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Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7

The fast of Asarah B' Tebet will be on Tuesday, January 6.

Pop Quiz: Which Egyptians did not have to pay for their food during the famine?


"So he called out, 'Remove everyone from before me!'" (Beresheet 45:1)

Yosef realized that the time had come for him to reveal his identity to his brothers. The Torah writes that Yosef could not endure in the presence of all who stood before him, so he gave the command to remove all the people from around him. What was it that he couldn't endure? Rashi explains: He could not bear that there should be Egyptians standing before him and hearing that his brothers are shamed when he makes himself known to them. Yosef took a calculated risk. Better to risk his life and remove his security men than to shame his brothers and cause a desecration of Hashem's name by revealing his identity and the whole story in front of the Egyptians.

We live in troubled times. Fraud and deception seems almost commonplace. It is a time when we, as Jews, must show how honest and upright we really are. I would like to tell a story I heard from Avi Shulman. A Jewish man bought a building from a non-Jew for 6 million dollars. After a few months, the new owner discovered that the building was a financial disaster, so much so that he had no choice other than to sell it at whatever price he could get and take his loss. Then he had a brainstorm. He placed an ad offering the building for sale for six million dollars on condition that the sale would be completed within two weeks, and the payment must be all cash. The ad caught the eye of an investor who saw the building, signed all the documents, paid five million dollars in cash and promised the additional one million to be paid in a few days.

As our Jewish friend was congratulating himself on his brilliance, his conscience began to bother him. Was he right in selling a lemon to an unsuspecting buyer? So he sought the counsel of Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky z"l. After carefully listening to the whole story, the Rabbi told him that he was wrong to sell the building that he knew was a lemon, and although he got stuck with it, he had no justification to sell it without disclosing its problems. Rabbi Yaakov's advice was that he should write a letter to the new buyer telling him that the building had major problems and that he is ready to give the buyer back his five million. And that's what he did.

When the buyer got the letter, he ran to his lawyer and the two of them figured out that the real reason for the letter was probably that the seller had a better offer and wanted to renege on the sale. The lawyer's advice was to immediately pay the remaining one million and get a letter from the seller stating that he had no claims on the property, and that the sale was final and irreversible. And so he did.

Several months later, the buyer met the seller. His only comment was, "You people have a good G-d." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The parashah begins by telling us about the dialogue which Yosef, the ruler of Egypt, was having with his brother, Yehudah, about whether to release Binyamin or not. The Midrash tells us that the debate was very heated and Yehudah threatened to destroy Egypt and all of its inhabitants. When Yosef saw that Yehudah had reached the limit of his patience, he revealed his identity thereby diffusing the entire drama. The Midrash calls Yosef a wise man who can appease people. It seems that it would be obvious to anyone that this is what Yosef should have done in this situation. What great wisdom is seen from Yosef's actions?

The lesson that can be learned from here is that there is usually a point during an argument when it is wise to back down and retreat. When one is involved in a dispute, it often escalates to levels far beyond the original issues. One needs to look at it with a clear head, and know when to cut it short. Otherwise it reaches another level which can bring pain and destruction. Although it takes wisdom and foresight to be able to concede to someone else, especially during the heat of "battle," one who can muster inner strength like Yosef will diffuse the tension bringing peace and harmony among all parties involved. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


[Yehudah said to Yosef] "For how can I go up to my father if the lad [Binyamin] is not with me?" (Beresheet 44:34)

The Rabbis teach that this is a calling to which all parents need to respond. Every father and mother must constantly think to himself, "How can I face my Father in Heaven at the end of my days 'if the lad is not with me?'" In other words, it is the parents' duty to see to it that their children are following in the proper path of Torah and misvot. Otherwise they will be taken to task for their failure to raise their children properly. This is a responsibility which should always be on the mind of every parent. (Yalkut Hamishai on the Torah)


"And Ya'akob said to Pharaoh…'Few and unhappy have been the days of the years of my life'" (Beresheet 47:9)

The Da'at Zekenim cites the Midrash that states that Hashem shortened Ya'akob's life-spam as compared to Yitzhak's because of this remark. Hashem told Ya'akob, "I saved you from Esav and Laban and returned Dinah and Yosef to you, and yet you complain that your life has been short and unhappy. You shall not live as long as your father did!" Rav Benzion Bruk, z"l, in a thesis on the depth of judgment which Hashem applies to the righteous, cites this Midrash as the source of a great moral lesson for us. Imagine, if you will, one who has suffered overwhelming pain and suffering and has undergone severe tribulation. He is cut off from his beloved son, and he has even mourned him as dead. Somehow he survives these tragedies to be reunited in his homeland with his long lost son. By heavenly grace, he is able to aspire to a future of health, happiness and tranquility. This person has experienced both aspects of life: pain and suffering, as well as joy and serenity.

When this individual begins retroactively to complain about his past suffering, he will be soothed by the current reality. True, he was at death's door and suffered great indignations, but now he is alive. He should be happy with his lot. He should not prolong the past, but rather he should focus upon the satisfaction of the present. Ya'akob endured enormous suffering throughout his life. Now, however, he was at peace, surrounded by his entire family. Rather than reminisce about the pains to which he was subjected, he should have rejoiced in his survival.

How important it is for us to open our eyes and experience the goodness which Hashem grants us! Everyone has his own "baggage" of hardships. To allow ourselves to be completely overwhelmed by troubles, never thinking about the good moments which we are accorded, is wrong. A malcontent attitude to life is not only self-destructive, but it is not a Jewish orientation. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: The priests.

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)

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