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Parshas Mikeitz / Chanukah - Stop Being the Dreidel and Just Look Up   29 Kislev 5782

12/03/2021 09:04:58 AM


Well, welcome to the shopping season of the year. Businesses and marketers have been hard at work for months preparing to lure the lookers and turn them into shoppers and buyers. The world over, especially here in the United States, have commercialized every possible day of the calendar to sell something. Whether it is a religious holiday, a national historic day or someone’s birthday, ’can’t miss sales events where ongoing huge discounts can be used to buy things that we desperately do not need.

On-line shopping has increased greatly, especially during the pandemic. Although people are slow to return to the stores, in-person shopping is picking up as shoppers enjoy the experience of “going” shopping. The ability to try on, see in person, feel the material, and sometimes smell the fragrances enhance the shopping experience. Speaking of feeling, merchandise can also refer to food items. On-line grocery shopping is at an all-time high, benefiting the population who may not have transportation or are unable to enter the stores. The young working class, who would rather spend time on other things other than feeling the fruit and waiting online at a register, have also become ardent online grocery shoppers.  Now I must interject when mentioning feeling of merchandise. In today’s clothing business, there is so much synthetic material that it is actually difficult to determine fabric quality. My father, who graduated from the Philadelphia School of Textile*** or Philadelphia Textile Institute, was able to close his eyes, feel a piece of material, and not only tell you the type of fabric, but even fabric blends. He could tell the percentage of how much of each kind of material was in it. This skill has no value when shopping online.

My personal clothing shopping habits are almost non-existent. Occasionally, I will go to the mall with my wife or, when vacationing, will end up in some type of women’s clothing store. I typically will find myself standing there for hours feeling very uncomfortable. Some high-end stores are brilliant as they strategically place comfortable chairs and couches near racks of clothing so the men can sit while the women shop.   I recall a saying from my Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Wein at my wedding. Rabbi Wein was supposed to be the M’Sader Kiddushin (to officiate) as per the custom. He readily agreed but warned me that he would be flying in that very day from Chicago. With a winter storm that day Rabbi Wein was delayed, and we tried to push off the Chuppah as long as we could, but eventually my uncle (a seasoned Rabbi) stepped in. My uncle, known for enjoying speaking opportunities, gave a rather lengthy message under the wedding canopy. By the time he concluded, Rabbi Wein arrived. Rabbi Wein proceeded to speak. His famous opening words rang out, “It is cruel and unusual punishment for a Chosson and Kallah to have to listen one drasha under the Chuppah, let alone to have to listen to two!” I readily modified this quote to those times spent shopping with my wife: It is cruel and unusual punishment to have to accompany my wife to go shopping in the first place and have to pay for it as well!

But after learning the following piece of Torah, I questioned myself as to what was the real reason for my feeling so uncomfortable, and, more importantly, who was the cause of it?

In this week’s Parshas Mikeitz the verse says that Yosef told his brothers “…and you will be free to circulate the land”. The Torah states in Bereishis 42:34 "והביאו את אחיכם אלי ואדעה כי לא  מרגלים אתם כי כנים אתם, את אחיכם אתן לכם ואת הארץ תסחרו"  “Bring your youngest brother back to me. Then I will know that you are honorable men and not spies. I will give your brother back to you, and you will be able to do business in [our] land”. Rashi”, on the words, “And in the land you shall trade or do business”, (תסחרו denotes) ‘you shall go around’. Similarly, the words סוחרים   (merchants) and סחורה  (merchandise) (are called so) because the merchants go around looking for merchandise. Rashi elaborates that the word Tischaru comes from the word socher, which means a merchant, ‘tischaru’ means to look for merchandise, and Eretz Tischaru means you may travel around in the land. Rashi explains the same word for merchant and commerce is based on the fact that merchants travel around looking for merchandise. The word ‘schora’ in Aramaic means going around and around, circulating. Therefore, the reason a merchant is called a ‘socher’ is because he travels around. However, this Rashi is a bit difficult to understand. The question begs to be asked, is traveling around the primary objective of a merchant? The primary objective of a merchant is to make money! Yet, a merchant is called a ‘socher’ only because he travels around. Shouldn’t the word for a merchant describe the actual business the merchant is conducting? There are many people who travel around but are not doing so for business! However, this is exactly Rashi’s point. All the merchant does is travel around; it is Hashem who provides the money. The merchant just travels around, nothing more nothing less. We are not the ones generating our income; it is all from above.

On Chanukah we spin the dreidel, and, when it is our turn, as the dreidel spins, we hope we get a gimmel, but when our opponent spins, we hope for a shin. Just as the dreidel spins, Hashem decides what letter it lands on, so too with our business and shopping. All we need to do is spin the dreidel, nothing more. We have to remember that, like the dreidel, nothing turns down here on earth unless it is being turned upon from on High. If it is not being turned up there, nothing happens down here. We go through so much anguish trying to find the right prices and the best bargains while forgetting it is all up to Hashem to decide. True, it is important to make Hishtadlus, to make an effort in all that we do. But sometimes we just spin around too much, thinking that if we spin and turn and go and do a little more it will come out better for us.

So I have come to the conclusion that it is my shortcoming… and a little lack of faith in the shopping business. The dreidel is spun from the top to remind us that everything comes from above, even the anxiety we may bring upon ourselves. If I have to stand around and pay for the shopping, I need to feel the Bracha/Blessing from above that I have the ability to do so.

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


***Philadelphia University’s roots trace back to the 1876 Centennial Exposition, where local textile manufacturers noticed that Philadelphia's textile industry was falling behind its rivals' capacity, technology, and ability. In 1880, they formed the Philadelphia Association of Manufacturers of Textile Fabrics, with Theodore C. Search as its president. Search joined the board of directors of the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art thinking it the perfect partner for his plans for a school and began fundraising in 1882. In early 1884, Search himself taught the first classes at the Philadelphia Textile School, which officially opened on November 5, 1884. In 1942, the Philadelphia Textile School was granted the right to award baccalaureate degrees and changed its name to the Philadelphia Textile Institute (PTI). In 1961, it changed its name to Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

Wed, January 19 2022 17 Shevat 5782