"For your servant assumed responsibility..."
Tevet 3, 5771/December 9, 2010
This year the Chanuka festival of light saw the outbreak of the worst forest fire in the history of the modern state of Israel, which destroyed over five million trees and took over forty lives. As to be expected in the fire's aftermath an atmosphere of blame and recrimination has emerged. Just who was responsible for the conflagration? Teenagers are suspected of carelessly tossing embers from a friendly picnic which quickly ignited the blaze. Firefighters are accused of being entirely too slow in initially reacting to the flames. Israel's firefighting forces have been exposed as being woefully under-equiped and under-trained. Various Israeli government ministries, led by various government ministers, over an extended period of various government coalitions have been cited as being neglectful, incompetent and unconcerned over a problem of fire fighting preparedness which has been well known for many years. Proposals for improvements have been rejected. Necessary decisions have been put on hold. By all accounts, this was a man-made disaster.
Yet, had the hills and valleys of Israel not been bone dry the gathering blaze would no doubt have progressed much more slowly, giving fire fighters a better chance to put out the flames before they swept out of control. A wetter month of November, (in which no precipitation fell), might have even prevented the fire at its source. And the strong winds which blew across the Mount Carmel region last week aided and abetted the rapid spreading of the flames. Was
This is not the first time in our long history that human frailty and Divine will have conspired to create a dangerous reality, fraught with painful and devastating ramifications. And it's not the first time that the children of Israel have had to face their own failings and take responsibility. This week's Torah reading of Vayigash opens with Yehudah drawing near to Yosef. (Genesis 44:18) Tensions couldn't be higher as Yosef threatens to imprison his brother Binyamin, an act which threatens both the life of their father Yisrael and the very integrity of the brothers themselves. If Binyamin is allowed to be taken, the family will be irreparably shattered. Israel, as a unified entity will cease to exist.
Yehudah, fulfilling his earlier promise to his father, accepts complete responsibility for his brother Binyamin's well-being. His resolve in the matter is unequivocal, forcing Yosef to finally reveal to his brothers his true identity. Yehudah's unassailable resolve not to allow his family another traumatic blow is, of course, also an acknowledgment of all the brothers' complicity in the earlier betrayal of Yosef. The guilt that the brothers have been silently harboring for more than a decade has finally been transformed into a powerful expression of family unity and mutual responsibility.
Yosef, in turn, reveals himself to his brothers, comforts them, and implores them "not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that
Yehudah has also had to reckon with many difficult situations throughout his life. It was he who saved Yosef's life by proposing to his brothers that they sell, rather than slay Yosef. Later in life he had to face up to his own wrong doing and acknowledge the righteousness of his daughter-in-law Tamar. And now, once again, Yehudah takes a hard look at his own actions and their consequences as he faces off with Yosef.
Yosef has made a life out of responding responsibly to adversity that came his way through no fault of his own, but ultimately only by virtue of Divine decree. Yehudah, however, has constantly had to examine and reexamine his own deeds, draw proper conclusions, and make the necessary corrections to his actions. This has been Yehudah's way of living life responsibly.
There is no doubt that
Having recognized this "Yosef's principle" of the ultimate good of the Divine will, we must, nevertheless, take upon ourselves the "Yehudah principle" of personal accountability, recognizing our errors, correcting them, and moving forward.
The Haftorah (additional scriptural) reading which accompanies parashat Vayigash in the Shabbat service is from the book of Ezekiel, in which the prophet is shown two branches, one standing for Yehudah, and one for Yosef.
Rather than slinging accusations at one another, it is incumbent upon us to take hold of the burnt branches of the once noble forest of Mount Carmel, and place them together as one people. If we can accept
"And I will form a covenant of peace for them, an everlasting covenant shall be with them; and I will establish them and I will multiply them, and I will place My Sanctuary in their midst forever. And My dwelling place shall be over them, and I will be to them for a
Tune in to this week's Temple Talk as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven look back upon a week of terrific extremes: The joy of Chanuka against the backdrop of the devastating fire in Israel that claimed so many lives and did such horrendous damage. And in the aftermath, a little rain. And as we learn from the story of Choni Ha'Ma'agel, we never say "we've had enough rain!" so we continue to pray that the Land of Israel begins to receive bountiful rainfall. As we read of Yosef's reunion with his family in Egypt, the month of Tevet begins. What are the lessons of this month, which begins during Chanukah but yet, features a fast day over the First Temple's destruction just a week after the conclusion of Chanukah?
"Sing to the L-rd a New Song; Sing to the L-rd, All the Earth!" (Psalms 96) Rabbi Richman in America, January 2011: Please view this short video in which Rabbi Richman personally invites you to join him in America this January as he speaks about the world today and the role Israel is destined to play in leading the world "From Exile to Redemption." Click here!
For additional details of the Rabbi's speaking engagements in eight states, please click here.
Shouting to the Darkness - A righteous Gentile's thoughts about Chanukah and the Holy Temple: Every year we are asked, "Why do you celebrate Chanukah?" and/or "Are you Jewish?" I understand people’s curiosity. I even understand that they may think it's a little weird. Heck, I even think it's a little weird that I'm not Jewish and I celebrate Chanukah. But like I tell my kids, sometimes weird is good. It means you're not following the norm. And more often than not these days, it's the norm that's becoming weird. Since the question keeps coming up, I thought I would write a little ditti about why we celebrate Chanukah. Please click here for the entire article.
This week features the new Bat Melech video teaching with Rabbanit Rena Richman, entitled, "Zot Chanuka: The eighth and final day of Chanuka, the day on which we kindle all eight Chanuka lights is a day of great illumination. This illumination includes a great spiritual force that is brought down from above on this day, which floods the world and provides a supernal light that will remain with us throughout the entire year." Click here to view.
This week also features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "Making Miracles Happen: Torah teaches us not to sit back and wait for miracles to happen. Instead we are instructed to actively pursue our own destiny as individuals and as a nation. If our intentions are good and our efforts are wholehearted,
When Ya'akov and Yosef reunite after seventeen years of separation, Yosef weeps while Ya'akov recites the shema prayer, ("Hear O Israel, HaShem our
Blessings from the holy city of Jerusalem,
The Temple Institute
Thursday, December 16, 2010
For Your Servant Assumed Responsibility
Posted by David Ben-Ariel at 1:36 PM