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Rabbi Dovid Saks
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(Torah Portion Vayigash) Our Heroes

Yosef, who had become the Viceroy of Egypt, came face to face with his brothers, who twenty-two years earlier, had sold him as a slave. Yosef recognized his brothers; however they did not recognize him.

Yosef saw this event as an actualization of his prophetic dreams which had predicted that all his brothers would bow to him. In fact when he shared these dreams with his brothers it invoked their ire and was a factor leading them to sell him as a slave. Yosef accepted his fate and destiny, and despite his many challenges he withstood all the tests and remained righteous and devout. Included in these challenges was when Potifar’s wife made advances towards him tempting him to sin, and being imprisoned for many years.

Now, years later, unbeknownst to them, all eleven brothers bowed to Yosef, thus making the dreams a reality. Before Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers he presented them with some challenges and monitored to see if they were indeed remorseful for selling him.

The Torah relates that at one point after accusing the brothers of spying, Yosef overheard them talking amongst themselves, “Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us and we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has come upon us.”

When the brothers were faced with a challenge and a test, they took inventory of their previous actions and reflected upon them. Yosef was deeply moved and was brought to tears. Yosef revealed himself to his brothers and then sent them to inform his father Yaacov that he was alive. He also asked that Yaacov, who was residing in the Land of Israel, and the rest of the family settle in Egypt.

Yosef assured his brothers that he harbored no ill feelings toward them. He told them that he was placed in Egypt by G-d for his specific mission in life. Yosef provided Yaacov and his family with the Land of Goshen to live separately from the decadent Egyptian culture.

There were a number of things that Yosef implemented in Egypt in order to make the Jew’s transition and life easier. He decreed that all the Egyptians circumcise themselves in order to suppress their immoral desires. When the famine exacerbated to the point that the Egyptians sold their properties to the Pharoh for food, Yosef ordered everyone to relocate to different areas so that the Jews would not be considered refugees.

Yosef implemented a flat tax on the Egyptians and exempted the Komrim – the Priests. The reason for this exemption was because when Yosef’s master’s wife accused him of molesting her, the Komrim investigated and concluded that Yosef was clear of any wrongdoing. Thus they spared Yosef from death. Yosef never forgot their impartiality and honesty, and many years later, he repaid them by exempting them from tax.

America is saddened in wake of the recent tragic and horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook School – where innocent children, teachers and staff were mercilessly gunned down.

Let’s take a moment to contemplate….

The Jewish approach to tragedy and challenge is to look inward and strive to improve ourselves in some way, thereby enriching our environment and making the world a better place to live.

Additionally, this awful event affords us an opportunity to reflect and come to appreciate the wonderful, devoted and first-class educators we have in our midst. We entrust our children with them for a good portion of the day and aside from their professionalism and skill, they are willing to ‘take a bullet’ to protect their students as shown by the recent event. Additionally, they instinctively acted in the calmest fashion and with sincere parental devotion under the most traumatic of situations.

Our educators deserve our admiration, esteem and support – we have a lot to be grateful for.

Sunday December 23, 2012

Asarah B’Teves – the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Teves has been designated by our prophets a pubic fast day.

On this day, the Babylonian King Nevuchadnetzar laid siege on Jerusalem. The siege was the onset of the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. We therefore commemorate the date by not eating or drinking from daybreak until nightfall.
The fast begins 6:14 a.m. & ends 5:20 p.m. (Scranton, PA)

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Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks
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