- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On December 25, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat and this week, a new year. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
In Genesis, when Joseph was a young boy, he was filled with himself. His father adorned him with a glorious coat of many colors. He dreamed of how the sun, moon, and stars would bow down to him. This is not the way to endear people to you, especially if they are your brothers. Why would they ever bow to such a conceited sibling?
By the time we arrive to this week’s Torah portion, Joseph had been thrown in a pit, sold to slavery, arrived in Egypt and ended up in Pharaoh’s dungeon. But, he did not stay there for long. Dreams provided another chance. This time, instead of interpreting his own dreams to his own benefit, he recognized that Pharaoh’s dreams were a message about saving much more than himself. He could help ensure that the seven years of plenty would protect the people during a world wide famine. Pharaoh recognized his discerning wisdom and elevated him as only second to the Pharaoh himself.
Years before as an entitled child, Joseph could not have imagined that his dreams would come true in the way that they did. It was through the years of experience and the depth of his descent into the pit and the dungeon that allowed him to rise above even himself.
But the climatic moment of self actualization and true humility arrived after his brothers traveled down from Canaan to Egypt to seek food. They bowed before him and did not realize who he was and how they actually enacted the dreams of Joseph’s youth.
Joseph recognized them but did not reveal himself until they had to return with their youngest brother Benjamin, the other son of Rachel, Joseph’s mother. The drama heightened until Joseph at last declared:
“I am Joseph. Is my father still well?”
We can only imagine what went through the minds of these brothers who had thrown him into a pit, lied to their father that he had been killed by an animal, and at that moment stood before the most powerful person, besides the Pharaoh.
Joseph beckoned them to draw closer. Here is when the transformation from the haughty boy to the humble man occurred:
And when they came forward, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, he whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you. It is now two years that there has been famine in the land, and there are still five years to come in which there shall be no yield from tilling. God has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God…(Genesis 45: 5-8)
Joseph finally saw beyond himself to recognize that the world did not revolve around him but rather he was part of a greater whole, a larger purpose in the universe. His impact to save lives rippled out as part of something much more sacred than he could have imagined. He only played a part in a divine plan. The divine plan was much larger than any one person.
The Hatam Sofer, a Hasidic master, taught that we don’t understand the path of our life while we are engaged in it. It is only by looking back that we might gain wisdom to how we arrived to the place where we are. It is in those moments when we have the potential to understand that we are part of a greater whole that our sacred purpose unfolds (Itturei Torah, Exodus, pg. 222).
This has been a year of great famine. Our hunger for leadership, health, human contact, well being and safety has felt devastating at times. And yet, in looking back over this year, I pray we might also regard our longing and our moments of connection as redemptive, part of a greater whole for healing. May we bring our insights forward with us into the new year and ask ourselves what is our purpose and how we might impact others. It may just make a world of difference to feed and to nourish our own souls and the next generations as well.
- We join together for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Following the service, we will share another virtual oneg. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
- Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
- Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
- Join us at 8:00 p.m. for Havdalah as we welcome the new week together. Join HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE.