Parshas Va’Yigash: December 21-22, 2017

Tough week at work.  Happy to see Shabbos come.  My two boys, Sholem and Tzvi, drove to Florida, to spend a month there.  They made it to my daughter in Boynton Beach on Thursday at about 6:00 PM.  I was full of joy.  My three kids were together in Southern Florida.  Eli ate by a friend on Friday night, so we had a quiet Shabbos.

I would like to wish Dr. Yosef and Dr. Joyce Morgan and his wife a huge Mazel Tov.  Their son, David, married Rachel in Tzfas, Israel.  What a Simcha and I wish I was there.  I love you Yosef and Joyce.

This week I want to remind everyone of the Minhag in Klal Yisroel to eat Chinese food on the 25th and go to a movie.  I told my boss (who is not Frum) that, as you know among Orthodox Jews, we always have questions and different guidelines.  I said, jokingly, that there is a question when the Minhag of Chinese food starts on the 24th after sunset or on the 25th.

Shabbos Morning December 23, 2017:

Shabbos morning I walked to Anshe Sholem.  I needed the walk and  wanted to hear a great speech.  Rabbi Wolkenfeld obliged.  I saw Dr. David Passman, the super Jew Jack Berger, Herb Eiseman, Norm Levits and his wife.  Norm is from Krinik and my Zedi is also from Krinik.  He told me that when he went back to visit Krinik in 2010, Krinik was as backward as when his family left in 1920.  What I found interesting is that as I looked around the Shul, it seemed  like there has been a 50% turnover of congregants.  I saw more single guys than Talasim.  I left the Shul after Kiddush at 12:45 PM and got home at 2:30 PM.  It was cold going home.  It was about 29 degrees and I needed to wear the hood on my jacket, however, I like to have my Yarmulke showing so as to have people say Good Shabbos to me. I put on the hood once I got north on Clark street, which has less people.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld stated that in this Parsha there were three different interactions with Pharaoh, with power;  Yosef, Yaakov, and Yehuda.

  • Yosef was part of the power structure.  He was loyal to Pharaoh and made Pharaoh very wealthy.
  • Yaakov on the other hand says, the days of the years of my sojourns have been 130 years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life .  .  .   Yaakov seemed to react as the curmudgeon old Jew who, when asked how things are going, always responds “Oh  Vey, things are bad, this is no good and this is a problem.” Rabbi Wolkenfeld said beautifully.    As Yaakov was on his way to  Egypt, God appears in a dream (Chapter 46, Verses 1-4) and says:  “Do not fear descending to Egypt, I will go down with you and I will bring you up.”   Yaakov knew that eventually his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt.  This is why Yaakov is not in the moment when  visiting g Pharaoh.  He dismissed Pharaoh.  Yaakov was focused on the destiny of Klal Yisroel.  Pharaoh meant nothing to Yaakov and Yaakov knew the Pharaoh or his descendants will enslave  the Jewish people.  Yaakov had no interest in dialoging with Pharaoh.  Maybe Yaakov was hinting this to Pharaoh, just like my days were bad, you will continue the bad by enslaving my children.
  • Yehuda on the other hand stood up to Yosef who Yehuda thought was Ki’Pharaoh. Yehuda was respectful.

Full text of Rabbi Wolkenfeld’s drashas, more or less, are now up on the shul’s Facebook page and should be up on the shul’s website on Tuesday. (You can go to asbi.org, click on “library” and then click on “sermons” for most of the drashot from the past 5 years).

Please look at the Ranban on Chapter 47, Verse 14.   Focus on the last line of the Ranban, which is phenomenal and something that answers a question  on Yosef’s actions of having the Egyptians buying the food and not giving it to them.

My Torah on this week is as follows.

When Yosef reveals himself to his brother and says. “I am Yosef, is my father still alive, and they could not answer because they were embarrassed.”  The plain understanding is that Yosef was rebuking them, he was angry at them for selling him.  Once he got it off his chest, he  mellowed out.

