Do you know how to show appreciation?

Thursday, 16 December, 2021 - 11:23 pm

My daughter called me at work to say I was to phone Ian at my bank. The operator asked me what Ian’s last name was and I explained that he hadn’t left his surname. When she asked for his department, I said I didn’t know.

“There are 1500 employees in this building, ma’am,” she advised me rather curtly. “You must tell me the last name.”

After a few more brusque comments, I asked her for her name. “Danielle,” she said.

“And your last name?” I asked.

“Sorry,” she replied, “we don’t give out last names.”

As Jacob's demise approaches, our portion Vayechi relates, he sent for his son, Joseph, the Prime Minister of Egypt, and requested that he be buried in the ancestral burial place in the city of Hebron.

To which Joseph replied, “I will do as you have said.” But Jacob is persistent:

"Swear to me." So he swore to him.

But why was Jacob so adamant that Joseph takes an oath to carry out his wishes? Did Jacob have the slightest doubt regarding the integrity or Joseph and his promise that he will bury him in Israel?

The Rebbe presented a beautiful explanation.

Jacob certainly did not suspect Joseph of negligence or carelessness in any way. He would do what he can to ensure his father’s wishes. Since, however, he was the viceroy of Egypt, with many governmental duties and responsibilities, circumstances might arise that may delay or even halt this operation from taking place.

Egypt may find hundreds of excuses why they can’t release his body. We all know what governments and bureaucracy can be like.

Jacob understood this very well. He knew that “the nearest approach to immortality on earth is a government bureau…” Joseph may be the Powerful Prime Minister, but he too is subjected to State laws; he too is under the jurisdiction of Pharaoh, who wanted Jacob buried in Egypt.

Jacob knew the infamous power of government committees. “A Committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but as a group decide that nothing can be done.”

And this was the purpose of the oath. It was to obligate Joseph to do what may seem to be the impossible, if such a situation may arise. As General Montgomery put it, “the difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.”

If Joseph would have simply said, “I will do it,” he would have certainly tried to do it. But if circumstances beyond his control might have arisen—as they indeed have—he might have given up. Having him swear was the game changer. When someone swears, his commitment to the matter is transformed from merely trying to do it, to a far deeper and super commitment to get the job done, even if hell breaks loose. The oath, Jacob knew, would infuse Joseph with a heightened sense of inspiration and vigor that no matter what happens, he will fulfil his father’s last wish.

We all have a tendency to claim that certain things are impossible. We often say, “I would love to participate, I would love to attend Torah classes, I would love to come to Shul, I’d love to wrap tefillin, to give more charity, to work on my marriage, to get into shape, to say I am sorry, to kosher my kitchen, to pray more, to start keeping Shabbat, to work on my temper, to enter recovery…” But you know it is impossible now. I have prior arrangements. The weather is not that good, I am too tired from work; my wife needs me at home. I am not feeling well. etc.

But so often it is not that it is impossible, it is that we are not fully committed to it. It is that we do not perceive it as a top priority worth fighting for.

It’s like the story of a man who made an appointment to see a doctor, as he was very worried about his condition.

"You see, he says to Dr. Moskowits, I seem to be getting forgetful.  I have too many senior moments, and it’s getting worse. I'm never sure I can remember where I parked my car; it takes me 20 minutes to find it in the parking lot.

Or whether I replied to a letter; or where I'm going when I finally leave the house, or what it is I'm going to do once I get there…

‘I really need your help and advice. What can you suggest?’

The doctor thought for a moment, then answered in his kindest tones: "Pay me in advance."

This is true especially when it comes to standing up to the Pharaoh in connection to maintaining the right of Jacob to be buried in his homeland, in his ancestral plot in Hebron. We often feel paralyzed and fearful. We bend to the Pharaohs of each generation; we become apologetic,  timid, and insecure.

But Jacob wanted to teach Joseph, that when it comes to the rights of the Jewish people over Hebron and the Holy Land in general, he must be empowered like a lion. He must speak with passion and determination, with every fiber of his soul. His conviction must be unwavering, and his fortitude everlasting. With this inner strength and confidence, he will be able to allow Jacob to reclaim his land.

Do you know how to really compliment and show appreciation to your spouse? To your children? To your loved ones? To your students? To people who work with you or for you? To friends and colleagues? To strangers?

Arrogant and insecure people can’t truly compliment others, show gratitude to others, speak of the greatness of others, and embolden others—they are too full of themselves, and they are afraid that they will become smaller in the process. But great people have no qualms with elevating others to greatness, with lowering themselves so that others can climb and achieve their greatest potentials.


Shabbat Shalom, Chazak Chazak Venitchazek,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

Comments on: Do you know how to show appreciation?
There are no comments.