yosef represents the leader, who through visionary leadership, avoids the crisis to begin with. In the real world, both types of leaders are necessary. However, the greater the amount of visionary and proactive leadership there is in an organization, the less need there will be for reactive leadership.
 
         The Gemara, Bava Metziah (85b) relates a dispute between Rav Chanina and Rav Chiya. Rav Chanina argued that his approach to learning Torah was superior because if, G-d forbid, the Torah would be forgotten he would reestablish it. R. Chiya argued that his approach was superior because he would ensure  the Torah would not be forgotten in the first place.
 
         Our national history has called upon the approaches of both Rav Chanina and Rav Chiya. At times Torah learning has had to be reestablished. However, as a people we have ultimately survived because of visionary and proactive leaders such as Rav Chiya, who ensured that the Torah was never fully forgotten.
 

         Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com

Man Serving Hashem – The Center Of Creation

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

        The brothers of Yosef referred to him as the “the dreamer.” (Beraishis 37:19). Although the brothers seemed to have used the title in a disparaging manner, Yosef’s life was, in fact, inextricably tied to dreams.
 
         Yosef engendered the envy of his brothers when he shared his two dreams with them. Later he correctly interpreted the dreams of the ministers of Pharaoh, and rose to glory when he was called upon to shed light on the dreams of Pharaoh himself. The two original dreams of Yosef, and their significance in the events of the lives of the children of Yaakov, compel us to study them carefully and glean important messages from their meaning.
 
         Yosef’s first dream (37:7) was about 11 sheaves of grain in a field bowing to the center sheaf, representing the 11 sons of Yaakov bowing to Yosef. His second dream (37:9) was all about heavenly matters. In this dream, the sun, the moon and the stars were bowing to him.
 
         Yosef aroused the envy of his brothers when he related these dreams to them. However, Yaakov Avinu had a different “interpretation” of the dreams of his son. While he adopted an external pose of annoyance with Yosef, the Torah relates that Yaakov “guarded” the dreams and anxiously waited for them to come to fruition (37:11; see Rashi).
 
         This brings us to question – what did Yaakov Avinu see in the dreams of Yosef that the brothers missed?
 
         Rashi lists several similarities between the lives of Yaakov and his favorite son, Yosef (Eleh toldos Yaakov, Beraishis 37:2, see Rashi). In that light, it is interesting to note that Yaakov Avinu also dreamed of the same two elements – earthly and heavenly matters – when he was sleeping in Bais El on his way to the house of Lavan (28:12). He dreamed of a ladder standing on earth that reached the heavens. However, that is where the similarities ended. Yaakov’s dream was all about transcending the earthly and climbing the ladder to dwell in the presence of Hashem. The central figures in Yaakov’s dream were the angels.
Yosef’s dreams were about Yosef, with all participants in the dreams paying homage to him.
 
         That being the case, the brothers of Yosef seemed to be correct in their contempt for their brother’s view of things. Why then, did Yaakov guard the dreams and expect positive outcomes from them?
 
         The answer may be that Yaakov understood the deeper meaning conveyed in the dreams of his son. Yosef was thinking of man in his highest state – as the center of creation itself. Yosef was not egotistical; he was thinking about the awesome responsibility of man to serve Hashem. Yosef, who was to become the visionary leader of the entire world, and who was the virtual firstborn1 of Yaakov, was dreaming of the limitless potential of the human being to become the center of creation. After all, Hashem created this world – earthly and heavenly things – so that man can serve Him and thereby bring fulfillment to His world (Rashi, Beraishis 1:1, Beraishis Rabbah 1:6). Yaakov’s dreams were about angels; Yosef dreamed about heavenly humans.
 

         Yaakov realized that the brothers misunderstood Yosef. He was upset that Yosef shared his vision with his siblings and aroused their envy. At the same time, Yaakov was “guarding” the dream and hoping for its eventual fulfillment. As Rashi explains, Yaakov was hoping for these lofty dreams to come true.

 

Passing The Tests

 

         Over the following 22 years, Yosef was severely put to the test. He was sold as a slave and sent to Egypt, demoralized and alone. He was tested by the wife of Potifar, and then spent 12 years in a dungeon. Having passed the trial of loneliness and deprivation, he was then faced with a greater challenge: glory and royalty. Yet Yosef remained the humble servant of Hashem throughout these divergent phases in his life (see Rashi, Shemos 1:5). His faith in Hashem remained intact, and of all our great patriarchs and tribes, he alone earned the title of Yosef HaTzadik, Yosef The Righteous one.
 

         Yaakov’s confidence in his son was rewarded. Yosef emerged from his trials and tribulations as the deserving leader of the world. The sheaves of the world, the people, were paying homage to him as they came to Egypt to purchase grain for their families. More importantly, the heavenly objects were bowing to him as well. Yosef had brought meaning to the world of Hashem. All celestial bodies joined in paying tribute to Yosef – and to his Creator, Hashem.

 

[1] Yosef received the double portion that a bechor is entitled to, when two of his sons became shevatim of Yaakov

 

         Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and Menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. His presentation on “Different Strokes – Helping Your Child Succeed by Understanding His/Her Learning Profile,” is now available on CD.
 

For more information on this and his “Raising Your Adolescent Children CD/DVD, visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail jp@rabbihorowitz.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/man-serving-hashem-the-center-of-creation-4/2006/12/13/

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