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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Mikeitz

Parshat Mikeitz

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Miketz
2nd of Tevet, 5777 | December 31, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbanit Amit Yaghoubi
The Bright Lights

איש אשר רוח אלקים בו

A person in whom is the spirit of G-d (Bereishit 41:38)

As Michael rested on the beach in California one Shabbat afternoon, a woman with her two little children walked by. “Excuse me sir,” said the woman, “but would you happen to have a little bit of extra juice? It is not for me; it is for my children. I do not have anything left to give them and they are very thirsty.” Looking at the woman, Michael kindly said, “Yeah, sure. Here you go.” And with that, the woman and her children graciously thanked Michael and began to walk away.

Looking into the distance, Michael suddenly remembered that he was keeping Shabbat. And so, not thinking twice about it, he called out towards the woman, “Shalom!” To his surprise, his words did not fall on deaf ears. Hearing a familiar word, the woman turned around and said, “Shabbat Shalom.” Michael, now caught off guard by the woman’s reply, also yelled back, “Shabbat Shalom.”

At this point, the woman began retracing her steps towards Michael. “What are you doing here?” asked Michael. “If I may ask,” politely interjected the woman, “what are you doing here?” “Well, I am slowly becoming more observant,” Michael replied. “I don’t exactly know why I wished you ‘Shalom’ because you do not appear to be Jewish, but I said it anyway.” “Actually,” said the woman, “I am not Jewish, but I married a Jew. I married a Jew and I am a very spiritual person who appreciates the Jewish religion. I have even tried convincing my husband that we should give our children a Jewish education and that they should embrace their strong heritage.” And from there, the woman began to provide a brief summary of her current situation.

“My husband, however, was adamant against sending our children to a Jewish school because he did not want any part of religion in our house. It was then that he started drinking and acting out against me and the kids. I therefore decided to take my two children and run away. Right now we actually live in our van as we have no other place to sleep. But all I want to do is teach my children that there is G-dliness in this world.”

Hearing of the woman’s pitiless situation, Michael said, “Actually, believe it or not, there is an extra place which is available where you can stay. If you would like to stay there with your children for a few weeks, the place is yours.” “Really?” the woman said as her face brightened up. “Yeah, it’s no problem.” And so, without further delay, the woman moved out of her van and relocated with her with her two children.

As time progressed, the woman kept on pressing Michael to teach her children something about Judaism. Michael, himself just coming closer to Yiddishkeit, told her, “The holiday of Chanukah is approaching and right now I am learning how to recite the blessings when lighting the menorah. If you would like, I can teach your children how to make the blessings.” No sooner than saying this, he began learning together with the children about Chanukah, the menorah and its blessings. It was a strange scene of a man teaching two children who were not Jewish about Chanukah, but he continued doing so.

One night, Michael noticed that neither the woman nor her children were around. As it was getting quite late, Michael began to worry. But then the door burst open. In walked the woman shouting hysterically, “He took them! He took them!” There she was by herself without her two children. “What are you talking about?” Michael said as he tried calming her down. “What is going on?” “My husband found out where we were and he took the kids! Now they are staying at his parents' house!”

Immediately after hearing this, Michael got on the phone with the grandparents of the children. After a long conversation, he finally convinced the grandparents that he himself was a decent person and had intended to help the woman and her two children by offering them a comfortable place to stay. Requesting that the mother be allowed to visit her children during Chanukah next week, the grandparents acquiesced. “But,” the grandparents made very clear, “only for fifteen minutes.”

The following week, Michael and the woman began making their way over to the grandparents’ home. As they neared the house, the woman said to Michael, “Listen, my in-laws are Jewish. However, as soon as you walk inside their home, you will think they are not Jewish. They celebrate X-Mas extravagantly. Do not be surprised.” “Okay,” Michael said as he continued to drive on.

Pulling up to the driveway of a beautiful house in Sacramento, California, Michael and the woman got out of the car. They were carrying a little disposable menorah and colorful candles so the kids would be able to light the menorah. As it was, that was the most either of them could afford. Bringing along expensive presents was out of the question. And so, with the little menorah in their hands, they walked up to the house.

As the door opened, Michael’s mouth dropped. The grandfather was dressed in a Santa Clause outfit and a tree with tons of expensive gifts surrounding it stood in the living room. As soon as the two children saw their mother and the familiar face of Michael, they ran over to them and gave them a big hug. “Okay, okay,” said their mother, “we only have fifteen minutes. Let’s light the candles.” Carefully placing the menorah right next to the X-Mas tree, the kids recited the blessings they remembered having learned with Michael. With much excitement and joy, the two little children stared into the bright light of the candles.

After saying the blessings and lighting the candles, they turned back to their mother. “Can we sing a song?” By now, a few more minutes remained. “Sure,” their mother said. And with that, the two little kids harmoniously joined together and sang Ma’oz Tzur, the song customarily recited after lighting the candles.

After finishing the last stanza, Michael turned around to take one last look at the grandparents. To his astonishment, Santa Clause had taken off his beard and hat and was holding his wife’s hand whose eyes were flooded with tears. They had not witnessed an authentic Chanukah lighting in years. Taken aback by the scene was also the husband himself. Pulling aside his wife, he said, “When the children were lighting those candles, I felt something special. I promise you that I am going to find a Hebrew school to enroll them in. I am going to give them a proper Jewish education.”

