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Parshas Vayigash - The Throw-Up Machine     5 Teves 5782

12/08/2021 12:06:55 PM


I was never sure as to why an amusement park was so named. I am curious as to who the amused would be: the spectators or the participants. For those who know me and my motion issues, I don’t think many of the rides are amusing at all! I guess there may be some activities that are fun. Perhaps a ride or two -such as the Ferris Wheel - would amuse me either from the ground or up in the air. For this article, I would say that I was never amused by these parks for a number of reasons. The Roller coaster, Carousel, Merry Go Round, Scrambler, and Tilt-A-Wheel are, for me, just advanced vomit machines that wreak havoc on my body. Why would I want to go on anything like that!

With that said, however, the term ‘roller coaster’ has often been used in the figurative sense about life. That which goes up must come down; life is a roller coaster with twists and turns, ups and downs. The challenge of life is to navigate through it all and not get sick when each of these challenging rides is over. An important lesson to contemplate is that at the amusement park an actual person is controlling the ride, observing all that is going on.  The roller coaster of life can be viewed as challenges, and at times crises which we need to get through.  Here are two vignettes of crisis, one from a few years ago and the other back to Biblical times.   

Jeff Immelt knows something about managing through crises. The former General Electric (GE) chief executive saw the industrial conglomerate through the post-9/11 period and the Great Financial Crisis. He released a book, Hot Seat, earlier this year, defending his leadership after the value of GE dropped by $170 billion during his 16-year tenure. Immelt, who is now a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, told Yahoo Finance he thought the experiences he retold in the book could be valuable to other leaders.

“In a crisis, you have to hold two truths: You have to know that things could always get worse, and at the same time, you have to have vision that there is going to be a future that you need to invest in, ”Immelt stated at Yahoo Finance’s ‘All Markets Summit’. Personally, I would say the opposite is also true: When things are good, they can get better, but we also must be mindful that things can turn for the worse. In life a person always needs to have forward and rear-view vision, looking toward the future while learning from the past. In every generation, and in every person’s personal life you have to hold on to these truths. This is particularly poignant during and after a pandemic which, for the first time in over a century, has spread with the speed of jet travel, continuing to morph, in ways that rivet humankind world-wide. A positive outlook toward a brighter future is essential.

Yosef was the greatest CFO. He weathered the economic storm in Egypt and lead them through the famine. His brilliant insight and vision to store up food from the years of plenty for the years of famine required discipline, coordination, and great planning. Through all of this, he was dealing with a difficult family situation, requiring navigation that would have repercussions until the end of time. Yosef balanced the need to see his brothers repent with his burning desire to reveal his true identity. Yosef was not only an economic genius but also a true family man. He knew when to give it up and reveal his true identity and how to explain the entire situation that needed to happen. The commonality between GE and Yosef’s control of Egypt is that they both experienced the good times first and then the down times. The English actor and activist Jeremy Irons said, "We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams." Only to be topped off by the famous baseball player and manager, Joe Torre,  who quipped, "Unless you have bad times, you can't appreciate the good times."  

In this week’s Parshas Vayigash after the brothers became aware that Yosef was still alive, the Torah states in Bereishis 45:23 "ולאביו שלח כזאת עשרה חמרים נשאים מטוב מצרים, ועשר אתנת נשאת בר ולחם ומזון לאביו לדרך"  “[Yoseph] sent the following to his father: Ten male donkeys, loaded with Egypt’s finest products, as well as ten female donkeys, loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father’s journey.” Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter,** also known as the Imrei Emes, would always show people a particular vort (word) of the Mahara”l. The passuk tells us that Yosef sent to his father ten donkeys. The Mahara”l asks what is the significance of the number ten? Why exactly ten donkeys? The Mahara” l explains that Yosef was telling his father not to be angry at the ten brothers; it wasn’t in their control. Just as a donkey is controlled by its owner, so too the brothers did what they did because of the decree in heaven. Yosef was telling his father, “Do not be upset at the brothers for selling me.” With the ten donkeys, Yosef was implying to his father that what they did was not in their control. Donkeys just act the way their master directs them to; so too the brothers were only being directed by Hashem. Donkeys do not know the reason of their mission; they just go.  Yosef was sending this hint to his father. Telling Yaakov that he should not be upset or angry at them for they were no better than donkeys. The Mahara” l go on to explain “carrying of the best of Mitzrayim” was the reason for the decree in the first place. The design play was to bring Yaakov down to Egypt/Mitzrayim so that the Jews would leave Egypt with a lot of wealth. But the point we need to get into our heads - and more so our hearts - is that everything is controlled by Hashem. We need to send this message to ourselves…When we get hurt by someone, understand that he, the perpetrator, is being controlled by God, and we probably did something to deserve a certain kind punishment.

Yosef’s vision was toward the future and to not relish over the past. Yosef had just finished trying to convince his brothers that he does not blame them; he holds no grudge against them. Now he needs to convince his father of the same. It is one thing for Yosef to forgive his brothers, but Yosef could not forgive his brothers on behalf of his father who suffered greatly because of the sale. Therefore, Yosef needs to convince his father to let go, to forgive his sons for selling Yosef. The sales pitch was the analogy of the ten donkeys and with that Yakov would forgive his sons for what they did to Yosef and the pain and anguish they caused him.

The ups and downs and all of the uncertainty was now cleared up. Yakov is prepared to reunite and have Klal Yisroel come together. So to, if we would only realize everything is from Hashem, it would ultimately bring the Jewish people of today, the children of Yakov all together again.


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


**Avraham Mordechai Alter Hebrew: אברהם מרדכי אלתר‎‎; 25 December 1865 – 3 June 1948), also known as the Imrei Emes after the works he authored, was the fourth Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, a position he held from 1905 until his death in 1948.

Wed, January 19 2022 17 Shevat 5782