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Haftarah: Yehezkel 37:15-28

DECEMBER 29-30. 2006 9 TEBET 5767

The fast of Asarah Betebet will be on Sunday, December 31.

Pop Quiz: Which of Ya'akob's sons had the most sons?


"So [Yosef] called out, 'Remove everyone from before me." (Beresheet 45:1)

In the educational field, there is an expression "the teachable moment." Mr. Avi Shulman explains that this generally means that sometimes there is a perfect moment to teach something to someone. The most common examples are when a student asks a good question to which the teacher has a great answer. It is assumed that since the student asked the question, he/she would be highly interested in the answer, and therefore the moment is ripe for teaching.

A true story is told by a young man whose father passed away when he was young, leaving his mother to raise six lively sons. This son tells that when he was about eight years old, his mother was taking him to Yeshivah. As she closed the front door, a china cabinet with all her most expensive holiday dishes fell, breaking every single plate. Her cherished holiday service was now in a thousand pieces, all over the floor. She looked over the broken china and said to her son, "Let's go to the Yeshivah. I don't want you to be late for learning." No cursing, no screaming, no emotions. Some time later, the son asked his mother, "How come you didn't show any pain or emotion? After all, this was your best heirloom china!" His mother told him, "Of course it hurt me greatly, but I knew this was a moment that could teach you something, and I wanted you to learn that all the materialistic things in the world really don't count. It's learning Torah that counts!" This episode was remembered years and decades later because a "teachable moment" had been maximized.

Yosef taught his brothers (and us) a lesson to remember. Yosef was surrounded by his servants, and he knew the moment had arrived to reveal his identity to his brothers. However he didn't want to embarrass them when it would be revealed that his brothers sold him as a slave. He gave the command that everyone should leave him alone with his brothers, knowing that he was taking a great risk to his personal safety. He took the risk to spare them the shame of his revelation - a great moment of teaching.

The next time you find yourself in a "crisis mode," stop for a moment and consider whether it can be turned into a lesson. If you take advantage of a teachable moment, your lesson will long be remembered, though the crisis is long forgotten. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

As the brothers of Yosef were deliberating how to prevent him from endangering their status in the eyes of their father, Ya'akob, an Arab caravan pulled into view. The brothers decided to sell Yosef to this caravan, which ultimately brought Yosef into Egypt. The Torah mentions that this caravan was carrying sweet smelling spices. Our Rabbis point out that this was highly unusual, since Arabs usually sold petroleum products which have an offensive odor. The Rabbis say that this occurred so that Yosef should not have to smell anything unpleasant. This may seem puzzling to us, for Yosef was being separated from his beloved father and sold into slavery to a country whose morals and values were totally alien to him. What difference would it make what he smelled on the way to Egypt? Would someone who is being kidnapped has veshalom, care what kind of odor was in the "paddy wagon"?

The answer is that the smell is not important; the "message" behind the smell is. When Yosef smelled a beautiful fragrance when it should have been something worse, he realized that Hashem was orchestrating this event and therefore his faith became strengthened. When things are tough for us, we have to look for small signs which show us the Hand of G-d and this in turn will make the going easier. These small signs are all around us. We just have to open up our eyes and see the Divine Providence and this will help us build our faith to go through the ups and downs of life. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Yosef said to his brothers: I am Yosef; is my father still alive?" (Beresheet 45:3)

Yosef saw that Yehudah was adamant in his position and that he had reached the limits of his patience. The Midrash compares Yosef's submission to an athlete who, upon accepting impending defeat, surrenders to avoid greater embarrassment. Indeed, the Midrash lauds Yosef's wisdom in making this decision. This idea is bemusing. What great wisdom is indicated by Yosef's surrender in the face of imminent defeat? Yehudah and his brothers would have destroyed everything had he not permitted Binyamin to leave!

Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz suggests an important lesson in human nature which may be derived from this pasuk. An amazing degree of wisdom is required to see beyond the psychological barrier of egocentrism. All too often when we are involved in a conflict, we become so intensely enmeshed in our own self-centered opinions that we tend to overlook our own inadequacies. This self-imposed myopia can be destructive.

Whenever we are involved in any type of dispute, we must try to be objective. Indeed, it takes the wisdom and superhuman efforts of a Yosef Hasadik to successfully master this challenge. The Torah's message is that although honest introspection is a challenging endeavor, its mastery is attainable. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And they told him all the words of Yosef which he had said to them…and the spirit of Ya'akob their father revived" (Beresheet 45:27)

What more did they tell Ya'akob that he then believed them?

Ya'akob was accustomed to mentioning Hashem's name when he spoke (Rashi 27:21). He would say, "Baruch Hashem" or "b'ezrat Hashem," and gave Him credit for everything. Ya'akob also taught Yosef to speak the same way.

When Yosef spoke to his brothers he said, "Hurry, go to my father and say to him, 'So says your son Yosef: Hashem made me a ruler over Egypt.'" However, when they returned they told Ya'akob that Yosef instructed them to convey a message that "Yosef is alive and he rules over the entire Egypt." Ya'akob listened carefully and could not believe that Yosef was alive because this was not Yosef's way of speaking.

Afterwards, when they said to him all the words of Yosef, exactly the way he spoke to them, that Hashem made him ruler, then Ya'akob recognized Yosef's style of speaking and believed that Yosef was alive. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And Yosef said to his brothers: I am Yosef; is my father still alive?" (Beresheet 45:3)

The first time the brothers came to Egypt, Yosef asked them about his father. At their second arrival he again asked about his father. Why did he ask the question a third time?

When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he knew that they would be reluctant to believe him. He therefore gave them certain signs to prove who he was.

This time Yosef was not asking his brothers, but saying in effect, "From my question you can realize that I am really your missing brother. Whenever we meet I only ask about my father and not my mother, because I know that she died many years ago. If I am a stranger and pretending, I would ask about both my father and my mother. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Binyamin had ten sons.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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