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Parshat Mikeitz (5763)
This week's section tells how Josef; a lone Jew with no friends or connections and through no political maneuvering became the ruler of the entire world!
At first glance this is not understood.
The Jews are G-d's people, have His promise to be a wise and intelligent nation and to be as many as the sand on the sea and stars in the sky.
So why didn't G-d just keep all these promises in the days of Josef so the Jews could naturally rule the world? Why only through one person?
We can ask a similar question about Chanukah. Judah Maccabe and his handful of fighters were ridiculously outnumbered. They had to battle not only myriads of Greek troops but the Hellenistic Jews (the majority of the Jewish nation!) as well.
Why such odds? Wasn't the main thing that they found oil that burned for eight days?
I want to explain this with a speech that the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave years ago to disabled veterans of the Israeli army.
But first a story:
Old Zalman the beggar was standing before the Baal Shem Tov with his head hung in shame trying to explain.
"I'm a tailor, or at least I used to be before I started begging. It's a long story. A few years ago, after going a while with not even one tailoring job, I and my friend Shmerl took to the road hoping that perhaps a change of place would at least bring some work so we could feed our hungry families.
"After a few weeks of wandering we stopped in an inn. The place seemed empty but then we saw that in a corner sat a Jew, head in hands, weeping.
"When he noticed us he dried his eyes, stood, introduced himself as the innkeeper and asked if he could help.
"'Yes' Shmerl answered 'You can tell us why you were crying, maybe we can help.'
"He told us that he was in big trouble from the local Baron. The Baron was marrying off his daughter in a month and wanted new fancy clothes for his entire family to wear for the occasion. Anyway he ordered the innkeeper to find an appropriate tailor but everyone he brought the Baron outright rejected.
"Now the Baron said that if he didn't come up with someone soon he'd throw him and his family in the street and rent the inn to someone else.
"So we told him that this was obviously the hand of G-d that brought us here because WE are tailors and WE will save him.
"At first he looked at us and cringed. I mean we didn't exactly look like royal tailors. But on the other hand he was desperate so he took us there.
"We took some measurements, made a few samples and well, the miracle happened. We got the job! The Baron liked our work!
"For the next month we worked day and night almost non-stop and the Baron was ecstatic with the results! In fact he was so happy that after the wedding he invited us to his official room and presented each of us with three hundred guilder!! But I wasn't happy.
"You see, someone told me that there was an entire Jewish family imprisoned in his dungeons because they couldn't pay their debts. I just couldn't sleep nights.
"So I asked him if it was true and he told me 'Those who cannot pay must suffer and with a gleam in his eye asked me if we would like to pay their debt? It was three hundred Guilder!!
"But my partner said he couldn't do it. He had a wife and family to feed and wasn't willing to give half of his earnings for people he didn't even know.
"I guess he was right but I just handed the Baron my three hundred guilder and begged him to set them free.
"The Baron was obviously impressed. He took the money, ordered his men to free the family, gave me a few guilders for the road, shook my hand and showed me to the door.
"Well, I went home penniless. Shmerl invested his money in a new shop and really did well, thank G-d. But I just couldn't seem to make ends meet and that's why I took to begging.
"Well a few weeks ago this rich man gave me a nice donation and asked for a blessing for some business he was beginning so I did it. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. Then a few days later he came back excited and told me that my blessing worked.
"Well, since then about fifty people come to me everyday and ask for blessings for all sorts of things and they give me charity. So I bless them. I guess I shouldn't do that, right Rabbi? I mean, who am I to bless people? So if you tell me to stop.. I'll stop, Rabbi.
The Baal Shem looked at Zalman with love and explained to him that the opposite was true; It was from the merit of his self-sacrifice that his blessings were effective and he wanted him to continue blessing. The Baal Shem even promised him that he would send him a special tutor to teach him Torah so he could help Jews even more.
Now to the speech of the Rebbe:
As part of a tour of New York the disabled Israeli veterans came to visit the Lubavicher Rebbe. Almost all of them were missing limbs and therefore earned the name "Nechay Tzahal" (literally disabled or 'lowered' soldiers), and all of them, were overjoyed to meet the Rebbe.
The Rebbe spoke to them about the difference between quantity and quality.
Quantity, he explained, is very important and certainly makes a difference. We see that much money or force certainly carries weight. But nevertheless one who possesses such quantitative wealth or power doesn't have anything new or unusual but rather an unusually large amount of what already exists.
But QUALITY is something else altogether. It doesn't depend on size or number but rather on something deeper more spiritual and more lasting and real.
In fact often smallness is an indication of some spiritual greatness.
For instance; G-d promised the Jewish people that (Deut. 7:7) "You are the smallest of all people.
The reason for this is that the Jews are a spiritual nation. Unlike all the others, the Jewish people have a special purpose in the world and if they were as large as the others they might overlook this special quality,
In other words G-d purposely made them lacking in Quantity in order to reveal their unique QUALITY.
"So it is true of you war veterans" the Rebbe said. "The reason G-d arranged things so that you are lacking physically (quantitatively) is because you must have some special, spiritual greatness you have to reveal. And this will not only compensate for your physical loss and help you but it will help others as well, and very possibly the entire world.
"Therefore", concluded the Rebbi, "I would like to suggest that from now on rather than calling you Disabled Veterans (n'chay Tzahal) you should be called DISTINGUISHED Veterans (M'tzu'yanai Tzahal)!
So this answers our questions. Josef had to be alone and the Maccabees over a thousand years later had to be outnumbered because only then would their unique powers and talents be revealed.
Just like Zalman the beggar in our story; his power to bless emerged only after he was squeezed. And so it was with the miraculous oil of that first Chanukah.
Olive oil in general comes only by squeezing (and for that reason the Jews are compared to it; it doesn't mix with other liquids etc.) but the first Chanukah oil came from an even greater self-squeezing; the self-sacrifice of the Maccabees.
So it is with our generation. We should never feel overwhelmed neither by the awesome task before us; to bring Moshiach who will bring blessing and meaning to the entire world, nor from the apparent difficulties we have doing it. Because those very odds and difficulties are only there to force us to reveal the powers, talents and blessings hidden within us.
And before we know it we will be witnessing the lighting of the Menora in the Third Temple with...
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