This is the video of my D'var Torah from Monday on Parshat Mikeitz. I've included the text that I wrote as well.
Whatever happened to that cousin you used to be close with? What about
your neighbor you spent so many summers with? What is going on in the
life of that guy you sat next to in Biology 101 Freshman year? As our lives
progress, it is easy to lose track of these people. Thanks to websites like
Facebook, it is easy to think that you are still connected to these people,
but are you really?
Imagine what your “Year In Israel” would have been like 10 years ago?
What about 20 years ago? With our hectic course load, field trips, trumah
projects, committee meetings, and additional responsibilities ON TOP OF
being thousands of miles away from home would have been very stressful.
Especially without reliable contact back home. What about before phones,
telegrams or post?
Joseph finds himself miles away from home with a completely new life. He
has a wife, two kids and on top of that, the stressful job of providing food for
all of Egypt during massive famine! He has no contact with his family and
claims to not remember them at all.
I hate to admit it, but earlier this year I fell into a similar trap. I’m not
comparing the stresses of HUC to the stresses of being in charge of
Pharaoh’s household and foodstuffs in all of Egypt, but it was easy to
quickly catch up with people back home. I would just chat with people
on facebook for a few minutes and then rush back to homework. I got
pretty good at typing, “We’ll catch up more later,” or “Can I talk to you next
Then, two weeks ago I realized I needed to make a change.
After Havdallah, I was on the phone with my mom. She told me that she
had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is the first time in my adult
life that I have been forced to face the mortality of someone I love. While
thinking about the possibility of losing someone at any moment, I realized
that I need to be better at staying in touch with people stateside. The good
news is that I have a second chance. The prognosis is that eventually she
will be healthy.
Since then, I have been making a conscious effort to keep up on people’s
lives. This was an tough way to learn this lesson, although often it takes
a shock to wake us up to something that is wrong. Instead of waiting for
something like this to happen to you, you can learn from Joseph.
After more than 20 years without seeing his family, nine of Joseph’s
brothers arrive at his doorstep. The Torah describes reunion from Joseph’s
“Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them.”
This should be enough, he sees his brothers and recognizes them. It’s not.
The very next passuk says again;
“And Joseph knew his brothers.”
Why does Joseph see and then recognize his brothers AND LATER know
Ibn Ezra attempts to explain this,
“From the start he recognized that they were his brothers, and afterwards
he looked at each one and recognized him…’”
Joseph saw the men and very quickly recognized them as his brothers. But
it was only after taking the time to closely look at each one that he was able
to remember who they truly were. It takes a lot of work to establish a close
relationship, but even more to repair a broken one.
As you can imagine, Joseph is shaken by this experience, and he notices
that his full brother, Benjamin, is missing. In order that rest will bring
Benjamin to Egypt, Joseph devises a plan, imprisons his brother Simeon
and tells the rest that they are never to return without their youngest
The nine brothers return to Canaan with their food. But the famine persists
and they are hungry again. After a long discussion, Israel allows them to go
to Egypt with Benjamin. When they arrive to Joseph, he sees Benjamin and
“‘Is this your youngest brother you told me about?’
And he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son!’
“Then Joseph hurried (from them) because he was stirred by his
compassion for his brother that he wanted to weep, and he went to his
chamber and wept there.”
I believe that Joseph is not only weeping in compassion for his brother.
There is more to it than that. He is also weeping because he regrets
not being there for Benjamin as he grew up, and because Joseph is
overwhelmed with happiness for the opportunity to connect with him at this
Remembering to stay connected is important, especially when you are
busy. This is also something we need to keep in mind. We have all chosen
a career path that, like Joseph’s, will take us far away from our families and
friends. It has the potential to use every last ounce of our energy and every
second of our time. We will need to remember to make time for our friends
and family. Even though, as Ibn Ezra points out, it takes time and effort to
do so. It is easy to think that “Stop ‘n chats”, or a quick Facebook message
are enough, but they really are not.
If you do not put forth the effort, you might not be as lucky as Joseph.
There might not be a day, 20 years later, when you can reconnect with
someone. They might not be there. So why let them drift from your life in
the first place?