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DECEMBER 7-8, 2001 23 KISLEV 5762

Pop Quiz: What was special about the day Pharaoh released the butler from prison?

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

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 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 Reuven Semah

"Ya'akob settled in the land of his fathers' sojournings" (Beresheet 37:1)

Ya'akob reaches a certain plateau in his life. He fathered the heads of the twelve tribes, he weathered his exile with Laban, survived his confrontation with Esav and emerged from the suffering in Shechem. He had finished his task of preparing the way for the future of the nation. So our perashah begins with the statement that Ya'akob settled down in the land of Canaan. This word implies that he wanted to settle down in tranquility. On this the Midrash says that Hashem didn't want Ya'akob to rest in tranquility but wanted him to continue to grow and get close to Hashem. At times, trials and tribulations make a person cling to Hashem more, so Hashem brought upon him the suffering of the sale of Yosef as a slave by his brothers.

The question is asked, why didn't Hashem give Ya'akob a different form of difficulty, such as financial disaster or illness? Why such a strong dose as the sale of Yosef? The answer is that the other types of difficulties would not have rattled Ya'akob. He would not have been shaken by these "minor" difficulties. Ya'akob was so strong in his belief and trust in Hashem that he wouldn't have found them to be so difficult. So Hashem had to give him a stronger dose to unsettle him.

One can learn a great lesson from this. Some people are very delicate, and any change that occurs in their lives immediately results in a weakening in their spiritual performance. One should strive to have some of the strength of Ya'akob, that one should remain consistent no matter what happens, always thanking Hashem, realizing that these troubles are really the best possible situation to be in. Hashem knows the best for him and he should remain consistent in his misvah performance come what may. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Raymond Haber

Hazal teach us Maaseh Avot Siman La'banim, the deeds of our forefathers are a sign for their children. Yosef Hasadik was subjected to many different trials. He was his father's favorite son, yet hated by his brothers. His own brothers sold him into slavery, while on a mission of Kibud Ab. He was a despised foreign slave in a strange land, and after rising to prominence was thrown into jail on false charges. So many unexpected setbacks for a young man whose dreams would have led him to believe that he was on the easy road to greatness.

However in every situation, and in every place which Yosef Hasadik found himself he excelled. In his father's house he was his father's prize pupil. When his father asked him to go to see how his brothers were doing, he volunteered without hesitation. After being sold into slavery in a strange land, Yosef never forgot where he came from and never forsook his religion. He stood out, but with the help of Hashem he excelled, and rose to the top of his new situation, until his master appointed him the head of all his affairs. Even when his master's wife had him thrown into jail he was able to succeed and be appointed in charge of the prison. And in the end those prophetic dreams were fulfilled.

What was the secret of Yosef's resiliency? Yosef did not let the dramatic change of his expectations deter his service of Hashem. In every situation where he found himself, he adapted and did his best to serve Hashem in those circumstances.

The lesson for us is clear. We are in Galut, just as Yosef found himself in galut. We must strive to do our best to serve Hashem in any situation in which we find ourselves, and not excuse ourselves because we were expecting to serve Hashem under more ideal conditions. And when we do our best, Hashem will be at our side like he was for Yosef.

Shabbat Shalom.


This Week's Haftarah: Amos 2:6 - 3:8

In this week's Perashah, the brothers sell Yosef into slavery. In the haftarah, the prophet Amos tells the nation that even though they bring sacrifices and celebrate Holy Days, Hashem is going to punish them and exile them. One of the reasons for this severe punishment is that the people are "selling the righteous for money." This is the same sin that the brothers committed against Yosef.

Being dutiful to Hashem is not enough, says the prophet. You must also be dutiful to your fellow man. (Tell it from the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: It was Pharaoh's birthday.

Hanukah pop quiz: What three misvot did the Greeks specifically forbid the Jews to perform?


Candles represent Torah and misvot. "Ner misvah v'Torah ohr - A misvah is like a candle and Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23). Consequently, in Torah and misvot, one should never be content with what was done yesterday. Each day one must strive to do more and improve in the observance of misvot and the study of Torah.

The Hanukah lights commemorate the Menorah of the Bet HaMikdash. Yet there are major differences between them. In the Bet HaMikdash the Menorah was lit in the afternoon and on the inside, where as the Hanukah candles are lit by the entrance facing the street, and after dark. This teaches that a Jew must not only light up his house, as with the Shabbat candles, but he has the additional responsibility to illuminate the "outside" - his social and business environment.

Especially when times are hard spiritually, when it is "dark" outside and the Jews are in exile, it is not sufficient to light a candle alone and maintain it. It is necessary to increase the lights steadily. Constant growing efforts to spread the light of Torah and misvot will dispel the darkness of exile and illuminate the world. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Hanukah pop quiz: Berit Milah, Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh.

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