Home November 2013 Dreams and Pragmatism

Dreams and Pragmatism

Like most of the stories in the book of Bereshit, the tale of Joseph and his brothers always raises questions.  Righteous people become involved in a dispute that tears apart the family and leads to great pain and near tragedy.  In discussing this parashah, Chazal (sages) delineate two stories unfolding at the same time.
One concerns God’s will, i.e., the desire that that Jacob and his family descend into Egypt and, consequently, fulfilling the covenant made with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.  It might be said that the entire story of Joseph and his brothers is merely a description of the method used by the Lord in order to affect the descent of Israel into Egypt.
The second explanation is the human one.  The Talmud illustrates that it was Jacob’s overt acts of favoritism toward Joseph that enraged the brothers and caused them to question every action of this precocious teenager.  We are taught, “Because of two measures of silk (the multicolored tunic that Jacob bestowed upon Joseph), our forefathers were forced to descend into Egypt and {ultimately} bondage.  These two approaches to the story – of the rabbis and commentators – are not meant to be mutually exclusive.
Both are correct.  Heaven works through the accomplishments and weaknesses of human beings.  God’s will is expressed through human behavior and actions.  Though freedom of choice and action is always reserved for humans, at the very same time God guides the world in His unseen and unfathomable fashion.  That is the lesson of the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph is a person who lives by his dreams.  His dreams and ambitions dominate his life and the lives of the entire family.  To him, his dreams are reality.  The brothers treat his dreams as fantasies.  They deal in the real world where dreams do not often translate into reality and fulfillment.
The different views are both accurate.  A Jewish world without dreams would have disappeared long ago, consigned to history’s ash heap.  The return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel over the last century is nothing but a dream; but it is a dream come true!  And still, if we never look reality in the face and occasionally force ourselves to deal with the world as it is (and not as we would wish it to be), our hopes and dreams will crash about us in failure and frustration.  Thus, the balance between reality and dreams is the heart of the Jewish experience.  Both Joseph and his brothers emerge vindicated from the matters at hand.
While we cannot live without dreams, we cannot survive if we have only dreams and no realistic sense of events, actions and potential consequences.  These two different views, represented in the story of Joseph and his brothers, are both correct while appearing antithetical to one another.  But it is this story that provides us the key to understanding Jewish history and destiny.

A Gift for the King!
If one gives a magnificent gift to an earthly king, one is not certain whether he will accept it.  Even if he accepts it, one is not certain whether he will be granted an audience with the king.  And, yet, to “see” the King of Kings, all one has to do is give a small coin to a poor man.  The Book of Psalms (Sefer Tehillim) says, “As for me, in tzedek (righteousness), I will behold Thy face; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy temunah (form).”
This is why one first gives a small coin to charity before beginning his/her prayers.

Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Friday, November 1
Light candles at 5:42 p.m.
Saturday, November 2
Torah Portion: Toledot
(Genesis 25:19-28:9)
Friday, November 8
Light candles at 4:36 p.m.
Saturday, November 9
Torah Portion: Vayetze
(Genesis 28:10-32:3)
Friday, November 15
Light candles at 4:31 p.m.

Saturday, November 16
Torah Portion: Vayishlah
(Genesis 32:4-36:43)
Friday, November 22
Light candles at 4:28 p.m.
Saturday, November 23
Torah Portion: Vayeshev
(Genesis 37:1-40:23)
Friday, November 29
Light candles at 4:25 p.m.
Saturday, November 30
Torah Portion: Miketz
(Genesis 41:1-44:17)

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