However, based on another Verse, we can say a different explanation of the dialogue.  In last week’s Torah portion, Chapter 41, Verse 51.  “And Yosef called his first born son, Menashe, because God has made me forget all my  hardship and all my father’s household. “   Yosef had everything, he went form a slave to being the second  most powerful man in Egypt, he got the pretty wife, had a son, and God was with him in everything he did.  He could not make a wrong decision. Not only that, his wife was the daughter of Dinah (per the Medresh).  It was his niece.   By marrying Dinah’s daughter, the house of Yaakov was made whole.   As a result Yosef was no longer angry.  He was able to forget the  wrong that happened to him.  Of course, Yosef missed his father dearly and longed for the day he would be reunited with his father.  When the brothers came to him, he saw the first dream coming true and he was waiting for the second dream to become true, and only then would he reveal who he was.  When Yosef said,” I am Yosef, is my father still alive.” He was  not rebuking them, Yosef had moved beyond his anger and his negative feelings towards his brothers.  He was stating a fact, “I am Joseph”  then “Is my father alive.”  Meaning, you said my father is alive, is this true, or did you say it just to say what you think I wanted to hear.  Obviously, just Yosef saying, “I am Joseph” is the biggest rebuke of their actions, even if not meant as a rebuke.  Yosef personally  bore zero bad feelings towards his brothers.    Imagine how they could live with themselves for the rest of their life.  Yosef sincerely said to them, it was not your actions, but Gods actions.

When God is good to someone and things are going well, or you are older, retired, and you are having an easy retirement, with enough money to live a good life,  then all the slights and insults, the things that went wrong over the years , should  melt away.  You have zero excuse to be angry or fight.  If you hold onto past and present slights and hurts, you deny God’s goodness.   You must be gracious to your fellow man, because God is gracious to you.  Even if you feel that your smarts did it for you, you still have no reason to bear grudges.   Life is good.  You can go home and relax because you have no issues.

 

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TO LIVE IN LA – THREE DAYS OF HEAVEN IN LA

December 17 – December 20, 2015

PARSHA    V’YIGASH

Tuesday- December 15, 2015

Decided to go to LA and clean out my father’s last storage unit.  The storage unit location is being sold and everything had to out by 12/31/2015. My father died in 2002 and he had three store units.  We cleaned out two of them following his passing in 2002.  We kept delaying and now we were up against a hard deadline.

Thursday- December 17, 2015

3:00 PM   – I try to get my boarding pass for my 8:00 PM flight.  I discover that I did not book the flight and was in a panic.  I found a 5:50 PM flight for $168.00 (original flight cost was $268).  I book the flight, go home, pack, and make the 5:50 PM flight.

10:30 PM – Arrive at Madeline and Martin’s condo in Westwood. Madeline is a first cousin of my wife.  It had been over 5 years since I was in LA, I was home and hugged them.

Friday – December 18, 2015

7:00 AM – Morning prayers at the Westwood Village Synagogue.  Reacquainted myself with Rabbi Abner Weiss, one of my teachers.

8:00 AM – Breakfast served by Madeline

9:00 AM – Arrive at my father’s storage unit, #449 on Lexington, east of LaBria

I open the unit and it is full of boxes, files, suitcases, luggage metal trunks, supplies, and everything else. I do not know what to do. I am overwhelmed as there is quite a bit to look at and did not want to miss anything. I am  also fearful of losing my sense of my father. I call my sister, Lisa. She has the same feeling as me.  My brother-in-law would have mocked me and would  have saidthrow it all out.

I panic and decide to move the stuff “as-is” to another storage unit four blocks away. I make three trips with a loaded mini-van. As the day went on I asked myself, what am I doing, it’s all junk and should be bulldozed. As the day wore on, I trashed about 25%of the unit and filled up the trash bin provided on the premises.

I find bank statements from the 1980’s; a copy of his lawsuit against Ma Parker, a deli he purchased in the 1970s on Fairfax; books; office supplies; rental car receipts. I found letters he sent to the IRS about malfeasance by people, and his tax returns. Nothing of value. I found luggage, metal suitcases that he shipped via rail in the early 1970s when he moved to LA. There were shirts, socks, blankets, his boxer shorts, uniforms from when he owned a Baskin- Robbins ice cream parlor. My most revolting discovery was a box of his undershirts. He wore undershirts, not T’s. I remember his wearing them when I was a kid and I was utterly revolted by them. I chastise the Schwartz boys because they wear these disgusting undershirts.

