Friday, December 7, 2007


Everyone asks what Yosef is doing to the brothers. It seems best understood as a plan of growth. Some say he was helping them do teshuva. Phrased more broadly, he was helping them become the best human beings they could be. He was placing them in a similar situation to the one they had mishandled when he was at the center of it. Now with Binyamin in the middle they get it right. This is but one of myriad examples of how to view the Torah as a guide book for growth.

One of the fascinating aspects of Torah for me is the fact that it is so layered. People are always asking if Medrashim are to be taken literally or not. For me, for now, they simply are. They're a part of the picture. And like any good story, midrashim are true, whether they happened or not.

The medrash adds a fascinating subtext to the story of Yosef and the brothers. When the Torah he states that "his father wept for him" - the medrash adds that (although in literal context this seems to refer to Yaakov crying for Yosef) this refers to Yitzchak's crying for Yaakov.

Yitzchak did not cry for Yosef because he knew prophetically that Yosef was alive. But he cried for Yaakv, feeling his pain. And why didn't he tell Yaakov what he knew? It seems that unless you're told to tell someone something you're told, you're not supposed to. (This is the true meaning of G-d telling Moshe LAIMOR - he tells him when he should pass words on, and otherwise he understood not to.) (This also explains why Rivka didn't tell Yitzchak what she knew about Yaakov and Eisav.)

Rabbi Abraham Twerski (a master of modern day mussar teaching, and my hero) writes (in living each day on Miketz) this idea. And he stresses that the lesson of this is how careful we should be with our own speech. Yitzchak would have loved to tell Yaakov what he knew but he never spoke without thinking first, and his thinking told him that it was not proper to share what he knew.

At the very start of the parsha we're told of Paroh's dream. There seem to be extra words - the sick alves come out of the Nile and stand NEXT TO TH HEALTHY ONES. Rabbi Twersky comments that the seemingly extra words teach a crucial life lesson. If the sick cows weren't i close proximity to the healthy cows, the healthy cows couldn't have been effected. The lesson is that many of us get too close for comfort to negative influences. And then when the sickness spreads we wonder. He says that we need to learn mussar and live mussar and try our best to protect ourselves from surrounding negative influences that threaten to invade at any time. He speaks of drugs as an example of something that was once peripheral to mainstream society, but somehow it got close, and now it's penetrated into every community.

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