As the woman heard these words, a smile broke out on her face. She realized that her children would now grow up learning and connecting with their beautiful Jewish roots and rich Torah heritage. As they would for the meantime remain under the safe auspices of their grandparents, the woman felt comfortable and confident that her children would be taken care of and placed in Jewish educational institutions. And with that in mind, the woman and Michael walked away from the house after some very successful fifteen minutes.

Life carried on as the woman continued to grow in her own love and connection to Judaism. It was not long before she seriously decided to undergo a conversion. Going through the necessary steps before becoming Jewish, she told her rabbi that before she finalized her conversion she would like to speak with her grandmother, a devout Catholic. As the woman was but a little girl when her mother passed away and she had never met her father, she was basically raised by her grandmother. And in no way did she wish to cause her grandmother undue pain by leaving the faith she so ardently lived by. Phoning her grandmother, she respectfully told her, “Grandma, you know that I have been interested in Judaism. I have finally made up my mind that I am going to convert. I am sorry if I am disappointing you because I know you are a dedicated religious Catholic. But please don’t be angry.”

Listening to the words of her granddaughter, the grandmother began to cry. “I have to tell you something. Listen carefully. I went through the concentration camps during the Holocaust and survived. Afterwards, I came to America and said to myself that I will never make my children go through what I experienced. I will give them the best life I can. And so, I married a non-Jewish man hoping to start a new life and a better future. I never told anybody that I am Jewish, but the truth is, my dear granddaughter, you need not convert. You are already Jewish.”

Little may we realize what potency the bright Chanukah candles possess. Melting the hearts of a family and inspiring the beginning of a journey for two little children to learn about their Jewish roots, the little burning candles of Chanukah can cast away thick darkness and shine much light amidst the cold of night. They brighten lives and stir the hearts and minds of every Jew. And sometimes, even one who thinks they are quite distant from the light of Yiddishkeit will come to learn that they are truly closer than they could have ever imagined. Such is the miracle of Chanukah.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h
Using Your Gifts

והנה מן היאר עלת שבע פרות יפות מראה

And behold, out of the River emerged seven cows of beautiful appearance… (Bereishit 41:2)

Parshas Miketz begins by relating how Pharaoh had been disturbed by troubling dreams. With no one to interpret them to Pharaoh’s satisfaction, he remained disconcerted and upset. However, all that changed one day. Two years after Yosef requested of the Minister of the Butlers to put in a good word for him to Pharaoh, he was finally remembered. The Minister mentioned to Pharaoh that perhaps Yosef could be of assistance in construing the message of his dream. And indeed, Yosef was of tremendous help.

What was the dream? As Pharaoh stood on the banks of the Nile River, seven fattened cows emerged and began pasturing on the marshland. Subsequently, famished cows ascended from the River and consumed the robust cows. Nevertheless, the undernourished cows remained as emaciated as before. Yosef explained these events to mean there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and economic recession. In order to circumvent the crisis of food shortage, Yosef recommended setting aside provisions during the years of plenty in preparation for the future years of deprivation. With such a system in place, the detrimental repercussions of starvation would be eschewed.

As with everything in Torah, this passage applies even to us today. The Torah is teaching us that when life is going well and times are plentiful, we must take advantage. We must always make certain that we do whatever we can before it is too late.

I remember years ago asking my father, of blessed memory, to take me to Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt”l for a blessing. At the time, he was the oldest sage of the generation and I anxiously wished to receive a blessing from him as he was getting on in his years. And so, my father took me to his apartment on the Lower East Side.

After arriving there, we were met by Rav Henkin’s secretary who told us that he would bring out Rav Henkin to see us. Rav Henkin at this time was nearly blind in both eyes and was attached to all sorts of intravenous. As Rav Henkin made his way into the room, the secretary said to him, “Rabbi Jungreis is here!” Hearing that a good old friend had come to visit, Rav Henkin and my father embraced. After hugging each other, my father mentioned that he had also brought me along to receive a blessing.

Looking at me, Rav Henkin said words I will never forget: “You will be very successful, my child. I give you a blessing that you will be able to return Jewish children to Yiddishkeit. You will bring back Yiddishe neshamos to their roots. But I ask you a favor: tell everybody what I am about to tell you.” He then pointed to his eyes and continued, “You have to learn Torah when your eyes can see. There will come a time when you will be unable to do so. Utilize your gift of sight when you still have it.”

Upon saying this, he pulled out a sefer from the bookshelf, placed it on the table and with his nearly blinded eyes began turning the pages until he finally found what he was looking for. And with that, he began to engage my father in a Torah discussion.

This is the lesson we are to learn from the dreams of Pharaoh and their interpretation. When you have energy, you have to use it. There will eventually come a time when you will no longer be able to do what you could before. It will be too late to store away food or easily study from a sefer. Yosef understood that one must maximize the present moment and appreciate it before it is gone. Now is the time to take advantage of the gifts of life and accomplish everything you can.

A Short Message From
Mrs. Esther Wein

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos famously tells us, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.” At the same time, it is axiomatic that as Jews we never complacently say, “I have learned enough Torah, done enough mitzvos and given enough tzedakah!” When do we ever say we are happy with our lot? Aren’t we supposed to always strive for more? In truth, however, as this Mishnah is teaching us, there is one area where in fact we are content with our lot. And that is who we are as a person and our life circumstances. When Hashem matches our soul to our body and sends us into this world, He takes into account the entire picture – the generation, the world situation, our family, health, wealth. All the innumerable aspects which go into our internal and external makeup have been Divinely engineered. It is in reference to this that our Mishnah tells us, “Who is rich in life? He who is happy with his lot in life.”

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