Friday Night – December 18, 2015 – Parshas V’igash

4:00 PM – Leave for Shul

Rabbi Abner Weiss spoke after Davening. He asked why is Yosef, the only son of Jacob, referred to as Yosef HaZaddik (Joseph the righteous one). For nine years Yosef delayed informing his father that he was still alive and that he was the Viceroy in Egypt. It is very cruel. Yosef had dreams and made sure to let his brothers know about it.

Rabbi Weiss said that the word Tzadik means, “Tzad Dak” – “the side that is across the tine line”, meaning Yosef was a Tzadik – someone who is just over the center line between good and evil.

Had a delicious Shabbos meal at Madeline and Martin. The Nachash – snake popped up twice. Once which I cannot say and the second is that I did not bring the Diet Coke. Madeline and Martin eat healthy and do not drink diet pop. I did not pick up the pop as I said I would  and was suffering. Madeline had a 20 ounce bottle of Coke zero and I had to nurse my one glass of Coke Zero the entire evening. We engaged in the fine art of conversation.

Shabbos Morning – December 19, 2015 – Parshas V’Yigash

1) On my way to Shul met Naomi and her two sons. They were on their way to the hospital to visit their father who was very sick. I told them a Dvar Torah. One of the boys is at Rutgers and I will try to set him up to stay for Shabbos with my cousin and family, who live right across the river in Highland Park, NJ, very close to Rutgers. I was dismayed to learn that their father passed away on the following Tuesday.

Naomi and her husband are friendly with Martin and Madeline.

2) Met Pablo from Argentina in front of Peet’s Coffee and invited him to Shul. He came and had an Aliyah.

3) I had a special treat. My niece, Tziporah, met me in Shul. It was great to see her.

4) Rabbi Abner Weiss was his brilliant self. He asked a question. Why did Yehuda and his descendants merit Monarchy in Israel? Reuven was the eldest son of Jacob. Yosef was a viceroy and great leader in Egypt.

The name Yehuda means to give thanks, to acknowledge. Leah named Yehuda as she was giving thanks to God. Yehuda acknowledged his guilt in the incident of Tamar. Tamar did not tell the court that Yehuda was the father. Yosef could have chosen not to acknowledge that he was the father of Tamar’s child. However, before a court consisting of his father, Yaakov, and grandfather, Yitzchok, he admitted to impregnating Tamar out of wedlock. Not easy to do. Yosef could have sidestepped everything by delaying the court proceedings and let Tamar escape without admitting guilt.

Rabbi Abner Weiss said that these are not the reasons for Yehuda’s rise to greatness. It was loyalty to his family. It first started with Tamar, then Yehuda was willing to give up his freedom for his brother, Benjamin, his loyalty to Jacob. To Yehuda, Yosef was this megalomaniac, unpredictable leader of Egypt, who could have imprisoned everyone and destroy their family. Yet Yehuda stood up to Joseph because of his loyalty to family.  What about Joseph’s sale when Yehuda said “What do we get by killing Joseph” and they sold him. It appears to be disloyalty to family. You can say that from that low point in Yehuda’s life, he changed, he realized what he did was wrong and became a completely different person, a change of 180 degrees, and had the moral compass to confront the Egyptian leader. Rabbi

Abner Weiss said that Yehuda was actually loyal to Joseph, because all the brothers felt Yehuda deserved death and Yehuda saved him from death.

Rabbi Abner Weiss mentioned a dear friend of his who was a leader for 15 years, consoled and counseled hundreds of people, had many friends. Yet when he needed his friends the most, they deserted him.

