DECEMBER 30-31, 2011 5 TEBET 5772
"Then you shall say, 'Your servants have been shepherds from our youth until now, both we and our forefathers.'" (Beresheet 46:34)
In this week's perashah, we read a dialogue between Yosef and his brothers that is repeated between the brothers and Pharaoh. Yosef says that when Pharaoh will ask, "What is your vocation?" you should respond "We are shepherds and so were our ancestors." Rabbi Chaim Weinberg asks, why is it so important for the brothers to tell Pharaoh how their forefathers supported their families? And second, what is so significant about being a shepherd that Yosef instructed his brothers to emphasize this to the king?
Rabbi S.R. Hirsch on Parashat Beresheet explains that Hevel's occupation found favor in Hashem's eyes while Kayin's did not. It is hinted in the wording, "And Hashem accepted Hevel and his gift." Hashem accepted Hevel's gift not only because the gift was superior but also because Hashem was happy with the vocation he had chosen. R' Hirsch discusses this topic and contrasts a farmer (Kayin's occupation) who toils laboriously from dawn until late at night, with a shepherd, who sits next to his sheep with ample time to contemplate Hashem's Torah and His greatness (Hevel's occupation). Most of our ancestors chose to support themselves in this way so they would have time to invest in spiritual pursuits.
When Ya'akob and his sons went down to Egypt they did not forsake their ancestral profession even though shepherding contravened everything Egypt stood for. Their chosen vocation enabled them to remain true servants of Hashem who had the time and peace of mind to dwell on Torah study and to live a life sanctioned by Torah.
What a lesson this is to all of us! There is no doubt that there is a time when one will choose a means of livelihood. However, we must make sure our chosen parnasah is one that allows us ample time and peace of mind to pursue a Torah life and Torah study. Doing so will enable us to continue our Torah studies for our own benefit and to bring pleasure to Hashem. 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
The great Musar classic Orchot Sadikim defines happiness as "the feeling of complete peace in one's heart, without any sense of fear. One who achieves his desires and suffers nothing that saddens him will be constantly happy.
As with most other important milestones in life, techniques must be learned and practiced, and skills fine-tuned, before the goal can be reached. People chase after happiness by sampling an assortment of exciting and entertaining activities. Concerts, sporting events, amusement parks, restaurants, and shopping trips all share one common denominator which causes them to fall short of bringing true happiness to the joy seeker. They are all external stimuli that, at most, can only produce a temporary elation. When the event is over, so is the good feeling that was confused with true happiness.
Today's technology has further compounded this problem. Instead of producing the bliss promised by advertisers with the introduction of every scientific advance, the "new" gadgets that appear almost daily have created a mindset that demands instant gratification without effort. But you can't download happiness at broadband speeds, nor is it a signal you can pick up on a portable, wireless device. Happiness is an internal trait developed and learned through great effort. It is a feeling that is independent of external stimuli.
Get started on the long, hard process of learning to be happy. When the opportunity for an instant "high" is offered, take a deep breath - and pass! The first step to acquiring the character trait of happiness is committing to the long-term development process it takes to learn any complex science or hone a talent. You can't learn to play piano or golf by pressing a button, and neither can you learn instantly to be happy.
It only takes a minute to commit to the long learning process, but it will yield long-term benefits. It can even lead to a constant state of happiness. (One Minute With Yourself-Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.
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