This week we read the start of the story of Yoseph which occupies the Torah until the end of the Book of Genesis.
One very strong lesson we learn this week is the difference between action and contemplation – between dreams and doing.
Yoseph dreams. He does his father’s bidding but he sees things in his dreams which disturb him. However he does not have the wit to keep these vivid dreams to himself but lets them out to all and sundry. He is caught up in them to the extent that merely by telling his brothers about them he causes their hatred, and ends up sold to the Midianites who take him to Egypt in slavery.
By contrast we are introduced to Yehuda, who is all action. The episode of his relations with Tamar (his daughter-in-law) show him to be highly impulsive and human. Yet at the same time he is capable of taking serious decisions. When confronted by his own iniquity he is able to say tzadkah mimeni (she is more righteous than me) and to spare her. When challenged to take action now that he and the brothers have thrown Yoseph in a well and taken his coat from him, he decides that they should sell him to the Midianites, and he does this whilst his brother is out of the way.
In between these two lies Reuven. By birth he is the Firstborn and should be the leader. Yet he cuts a rather sad figure. He is typical of those who dream but cannot see how to put their dreams into action – his intellect does not stretch to doing past a vague feeling that it will “be all right on the night”. This is never good enough. The Reuvens of this world end up at everyone else’s mercy. Not for them the glory of leadership and success. Their discarded dreams lie as a testament to their personal inability to carry anything through to a conclusion.
Yosef sees that he lies in between these two extremes of action and wishful thinking. As his prospects appear to be worsening – he being sold into slavery – he opens his eyes and sees how his brother Reuven has failed. He sees opportunity wherever it is presented: as a slave to Potiphar, in the dungeon, as Pharaoh’s dream wizard. He takes his dreams and makes them real.
May we all be blessed with that ability to turn blue-sky into concrete action and results.
Rabbi Zvi’s two minute Torah for Chayei Sarah is available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56maDQHObh8
Rabbi Zvi’s two minute Torah for Vayera is available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqjKHbWR49w
Last week’s article by Jeremy Rosen on Women in Orthodox Judaism is available from
Jeremy Rosen’s article on Poor Paris is on http://jeremyrosen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/poor-paris.html
Jeremy Rosen’s article Not in My Name is on http://jeremyrosen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/not-in-my-name.html
Jeremy Rosen’s article on Vegetarianism is on http://jeremyrosen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/is-vegetarian-food-vegetarian.html
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