Jews traditionally are loyal to one another. This is one of the secrets of our people. The Jews have suffered for no reason other than being Jewish. However, when there is disloyalty, treachery, and no Achdus the suffering is more intense. We have a current situation today, where there seems to be lack of loyalty, even among Torah leaders. People defend lack of loyalty, claim that Achdus in Klal Yisroel is not a Torah value, and claim the disloyal Rabbi is standing up for trust. This is a false Truth, this is falsehood.

5) I saw a Rashi and said the following Torah thought.

Chapter 45; Verse 4:
דוַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָה
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me,” and they drew closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

גשו נא אלי: ראה אותם נסוגים לאחוריהם, אמר עכשיו אחי נכלמים, קרא להם בלשון רכה ותחנונים, והראה להם שהוא מהול
Please come closer: He saw them drawing backwards. He said,“Now my brothers are embarrassed” (Tanchuma Vayigash 5). He called them tenderly and pleadingly and showed them that he was circumcised (Gen. Rabbah 93:10).

Rashi on this Verse says:

Please Come Closer:  He saw them drawing backwards.  He said, “Now my brothers are embarrassed (Tanchuma Vayigash 5)”.  He called them tenderly and pleadingly and showed them that he was circumcised (Gen. Rabbah 93:10).

Rashi used the Hebrew word “Achshav – Now”. It is an extra word. You can read Rashi without the word “Achshav” – Now. They were already embarrassed two seconds ago.

The answer is that with this one word Rashi is answering a fundamental question. Why did Yosef create this drama? Why didn’t he tell them that he is Joseph one year earlier when they first came for food? Rashi is telling us that Yosef had to create a crisis for his brothers. A crisis where they could have lost everything. Yehuda offered to be Yosef’s slave; he would lived out his life as a slave, no freedom, and would have lost his family. The brothers did not know if Yosef would change his mind and imprison all of them.   Yosef’s behavior to them was mercurial in his treatment to them and they did not know what to expect. Binyamin may have been lost to them and their father.

Yosef had to make them feel the emotional turmoil of being put in the position of losing everything, just as Yosef lost everything when they sold him to slavery. This was the only way for them to understand that what they did was wrong and truly be sorry. Otherwise, they would have been embarrassed but would have felt that they were correct in their actions.

5) Met the Rabbi of the UCLA Hillel House – Rabbi Kaplan, a YU Musmach. He learned in Har Etzion – the Gush and I played Jewish geography with him. He was good friends with my Chavrusa, Noah.

6) The Shul served a great meal with Cholent, Chicken Kabob food, and salads. And plenty of Diet Coke.

7) Went back to Martin’s place. Walked my niece to her friend. I spent “islands of time” with her.

8) Got caught in a downpour. Rain is a blessing for LA, as they have been having a multi year drought.

9) Made it to Rabbi Abner Weiss’s Gemora class in his house. I did not have an address, just the general location. I said at Shul that I would be there for Maariv so I felt I had to find his house. I found the house and listened to the class. Davened Maariv

Motzai Shabbos – December 19, 2015

Picked up Tzipporah and went to my niece and nephew’s house in Hancock Park, Michael and Sassha. Michael brought the sushi. I spent 2 hours there catching up on family, stories. They are making a Bar Mitzvah in March 2017 and I told them to book me a reservation.

Sunday – December 20, 2015

Davened at the Westwood Village Shul, however, only 9 people.

Said goodbye to Madeline and Martin.

Picked up Tzipporah and went to visit my aunt Florence, Madeline’s mother, who is at a memory care facility on Fairax, just south of Santa Monica. Spent 90 minutes with her. Had a great time. Although Zipporah is not her relative, Zipporah engaged her in conversation. I felt as if I was with her mother, my sister. Greatly appreciated. I called my mother –in-law, Florence’s sister, so they were able to talk. Departing was not easy.

Went to Pizza Maven for lunch.

Drove to Hollywood Boulevard; walked through the Roosevelt hotel, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and the shops at Hollywood and Highland. Bought a red San Francisco hat for $5.00. Saw a Lubavitch Menorah, next to a Christmas Tree. This is why we love America.

I took Tzipporah to my father’s apartment building and we went inside to the door of his apartment. Dropped Tzipporah off and drove to LAX for my flight home.