Published Date: December 23, 2019
This week’s music: https://youtu.be/L03VllWB4G0
Why is it so important to many of us to always be right? “I know that I am right! I am living my truth!” We are ready to slander and cut each other down simply to prove that “I am right and you’re wrong!” So you say ok we have differences, nothing we can do about it. At least we can “agree to disagree,” they say. It seems to me that it is not good enough to simply acknowledge our differences. We need to get to know each other and understand what our differences are about. What are my actions and commitments based on? What makes you tick? Why are you so troubled by my way? We need to stop allowing our differences of opinion and life commitments from being barriers for us to know each other. I need to be looking to want to find out where can I find the positive in your way of life which, although it may totally contradict my life commitments, it will give me a better understanding of who you are. If we do this, then perhaps we can come beyond simply agreeing to disagree and strive for a simple goal to behave as true brothers and sisters should relate to each other.
Following this line of thought, we can look at this week’s Torah portion of “Vayeshev,” and clearly see Joseph and his brothers in relationship that was filled with hatred and almost came to them killing their younger brother. As The Holy Chief Rabbi of Israel, Reb Avraham Yitzchak HakohenKook, zt”l wrote, “Yosef Hatzadik” was moving forward in his worship of God. The brothers thought that he was moving at too fast a pace and beyond his spiritual means. Thus they created a high court of law, a “Sanhedrin,” and judged that Yosef was liable to be killed for acts that were way above his spiritual level… What the brothers did not know, was that Yosef indeed was on that high level, much higher than they thought of him, a spiritual level that was even higher than their own. (Hare’iyah L’Chanukah Page 78). How could it come to this level of willingness and religious commitment to destroy another, a family member no less? The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh (Ḥayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar) gives us the answer. “Yosef Hatzadik,” on his father Yaakov’s advice, goes looking for his brothers. On the direction of a shepherd, who the Talmud tells us, is the angel Gabriel, he heads toward Dotan where they are shepherding. He is standing on a hill and they see him.
”Vayiru oto merachok,” and they saw him from far away (Bereshit 37.15-20). They did not bother to get to know him, says the Ohr Hachaim. Only because of this could they come to such a harsh judgment and be sure that, in the name of God and the future of Am Yisrael, he needed to be removed. He spoke bad about them to their father, for which they hated him (Bereshit 37.2-5) and they in turn decided in a court of law that he needed to be found guilty and killed. They were mamash killing each other. One who embarrasses his friend in public is as if he has spilled his blood. When someone speaks bad and spreads hatred what is one of the important things to him/her? Clearly, someone must listen. I need to tell it to someone else and spread my “truth.” The more the merrier. The greater the crowd the more I accomplish in convincing them that my way is right. Perhaps the best way to deal with that attitude and create an end to it is by making it clear, “you talk bad about someone else, I don’t listen.” Or as the bumper sticker reads, “loshon hara lo medaber elayi,” slanderous speech doesn’t speak to me. If I know that there is a radio show, a TV piece or a podcast where they consistently are talking bad about others, I suggest, don’t tune in. Tune them out. If they realize that no one is listening they may find a lot less reason to talk. Turning back to our learning from Yosef and his brothers, after all that happened, they are all still are brothers. What was Yosef’s reaction and message to his brothers when he finally revealed himself in front of them in Mitzraim, “don’t be sad and don’t have anger…, i.e. I forgive you… It wasn’t you that put me here it was the will of Hashem, (Bereshit 45.5-8). In other words, we can forgive each other. And so they rebuilt their brotherly relationship on the ability to let go of any anger and hatred and forgive each other. Yosef forgives his brothers and in turn eventually they are the ones that honor him and carry his bones out of Mitzraim and bury him in Eretz Yisrael. In these times of darkness, both physically and spiritually, when turbulence and slander I swirling around us, let us ask Hashem for the strength to totally not listen to any hatred and smearing words and instead invest our time in finding the place inside of ourselves to want to truly know each other and in turn forgive our brothers and sisters so that we can move on and up together. Blessings for us all to use the great light of Chanukah to bring much clarity to our lives, especially in our homes, the place where we all can be “zocheh,” merit to receive this light by lighting and singing around the “Chanukiah” with our families.
Shabbat Shalom V’Chanukah Sameach!