Vayigash - weekly Torah portion

December 14, 2018

Joseph cannot hold back anymore. His brothers who do not yet recognize him tell him the tale of their lost brother presumed dead, the brother who is actually Joseph himself. So he orders, “’Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” He is very touched by this occasion and despite of his high position, only second to the Pharaoh, he wept uncontrollably. He wept so loudly “that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.” Joseph turns to his brothers and says, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” but the brothers “could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.” A moment ago they were still trying to tell the story of the loss of their brother, presumed dead, and now he is here before them calling, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” Drama at it’s very best.

 

Still, there is something troubling in this description. Something is not quite right. One of the most important persons of the land is there standing alone with a group of foreigners whom he just accused of stealing a sliver cup. He also begins weeping, so loud that it can be heard outside. Surprisingly none of these Egyptians outside responds to this crisis. They have no idea what is happening inside – they hear it but do not respond. Joseph asked them to leave the room and they obey. The crying session continues, “he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them”. Lots of weeping is taking place here but there is no intervention whatsoever. All this ends somehow “when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants.”

 

This time everything ends well and everyone is happy. They heard the sounds of weeping, they did not know what has exactly happened, but they kept their distance, they did not wish to get involved. Many people do that, it may come natural to human beings, not paying attention to the difficulties and miseries of the other, but it is also not necessarily good. Unfortunately it does not end with these Egyptians not paying attention to what is happening nearby, the possibility that there is someone out there who is in danger. Did we not hear of tens of women who were murdered just this past year? How often could these acts of murder be prevented if we paid attention in real time? The very fact that we hear but do not listen is the problem. The voices are deep, they are loud, they are there, but are we listening? Maybe they are for us just the whisper of the waves as they come and go, and disappear.

 

We ought, we must, think differently. When we hear someone weeping we must pay attention and listen. Once we listen we must internalize and when necessary respond, act, and influence. In this coming year there will be elections to the Knesset of the State of Israel. Once again we shall be called to cast our vote in favor of one party or another. As is well-known, the Israel Reform Movement is non-partisan and does not identify with any particular political party running to the Knesset. On the other hand we do believe that it is essential that members of the IMPJ will not be bystanders in this democratic process but partake in it. This also includes registering with a Zionist party running for a seat in the Knesset. Such registration allows registrants to influence the party’s agenda in areas that are near and dear to the Reform Movement. It is an opportunity to voice our opinions in a wide array of topics.

 

The bylaws of the Movement have been changed in order to enable us to encourage our members to register and take part in the important partisan work, each person and the party they prefer to support. We do request that once there our members bring forwards topics and issues that forward our core values so that the elected MKs (members of Knesset) will have to listen to them, understand and act upon them. We shall not make recommendations as to which party one should join but we will provide the necessary information so that our members are well equipped with the necessary knowledge to forward our common agenda. For this matter we shall be making available a new website where you will be able to register so that we can provide you with relevant and effective information and materials. We do not want to find ourselves after the elections falling on each other’s necks and crying, once the election results are made known. These elections will take place this coming year, earlier or later, it does not matter. What does matter is what we will be doing between now and then so let us get started.

 

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 14 December 2018, 4 Tevet, 5779

 

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