Printed from


Friday, 4 December, 2015 - 1:46 pm

The other day a young man  told me about a call he'd recently received from a charity asking to donate some clothes to starving people throughout the world. 
He told them to get out of his life and never again ask him for his clothes.

"You see," he said, "anybody who fits into my clothes isn’t starving!"

In this week's portion, Vayeshev, at the tender age of 17, Joseph, the beloved child of our Patriarch Jacob, is snatched by his own brothers, thrown into a pit, and ultimately sold as a slave. Under the natural course of events, he would have remained  a slave for the remainder of his life. However, in his Egyptian master's home he was  accused of seduction and attempted rape, and put  into a dungeon. He spent the next 12 years of his life there, from age 18 until 30. There, he befriended two ministers of Pharaoh, his chief butler and chief baker, who had angered the king and had also been cast into the cell.

The Torah writes: Now both of them [the butler and baker] dreamed a dream, each one his dream on the same night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison. And Joseph came to them in the morning, and he saw them and behold, they were depressed.

And he asked Pharaoh's chamberlains who were with him in the prison of his master's house, saying, "Why are your faces sad today?"
Why should they not be sad languishing in prison? Why would Joseph care if they were sad? Did Joseph really think he could help them in their sadness? Was Joseph himself really happy after all of his terrible ordeals?

And they said to him, "We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter for it." Joseph said to them, "Don't interpretations belong to G-d? Tell [them] to me now." So the chief cupbearer related his dream to Joseph…

Joseph explains the meanings of their dreams. Two years later, Pharaoh has a dream. Searching for an explanation, his chief butler suggests bringing Joseph, who is at once summoned to the king. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dreams as a prediction that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. A system must be put in place to allocate food from the years of plenty to sustain the country during the pending famine. Pharaoh appoints Joseph the prisoner as the Prime Minister of Egypt and puts him in charge of preparing for the famine. Joseph’s labor proves successful. He creates a brilliant system of allocation and saves the entire population during a devastating famine. Ultimately his very own family, the Jewish family, is also saved from starvation because of his wisdom and leadership.

This story teaches us volumes about what it means to be a Jew—and that is why the Torah tells us this episode, even though it is irrelevant to the flow of the narrative. (The Torah could have just said: Joseph interpreted their dreams and was thus summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.) Despite his horribly agonizing experiences, Joseph did not lose his inner sense of happiness and joy. For him joy was not about having everything you want at every moment; life is filled with too many disappointments to define joy in such narrow terms. If joy depends on having whatever you want, how can people ever really be joyous? For Joseph, joy was about finding meaning in every experience and using it as an opportunity to grow and become closer to G-d, to truth. Joy was about finding G-d in every moment, and thus realizing that this each was part of his journey and mission in life. Joseph taught humanity how to create music out of broken chords.

Joseph taught us: Happiness is our natural state of being and it is our duty in life. Every person deserves children are by nature. Unhappiness is a distortion of humanity; it is a perversion of reality. We were meant to be happy. We were created by G-d with a purpose, and that must give us profound happiness. Even in prison, Joseph believed, we must be happy. We must find our Divine purpose and mission in every situation. This is why Joseph asked: Why are your faces sad today?

A true story: The black security guard at a major slaughter house in Johannesburg welcomed the sound of jangling keys, as it signaled lockup time at the plant, the end of a long and tiring workday. Out of the building came 60 Rabbis, a group of religious bearded Jews from Israel who came to prepare kosher animals for consumption in South Africa. The meat would then be frozen and sent to Israel. They would come in each morning at dawn and slaughter until early afternoon when they would return to their lodgings.

One day, as they were about to depart, the African black guard told the head of the group that “one rabbi was still inside somewhere. He never came out. What happened to him?”

The head of the group went off to search for the missing rabbi, but shortly later he returned alone. “Sir, I am positive he’s in there somewhere,” the security guard replied with conviction. 
“No sign of him,” said the “head.” “Are you absolutely sure he hasn't left? Maybe you didn’t notice him slip by?”

“Sir, I am positive he’s in there somewhere,” the guard replied with conviction.

Looking none too pleased, the head of the group looked for the missing rabbi a second time. After a few minutes he was back alone, again. With as much calm as he could muster, he said, “Dear guard, you must be mistaken. I have searched the facility twice. There’s no way I’m going back to search again.” 
Meanwhile, not a hundred feet away, in a walk-in freezer locked from the outside, the missing ritual slaughterer lay semi-conscious, literally freezing to death. He had gone into the freezer, the door had shut behind him, and he was locked inside. The noise was so loud that all of his knocking and screaming did not help. Nobody heard him. His muted calls for help began to slur until they faded completely. “So this is what it feels like to die...” Barely coherent, he managed to mutter the Shema. He was ready to meet his Creator.

As if in a distant dream, he heard what seemed to be the sound of a screaming angel. “I’m locking up now,” the head yelled, his tone leaving no room for arguments. And yet the security guard persisted, “Sir, allow me to check myself, maybe the rabbi is in some type of trouble . . .”

At the mention of “trouble,” the “head” dashed towards the freezers… and found the missing rabbi freezing to death. At the last moment he was saved. 
The “head” asked the black security guard: “I’m really curious. There are 60 rabbis who walk out every day. We all have beards and look similar. How did you know that this rabbi was still inside?” 
“It’s very simple,” the black guard answered. “Every single morning, without fail, I am greeted with a solitary ‘good morning.’ From all of you, there is only one man who stops daily and asks me, ‘Good morning, how are you? How is your family? ’ Every evening, upon leaving, he wishes me a hearty ‘Good night.’ This morning I received my usual cheery ‘good morning,’ but I still hadn’t received my usual ‘good night.’ I knew that he was still inside!”

Every single day of your life, even when you feel down and about, try to emulate Joseph. Take 25 seconds of your time, approach one person in the world, and ask sincerely: How are you? Are you happy? What is bothering you? How can I help? It can be your spouse, child, mother, co-worker, employee, partner, friend, or even a stranger in the street. Every day—just give one real “good morning.”

Will you, as a result, solve global warming or give security in our world ?  I don’t know. But I do know that you will change the world. One sincere good morning coming from a genuine human heart changes the world and saves lives.




Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


Comments on: WHY ARE YOU SAD ? BE HAPPY!
There are no comments.