January 3, 1998
This week's issue was written by Rabbi Dovid Frost.
In this week's parsha, Yosef reveals himself to his brothers; they bring their families,
and their father, Yaakov, down to Egypt to be supported by Yosef during the years of
famine. The Torah then tells us: "Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the
region of Goshen; they acquired property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied
greatly." (47, 27; Stone Chumash, p. 267)
This seems to be the normal way of life: to become part of the main culture and to blend
in. Certainly, this has been the American way. Jews escaped danger or poverty, and came to
the Goldene Medina (Gold Country, for those non-Yiddish speakers). We came here, and we
prospered. Nothing wrong with that.
But the experience of our people in Egypt can teach us an important lesson. Egypt was
meant to be a temporary haven for the sons of Yaakov: the famine was to continue for
another five years. We had to go there to survive. Yosef provided the land for the
children of Israel to live on. The verse quoted above, however, indicates that they didn't
have enough with what Yosef provided; they acquired more.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments, "...they let themselves be gripped by the land.
Herein lies an indication of the beginning of that sin [spoken about by the prophet,
Ezekiel]..." (Hirsch: I, p. 642) What is "that sin?" The constant pursuit
of wealth. The Jews forgot that Egypt was a necessary evil; it became too much like the
Promised Land. Hirsch is telling us that our pursuit of material goals, at the expense of
our spiritual mission, was what led to the hardships and labor of the Egyptian exile. It
all started with our desire for things and more things.
This theme is quite appropriate at this time of year,
after we've just gone through the "holiday season." Have we been adversely
affected by the society around us, and its obsession with material goods? Our parsha comes
along and reminds us of what is truly important in life. Wealth is a great blessing...if
it's used to further spirituality.
Chanukah has a similar theme. "Not by wealth (power) and not by strength, but by My
spirit," says the prophet in the Haftarah we read last week. Don't be consumed by the
material. We should find the best way to USE the material blessings we have for our
spiritual growth: supporting Torah, providing our children with Jewish educations, giving
tzedakkah. We'll be much happier, too: running after material wealth, in the end, just
leaves us empty-handed.
Insights Into Exodus
Insights Into Leviticus
Insights into Numbers
Rabbi Yosef Edelstein, Savannah
Kollel. Phone: 355-0157; fax: 354-9923; e-mail address: Yosef18@aol.com
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