Posted December 22, 2017 5:07 pm Comments Off on December 21, 2017 — Vayigash

We pick up the thread with this week’s parashah called “Vayigash”.  You will find VaYigash, toward the end of the Book of Genesis in chapters 44:18-47:27.

This section deals with the great climax of the Joseph stories, that of Joseph’s revealing himself to his brothers and the reunification between Joseph and
his father, Jacob.  The text is layered with meanings and filled with questions.  One could write whole books just about this week’s parashah.

The text informs us that after Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he sends them back to Canaan to bring Jacob to him. In chapter 45:24 we read “Vayishlach et achiv vyelchu, vayamru alehem “al tirgzu baderech!” It is hard to hear the tones or cadences of the Hebrew in a foreign tongue, but the verse might be translated as: “So he sent his brothers back to Canaan saying to them: ‘behave now, do not get into any arguments along the way.'”

This statement raised multiple questions.  For example, why did it take Joseph so long to tell his father that he was alive?  Surely he knew that his father, believing that his favorite son was dead had to be suffering.  In a like manner, there is a certain irony in the fact that the younger brother is now speaking to his older brothers as if they were children, telling them not to fight.  For the most part the brothers got along well with each other; it was Joseph with whom they had  a problem!

Was Joseph playing the role of a petulant parent toward his older brothers or was this statement a giant put down?  Perhaps Joseph was being a psychologist realizing that siblings often do quarrel. Often we become angry at those whom we love the most. Joseph seems to be warning his brothers to remember their task is to save their father from the grips of a famine and not to r-g-z (get angry, blow up, lose one’s temper).

Perhaps the text is teaching us that we need to remember the purpose of our tasks. Is the text reminding us that we should not get distracted by side issues nor should we allow petty grievances to blind us to our ultimate goals?  As such, this part of the Joseph story has a great deal to teach all of us including the world’s leaders.  How would you interpret this tale?


Youtubes for the Week

Last week a number of us were able to visit Syrian wounded soldiers being cared for in Israeli Hospitals. Here are some of the videos dealing with these events

Conan vista the Syrian border to see for himself:

The story of a paramedic:

Treating the Syrians:

At the frontier:


A personal recounting of our visit to Tzfat and meeting wounded Syrian soldiers.

This is my account of our visit last week to Ziv Hospital in northern Israel. Written on December 13 in the city of Tzfat.

This morning after visiting some amazing archeological sites from the first century c.e. we moved onto Ziv hospital on the outskirts of Tzfat (Safed in English). Normally hospitals are not tourist sites, but this and its sister hospitals throughout the Galilee are not normal.  To places such as Ziv, Syrian warriors are brought in the dead of night. The (Israeli) army goes into Syria to rescue the sick and wounded.  Others have friends or family bring them to the border where once checked and cleared they are brought to Israeli hospitals. These men, about 90% are men, are given as much medical treatment for as long as they need it free of charge.   Now there are additional units for women and mothers and children.

We spent about an hour with four of these men, one was perhaps 17, two in their late twenties, and one an older man in his late 50s.  The Syrian authorities had taught these men their whole lives to hate Jews.  Now Jews are caring for them, all were afraid during their first few days at the hospital, and all were in terrible pain.

Certainly Israel has no legal obligation to heal those who in other circumstances are trained to kill them, and yet as the Israeli doctors stated, their job is to heal – never to hurt.  It is what in Hebrew is called “tikkun olam- the fixing of a broken world”. Theirs is not theoretical Judaism, it is applied Judaism where the saving of a life, “pikuach nefesh”, takes precedence over all else.

Here in Ziv hospital we see men without hope, and now missing limbs, given hope and limbs.  Israeli doctors report that they have learned a great deal about battlefield medicine, indeed tragically they have seen too much.  The Syrian civil war has had over 500,000 deaths and no one really knows how many have been injured.

Israel has had to create all sorts of new forms of medicine. The doctors, social workers, healing clowns, and psychologists must all form cohesive teams. Certainly no other country in the world would take great risks to actively take in soldiers from an enemy nation, heal them and do whatever is medically necessary to return them to productive lives.  Just thirty kilometers from Ziv Hospital is the Syrian border, there on the other side death is ubiquitous and tragedy never ceases.

While we were visiting these men, a hospital orderly entered withe a tray full of “sufganiyot” (Hanukkah donuts).  We wished the men Happy Hanukah, something dangerous even to say in Syria.  As the Syrian soldiers ate, they were able to state the unimaginable: Chag Sameach/Happy Holidays.

Here in for what they have been taught is enemy territory, these broken men (and at other places women and children) received the best possible Chanukah gift; the gift of healing and their Israeli doctors in return, received the gift of helping to make the world a bit better, to give life and hope to those who have known only death and pain.

Chanukah is about the miracle of light defeating darkness, of hope where there was only despair. There, in that hospital room, the phrase found on every dreidel   כס גדול היה פה (a great miracle occurred here) came to life, instead of bullets Jews and Arabs could wish each other a happy holiday and due to the work of many brave doctors share jelly donuts and hope.

To be here is not merely to believe in miracles, it is to see them before one’s eyes and know that they are true,

Happy Chanukah from a land of miracles.