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Parshat Mikeitz (5761)

This week’s section opens with a testimony to the frailness of man; the most powerful man in the world; the King of Egypt, who controls all, is controlled by … a dream. And to the uncertainty of fortune; suddenly a criminal, a detested Jew to boot, serving time for rape, offers a wild interpretation of the dream involving massive government expenditures.... the King swallows it and on the spot promotes him to ruler of the country!!

What is going on here? Why did Pharaoh immediately accept Yosef’s explanation and reject those of his trained seasoned wise men? I’d like to explain with a story.

Yankela Goldman wasn’t worried, he never really worried. Even yesterday when he received his draft notice from the Russian People’s Army he told himself “This obviously is for the best”. Usually such news brought fear and confusion into the heart of any Jew that received it, but Yankela was different. “Think good and it will be good,” he said to himself. Since he heard that the Rebbe had once said it, it became his life motto. “Think good and it will be good”.

But his parents had a hard time being so optimistic. His mother was weeping. “This is very serious” his father said, “We must go to the Rebbe immediately, but weeping won’t help” he tried to calm his wife. The next morning his father had arranged an urgent meeting for Yankela with the Rebbe RaShaB (Shalom Dov Ber). The Rebbe had many ways to save Jews. Even from the anti-semitic Communist army, or worse.

But the family was very anxious, what would the Rebbe’s advice be? Perhaps he would just give a blessing? That would be best of all, then the army would completely forget about him. It happened before. But they couldn’t stop thinking of Sholmi Greenspan, and Avraham Farber and Zalman whats-his-name that got killed there and this one that went mad and this one that etc. etc. In other words they were going crazy with worry.

At one o’clock their Yankela returned all smiles. “Good news!” he announced, “The Rebbe told me what to do!” “Nu! What did he say??” cried his wide-eyed mother and father in unison. “He told me to go to the draft board in Petersburg,” sang Yankela.

His parents were frozen with disbelief. “No! NO! You must have misunderstood, Yankela,” his father whispered. His mother began weeping again.

The Petersburg Draft Board was infamous for its anti-Semitic cruelty. All Jews were drafted, even genuine cripples and imbeciles, absolutely no excuses were accepted. It was the WORST draft board of them all. “I can get it changed,” said his father. “Don’t worry it will be alright I have friends, contacts, you must have misunderstood the Rebbe.” But Yankela was happily adamant. He paid no attention to all the pessimism. He applied for a change in venue and in a few days his request was granted; he had to appear in one week, on Shabbos no less, in the despised Petersburg draft board.

He arrived in Petersburg on Friday morning and headed straight for the house of another Chabad Chassid who was more than overjoyed to have him as a guest. That night after the Shabbos prayers and the meal Yankela got a good sleep. He had to wake up early it was a three-hour walk to the Board and it closed at one o’clock sharp.

The next morning he rose before dawn and began to pray, but his host also woke, saw what he was doing and chastised him. “What are you doing?! How can you pray without learning Chassidus first? Maybe you go and I’ll pray for you if you are in such a hurry?” He said cynically.

Yankela tried to explain himself but he knew the man was right. Prayer is supposed to be emotional, each word an expression of love or awe or thanks to G-d, not just saying the words. “Good!” said his host, “We’ll learn for a while, and then we’ll pray like Jews, and THEN we’ll go. Don’t worry! I know a shortcut. With G-d’s help everything will be all right.”

Well, as you can probably imagine the learning took a bit longer than they had planned, as did the prayers and the meal. In fact the next time they looked at the clock it was … eleven o’clock! “Gevalt!” they both cried out. “Don’t worry!” his host reassured him, “I know a shortcut. But we better get going, it’s a lot later than I thought”

They ran as fast as they could, through back yards and empty fields and railroad yards until, sure enough, they made it, ten minutes before closing!! They pushed open the huge, thick, tall wooden doors and slipped into the immense silent room. It struck them that something was wrong; everything was too quiet. Twenty pairs of eyes were sending them messages of death and destruction.

Around the room, evenly spaced against the walls were about twenty huge desks each stacked with very important looking papers, and behind each sat an official staring with cold hatred at the two intruders. It was five minutes before closing time, everyone wanted to go home, and now they may have to remain even hours! And for these despicable Jews!!!!! After a minute of astonished, pregnant silence they suddenly all stood and ran toward the odious aliens screaming, shaking their fists and even spitting at them.

But to no avail, the law stated clearly that they must be processed. One of the officials motioned for the others to go off to a side, and after a minute of consultation all shook their heads in agreement. Each returned to his table, while one went over to Yankela, grabbed him by the collar of his overcoat and almost lifted him over to the first table. Without even looking up, the secretary produced Yankela’s induction papers, turned to one of the pages, took a huge stamp from his desk, mashed it into his inkpad, lifted it high in the air and sent it crashing on the page: ‘UNFIT’! Yankela again felt himself yanked by the collar and moved to the second table where the short ceremony was repeated, this time on another page: ‘UNFIT’! Then to the third: ‘UNFIT’! Until ten minutes later each page of his portfolio was stamped and on the cover in large black letters stamped ‘DISQUALIFIED’.

He was then rushed back to the door where his amazed host was standing, they were both unceremoniously thrown into the street and the doors were locked behind them.

“You see, it’s a good thing you didn’t worry,” said his host as they were standing up and brushing themselves off, “If it would have been any other draft board, or if you would have come earlier they would have drafted you for sure!”

Similarly in our Parsha with Yosef;

Pharaoh knew that his dreams about the skinny cows and sheaths eating the fat ones was ominous, but he wasn’t satisfied with the interpretations of his wise men: ‘You will conquer seven cities or bear seven daughters and lose them’, because these were too fatalistic. Yosef, on the other hand, was an expert at being positive; he saw the good in everything, which is what kept him alive and sane all those years in prison with the lowest of humanity, serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. For example, in last week’s section we see how he forgot his own troubles and tried to help his fellow prisoners the king’s baker and wine maker. And now that very act and that same optimism took him out of jail and brought him to see the positive side of Pharoah’s dream. True the fat cows and sheaths were consumed … but not totally; the thin ones were left. True the dream was foreboding … but it was shown to a king whose entire existence is for the good of the people.

Yosef’s optimism was convincing and contagious. The King realized that Yosef was a representative of a positive force that he had not yet recognized. (We see later on that in the time of Moshe the Egyptian magicians were able to duplicate some of the plagues but lacked the positive power to remove them.)

And that optimism in the face of apparent doom is what saved the entire world from famine, and eventually caused the exodus from Mitzriam and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish poeople.

Similarly today; despite the horrendous situation in Israel and the many critics and prophets of doom with no solutions in sight, there is one optimistic voice that rings loud and clear above the others the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Like Yosef interpreting the dream, the Rebbe has predicted and explained every detail of today’s confusion and given the interpretation and solution;

The Moshiach is here, we have only to accept him, we must think, speak, and do all we can to accustom ourselves to this truth. We must learn all the Rebbe has written about Moshiach and then look around us to see the great miracles that are happening, especially in the Holy land. It all depends on us.

Soon we will all be dancing with Moshiach NOW!!

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(5760- )



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