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NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE

by Elly Berlin    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"This is going to hurt me more than it is you," exclaimed the father as he neared his teenage son. Cringing in fear, the boy backed closer and closer to the wall behind him. His father continued to approach and that made him even more afraid.

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"This is going to hurt me more than it is you," exclaimed the father as he neared his teenage son. Cringing in fear, the boy backed closer and closer to the wall behind him. His father continued to approach and that made him even more afraid. With his next step, the youngster hit the wall behind him and now had no place else to go. With only about a foot between them, the dad extended his hand toward his boy, at which point the boy screamed out "Iím sorry dad. Iíll never do it again. I promise. I will follow all the rules this time. I really mean it."

Children are notorious for longing to do the opposite of what their parents ask of them. Parents generally make rules to protect their children and to teach them right from wrong. When the children repeatedly violate such rules and ignore friendly warnings, parents must sometimes resort to harsh disciplinary action in order to protect their children in the long run.

Sadly, a similar tune can be sung about the children of Israel. Hashem has provided us with an extensive set of rules and regulations by which to live our lives. Throughout Jewish history one can make the observation that a cycle exists whereby when Jews become wealthy, comfortable, and free of oppression in a culture outside of Torah Judaism, we begin to assimilate and leave Hashem behind. During these times we are warned repeatedly, but our eyes and ears are closed to such warnings because we are too comfortable and donít want change. Finally, left with no other option, Hashem is forced to utilize harsher disciplinary tools to knock us back on track.

In this weekís Torah portion we see the Jews becoming very comfortable in the land of Egypt. They begin to develop wealth and political power, and, in fact, our man Joseph is second in command. This makes us very comfortable and so we begin to assimilate in Egypt; the free superpower of the known world. This big mistake comes to a rapid halt when a younger Pharaoh (lets call him Pharaoh W.) comes to power and slaps us with the firstóand longestóbaseless persecution of the Jewish nation in history.

Looking back at the festival Chanukah, one can say that the real tragedy in that story was not that Antioches tried to prevent the Jews from observing their religion, but that so many Jews didnít even care. In that story, even though we lived in Israel, we became so assimilated into Greek culture that we forgot our roots, and our covenant with G-d.

Over the past few months, many articles and discussions have professed how wonderful it might have been had another Joseph, Senator Lieberman, assumed the second-in-command position here in the United States. For some, however, the thought spooked an eerie episode of deja vu.

Here we are in America, the free superpower of the world, no restrictions on our religious observance, wealthy and powerful, and only a small fraction of Jews continue to observe the commandments. Here we are again, over-assimilating in a country outside of Israel, in a culture outside of Judaism.

We should not allow ourselves to feel totally free in this country or safe just because we have financial might and political power here. History has proven to us that we are not truly safe and secure unless we hold up our end of the covenant bargain.

What will be truly wonderful for the Jews is when we become united as one G-d fearing nation, living Jewish lives in our homeland, celebrating the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, the holy Temple. Until then, may Hashem sweeten the words of Torah in our mouths and in the mouths of His people, the family of Israel, no matter where they live.

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Elly Berlin is finishing chiropractic school in Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Parshat Vayigash articles.

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