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Haftarah: Yehezkel 37:15-28

DECEMBER 25-26, 2009 9 TEBET 5770

The fast of Asarah B' Tebet will be on Sunday, December 27.


"And Yehudah approached [Yosef] and said…'Do not be angry with your servant for you are like Pharaoh.'" (Beresheet 44:18)

Yehudah confronts Yosef in order to save his brother Binyamin. In the dialogue he says that Yosef is like Pharaoh. Rashi explains that he meant that just like Pharaoh makes decrees and doesn't follow them, so too, do you, Yosef. The commentaries on Rashi explain that he meant that Pharaoh's royal laws include a rule that a slave cannot rule as a king, nor wear royal garments. When Pharaoh elevated Yosef, a slave, to be second to the king, he violated these laws. The Maharshal explains Yehudah's intentions: Yehudah told Yosef, "On whom are you relying for strength and security - on Pharaoh? Pharaoh himself violates his own decrees!" Yehudah was warning him that Pharaoh would eventually deceive Yosef and betray him.

Rabbi A. Henoch Leibowitz explains that Pharaoh's action in openly transgressing his own edicts showed a blatant disregard for truth. He didn't bother to rescind or even amend the original decree, and thereby legalize his action of appointing Yosef. Once a person has broken this barrier of truth, he is no longer trustworthy. As warm and friendly as he seems to be, he is not a reliable friend. He can turn around at a moment's notice and stab his "good friend" in the back, because he has no scruples to abide by, no morals to keep him honest.

When a student helps a classmate to cheat on a test or a businessman assists his colleague in conducting an illegal transaction, he is not showing friendship or trustworthiness. He is demonstrating precisely the opposite, that he ultimately can, with all his love and affection, betray the recipient of his friendship. Our job is to realize that the greatest demonstration of genuine friendship is to help our fellow man in a manner of absolute integrity. A true friend is exactly that - a true friend. 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


It is really amazing how much variety life offers. If you were to travel to all corners of the Earth, you would discover many new types of trees, plants, fruits and animals. The bird, fish and insect species, as well, comprise hundreds of thousands of flying, swimming and crawling creatures in an assortment of shapes and colors. Weather offers variation, too, as it changes from season to season, day to day, hour to hour, and place to place. As a result, modes of dress and styles of dwellings are adapted to the various climates around the globe. Variety is everywhere.

The most varied of all creatures is probably the human being. You might contend that people basically look the same. Some are a little taller and some a little fatter. Skin color and eye shape may vary. But the two-arms-two-legs upright form makes any two humans resemble each other to a much greater degree than do two members of the plant or animal kingdom.

Yet man has intellect. As no two faces are alike, so, too, no two people think the same. Although it is possible to classify human beings into broad categories, no two persons are identical - not even identical twins.

You are one of the most unique creatures in Creation. You have your likes and dislikes, your personal preferences. You might feel that you know what is best for everyone - but you are mistaken. Everyone is an individual, and all individuals see things a little differently than even their closest partners on life's journey.

Learn to listen and learn to evaluate the merits of ideas other than your own. Learn to accept that there is a lot of life that you don't see. Learn to tolerate the fact that "he" or "she" is different than you. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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