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Parshat Mikeitz (5760)

Torah means 'teaching', it is also called Torat Chayim 'the teaching of life'. Let us understand the life lesson to be learned from this weeks Torah reading.

The section of Mikaitz opens with Pharaoh's dreams and his frustration due to his inability to interpret them; the most powerful man in the world was not happy. Pharaoh was the ideal man; he owned everything and ruled everyone, he could do what he wanted and have what he desired… and nevertheless he was miserable. Why? Because he lacked knowledge, he couldn't understand his own dreams. <p>
Fortunately he understood that the interpretations given by his advisors and soothsayers were false. He realized that, try as he might, he didn't know the truth. And because his desire for an explanation was so great and deep, he was willing to humble himself and listen to the advice of even a lowly prisoner, a despised Jew at that. Because of his integrity he saved himself and the entire world from starvation.
This should be a lesson for us; Seek truth.

Life itself is much like a dream, but until our generation people didn't really care if they understood the true meanings and implications of what was going on around them. <p>
Nowadays, however, the shelves in the bookstores are filled with a cornucopia of self-improvement books. People want to change themselves. Like Pharaoh they realize that something is wrong with the interpretations that they have been making until now. The Lubavitch Rebbe explained that we are now in the generation of the Moshiach about which it says in the end of Tractate Sota that 'the face of the Generation will be like a dog' i.e. just as a dog is hungry for everything so this last generation will be hungry for knowledge.

The Jewish people were chosen to interpret 'dreams' namely to put as much meaning as possible into the short amount of time that each of us has on this planet. <p>
But just as back then in the days of Pharoah, the big picture depended on one Jew, Yosef, to properly assess the situation. So also in every generation G-d always provides that one person to properly size up what really is underlying the visible world in a big way.

One example of this is the Baal Shem Tov and his followers. To illustrate my point here is a story about the First Lubavitcher Rebbe the successor of the Baal Shem Tov in Russia,

One of the followers of Rebbi Shneur Zalman was a successful businessman. that lost all his wealth and suddenly found himself a debtor, unable to pay even the dowry that he had promised for his daughter's upcoming marriage. Being (a Chassid) a follower of the Rebbe, he sped off to the Rebbe for a blessing and advice. (For the uninformed reader, a Rebbe is very similar to the Biblical Yosef; he provides for the physical as well as spiritual needs of the Jewish people in order that they can serve G-d uninterruptedly) Weeping, he begged for help and poured out his heart-rending problems to the Rebbe: he was about to lose his house and reputation, his daughter's wedding would certainly be cancelled, and his innocent creditors would loose their fortunes all because of him. <p>The Rebbe listened, looked at him sternly and said, "You have told me what you need, but have you thought about what you are needed for?" The chassid fainted. For two weeks thereafter he sat among the Rebbe's pupils and devoted himself to Torah learning and prayer, not so that G-d would send him what he needed but that G-d would make him into the type of Jew that G-d needed. Needless to say his material problems were cleared up as well.

Another example is The Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Shneerson. Like Yosef Ha Tzadik 4000 years earlier, the Rebbe has a talent for interpreting things. In addition to teaching that every event, no matter how small or seemingly natural has a deeper significance and contains in it a lesson on how to utilize our talents to serve our Creator and make the proper decisions in life, just like Pharaoh's dreams, he also gave us the criterion for interpretation; over 25 volumes of letters of advice. <p>
It was the Rebbe that, like Yosef, he sensed what was hidden behind the apparent; under the veneer of non-observant indifference was, in every Jew, a treasure of Jewish emotion and feeling. <p>
That is why over thirty years ago began the now universal Outreach Movement in Judaism. He ordered his followers to take to the streets and seek out non-religious Jews, to open Yeshivas for Baali-Tshuva, to put a mezuzah on every Jewish door and tefillin on every Jewish mans' arm. Just as Yosef gave pharaoh a practical plan to save the world. <p>
We just have to humble ourselves a bit and take the advice of the Yosef of our generation.

We can also learn a very important lesson from Yosef: That if one thinks positively, it will be good. Yosef had every reason to be depressed. He had been a handsome talented young man and now, the victim of hatred and treachery, he was wasting away in an Egyptian prison with no chance of pardon. But he also had a dream; the stars of the heaven and the produce of the earth would bow to him. <p>
Yosef dreamed that he was the perfect Jew, the true example of man, 'Yosef HaTzadik'; the whole world depended on him. It was a dream, but he was sure that all his misfortunes would somehow bring this dream to fruition and create a new world reality. It was this positive thought that kept him sane and allowed him to optimistically not be broken by what a normal man would consider real bad luck. <p>
Just think; if his brothers hadn't hated him, or had subdued their anger, or if Yaakov hadn't sent Yosef to look for his brothers, or if Reuvain had saved Yosef from the pit, or if Potifar's wife hadn't lied, or her lie had been revealed, or he was given a lesser punishment than imprisonment, or even a shorter sentence; if Yosef had been spared even one of these misfortunes, we would not be here today. The seven-year famine would have destroyed the world's population! But a normal man would be consumed with anger and resentment against G-d and man after even one of these tragedies. <p>
Yosef's positive attitude also enabled him to receive the G-dly inspiration to interpret Pharaoh's dreams as well. The Soothsayers gave negative explanations of Pharaoh's seemingly negative dreams: Seven healthy cows being devoured by seven frighteningly emaciated ones is not, on the face of things, a very promising picture. But Yosef found the positive side even in this, and that is what appealed to Pharaoh. Yosef understood that G-d was sending practical advice, and that his own dreams were about to be fulfilled. The fact that the fat and the starving cows were standing together before the one devoured the other was a sign that Pharaoh must take swift and positive action to assure that the produce of the seven bountiful years would be together with all the seven lean ones, and that Yosef would manage the project.

Here we have two of the many lessons that we can learn from this weeks section From Pharaoh we can learn not to be satisfied until we know the truth. From Yosef we can learn the importance of thinking positively despite all odds once we know the truth.

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