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, 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.



Shabbos – Parshas Ki Tz’zeh

Woke up late and did not feel well. Decided that I needed the round trip 11 mile walk to Anshe Sholom. Left a little late, 8:30 AM. Walking on Broadway, near the Shul, I saw a family with 5 kids walking to Shul. I knew that they could not be from the neighborhood, as it is rare for a large family to belong to Anshe Sholem and the boy was wearing his Tzizis out. By the time a family has a few kids, they move north to West Rogers Park or Skokie.

Of course I spoke to them and they were visiting Chicago from Teaneck, New Jersey, ground zero for Modern Orthodox Jews. It seems that everyone at Boca Raton Synagogue has a relative in Teaneck. The family belongs to Rabbi Sholem Baum’s Shul, Kether Torah (refer to my July post) and live a block from my cousins in Teaneck.  They said, my cousins are the ones  that have a son (Rabbi in Omaha, Neberska, featured on my Blog) who sold  his Chometz to Warren Buffett.

They said they saw Rabbi Perry Tirschwell a few weeks ago. Rabbi Tirschwell is moving to Teaneck. I know Rabbi Perry Tirschwell from Boca Raton and wish him well in his new position as National Director, National Council of Young Israel.

Walked into Anshe Sholem at 10:20 AM and the services were at the fifth Aliyah. Rabbi David Wolkenfeld introduces each Aliyah with a 2 minute Torah thought.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld spoke on these Verses:

אֶלבֵּיתוֹ, לַעֲבֹט עֲבֹטוֹ.

10 When thou dost lend thy neighbour any manner of loan, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.

יא  בַּחוּץ, תַּעֲמֹד; וְהָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה נֹשֶׁה בוֹ, יוֹצִיא אֵלֶיךָ אֶתהַעֲבוֹט, הַחוּצָה.

11 Thou shalt stand without, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring forth the pledge without unto thee.

יב  וְאִםאִישׁ עָנִי, הוּאלֹא תִשְׁכַּב, בַּעֲבֹטוֹ.

12 And if he be a poor man, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge;

יג  הָשֵׁב תָּשִׁיב לוֹ אֶתהַעֲבוֹט כְּבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, וְשָׁכַב בְּשַׂלְמָתוֹ וּבֵרְכֶךָּ; וּלְךָ תִּהְיֶה צְדָקָה, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.  {ס}

13 thou shalt surely restore to him the pledge when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his garment, and bless thee; and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the LORD thy God. {S}

Rabbi Wolkenfeld* said that the Torah is telling us that we have to treat people in poverty with respect. We cannot use laws to criminalize poverty. We cannot use the law to hurt and destroy poor people. Rabbi Wolkenfeld gave an example of a poor person with a car that has a broken tail light. He cannot fix it because he has no money. A cop gives him a ticket for not having a tail light. The poor person misses the court date because he cannot take time off from work or does not have money to pay the ticket. There is now a warrant for his arrest. The law has criminalized poverty. This is a terrible injustice. The Torah is telling us that we cannot have laws that criminalize poverty.


Years ago my brother missed a court date for a ticket and later that day the police showed up at my brother’s job to arrest him. My brother was dealing with life’s issues and forgot the court date. Luckily my brother was able to take care of the ticket. Imagine if he hadn’t. He may have ended up in jail and possibly his life ruined. Recently, my friend told me his tragic story. Years ago he received a ticket for a nonsensical issue, was not able to go to court, and this led to series of events that led to years of problems, all because the law criminalized innocent behavior.

I walked over the Rabbi Wolkenfeld and told him that my 11 mile round trip walk, just to spend 5 minutes in Shul and hear the above Torah though was all worth it. I felt that I could leave the Shul after just five minutes, even though I did not daven, because I heard a beautiful, profound Torah lesson. I stayed and Rabbi Wolkenfeld ‘s speech was magnificent. It was about Jewish identity and with that we become caring people, not only to our family but to all Jews, and to the world.

Left Anshe Sholem at 11:12 AM and made it home at 12:50 PM.

* Rabbi David Wolkenfeld added the following important comments:

Thank you for joining us at ASBI this Shabbat and for this kind and thoughtful reaction to what I said. I hope you’ll make the trek to Lakeview frequently!

One quick-point to emphasize. I believe that the Torah isn’t just telling us to “respect” the poor, but is calling on us to accept some amount of increased risk in our dealings with the poor (letting them have their collateral at night) because applying the law in an objective way, would have a disproportionate impact on the poor [c.f. Anatole France: In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges] and could lead to criminalizing poverty as I described. For more on “criminalizing poverty” see, the last section of this powerful essay by Barbara Ehrenreich:

kol tuv,