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FAMILY MATTERS

by Pierce Landis    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"And Israel said, "How great! My son Joseph still lives! I shall go and see him before I die" (Genesis 45:28).

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"And Israel said, "How great! My son Joseph still lives! I shall go and see him before I die" (Genesis 45:28).

Jacob had one goal in life; he wanted to raise a perfect family. This is all he wanted to do because he knew that he was the father of the Jewish people, and he wanted the entire nation to be perfect. Jacob defined life in spiritual terms. He felt that a perfect family was one in which every son grew to be a spiritual man who was well ve rsed in the ways of Hashem. When Jacob found out that Joseph was still alive in Egypt, he was not only happy because he was physically alive, or that he had become a rich man with much status, but he was happy that Joseph had not forgotten the Torah. Joseph still kept the mitzvot of the Torah just as Jacob had done while he was in the service of Laban.

One of the reasons why both Jacob and Joseph were able to emerge from their solitary exile is described by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, a great Torah leader and scholar of the past generation. Before Jacob left to serve Laban, he learned the Torah of exile at the Academy of Shem and Eiver. Jacob, through divine prophecy, knew that Joseph would one day be in exile himself, so he singled him out to teach him the lessons of Shem and Eiver. Jacob was ecstatic to find out that Joseph had remembered what he had learned. Jacob felt that if he could see that Joseph was indeed still emulating the Torah as he did when he left home twenty-two years earlier, his duty in life would have been fulfilled and he could pass away happily. He was even willing to leave the land of Canaan and go to Egypt to see this, even though he knew that his descendants would one day be aliens and slaves in a strange land and that this may be the beginning of their galut (exile).

Jacob did not live in the 20th century, nor did he think like a 20th century parent. Many parents in this generation judge the success of their family by money, secular education, or status in society rather than wisdom in Torah or spirituality. Parents often say with pride, "My child is a third year Harvard Law student," or "My child is a member of a big ten firm." Not enough parents in our generation say, "My child just celebrated the completion of a tractate of Talmud the other day," or "My child carefully adheres to the mitzvah of tzedakah (charity)." The latter is how we should perceive success.

In Parshat Vayeitzei , Jacob said, "If Hashem will be with me, will guard me on this way that I am going; will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear; and I return in peace to my father's house" (Genesis 28:20). What Jacob meant by this is that as long as he had his basic earthly necessities, he did not need anything else. His whole life would be dedicated to serving Hashem. When we stay focused on the spiritual part of our lives, worldly matters mean very little.

The patriarchs are our examples. We should attempt to live our lives the same way they lived theirs. Jacob judged the success of his family based on their spirituality. For this reason, we should do the same. In this week's Torah portion, we learn the standards by which we should judge our families. The 613 mitzvot were commandments, not suggestions. Everything else is icing on the cake.

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Pierce Landis, a native Atlantan, is currently serving as the Grand Aleph Gadol (International President) of the Aleph Zadik Aleph of B'nai B'rith, and will be attending Yeshiva University in the Fall.

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