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Parshas Vayigash - The End Is Just The Beginning From the Other Side                                10 Teves 5784

12/22/2023 09:46:46 AM


Have you ever seen the inside of a tube of toothpaste? I would imagine most people have not, but I have. I guess I am not like most people. Reading this little quip, you may ask why anyone would even care to look, want to see inside a used tube of toothpaste? Well, I didn’t take a flashlight and attempt to merely ‘look’ through the opening of the tube.  I carefully sliced down the side of the tube and spread it open. I didn’t do this simply to ’see’ what was inside, but rather to scoop out every bit of the remaining toothpaste stuck to the lining of the tube (or now no longer a tube but a flat surface) in order not to waste a single bit of the toothpaste. I guess you could call me rather frugal.

I’m sure everyone is aware that within our well-stocked pantries there are several goods we use in our daily lives that are never completely used up. A few weeks ago, one of my children gave me a “nachas call”. Perhaps this constitutes TMI (too much information), but when a shampoo bottle appears to be empty, I simply add a little bit of water and shake up the bottle to extract every drop of left-over shampoo.  My son learned this wonderful trick from me, and highest compliment of all, his daughter/my granddaughter told her friends that… “we never have to buy shampoo because my Abba always makes more”. My mother a”h would never just throw out a jar or a can of food without putting in some water or other liquid ingredient and swoosh it around, pouring the remaining contents into a pot of something she was cooking. I fondly remember my mother a”h putting water into the cranberry sauce can and into the Heinz chili sauce bottle when making sweet and sour meatballs. This ‘need’ to use up every drop of food also includes squeezing out every last bit of mustard from the squeeze bottles, mayonnaise jars, and, of course, getting all the crumbs out of the bottom of a cereal bag. It also includes cutting every bit of apple from its core – too good to waste! There are even some household items that most people just discard, such as the last few squares of toilet paper glued to the roll which can be carefully removed without ripping, to be used in the future.  Those of us who still use that old fashioned item called ‘soap bars’ may have a collection of little pieces of soap which never get fully used up. What an insult to the soap! Hey, if they never get used up why does the manufacturer sell the full bar to you! Maybe the bar should just be smaller if we’re not going to use up the whole thing!

Surely there are items that are downright impossible to remove every single last particle, but for most items, such as a bottle of ketchup, all one needs to do is turn it upside down and slowly let gravity do its magic. In 1987, The H. J. Heinz Company in an advertising campaign promoted its Heinz brand of tomato ketchup within the United States with a slogan, “The best things come to those who wait". In essence this was a similar advertisement to the Maxwell House coffee slogan:…“good to the last drop”.

The fact that most people just discard the remaining product is due to several factors:  people don’t have the time or patience to do this. After all, time is money. Perhaps a greater reason is because people have adjusted to a throw-away mentality. It’s virtually empty, I’ll just open a new container and not bother with some insignificant amount of product. This is a direct cause and effect of the wealthy society we live in today. But why is it that just because we have more it seems to mean we can dispose of some of the leftovers from a previously opened container? I am sure during the Great Depression people would literally shake out the last drop of orange juice from the glass bottle. I have repeatedly been told that we are not living through a depression, Thank God! Nevertheless, why can’t we  take a few seconds to use up and conserve our resources? I have a hunch that there was a time in history when most people may have done exactly what I do.

In this week’s Parshas Vayigash the Torah states in Bereishis 45:7 "וישלחני אלוקים לפניכם לשום לכם שארית בארץ, ולהחיות לכם לפליטה גדולה"  “God has sent me ahead of you to insure that you survive in the land and to keep you alive through such extraordinary means”. The word ‘shearis’, loosely translated here as ‘survive’, is derived from the word ‘sh’ar’ or leftover. Others translate the passuk as “And God sent me before you to give you a remnant on the earth, and to save you, to keep you alive, for a great deliverance”.  Yosef, with his great Chochma/wisdom, devised a system for weathering out the storm of the famine by saving and storing from the fat years for the lean years. In fact, before the plan of Yosef was implemented, he advised Pharoah of what he was going to do. At that point Pharoah gave Yosef the name ‘Tzofnas Paneach’.  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan explains that in Egyptian, Tzaphnath is tza-pa-neth, meaning “the Neth speaks” or “the god speaks. Paaneach is ‘pa-anakh, meaning ”the life”. Anach or anakh is the symbol of life. Hence, the name Pharoah gave Yosef - ‘Tzofnas Paneach’- can be translated as, “Lord of life”.

Yosef understood that every drop of resource would be necessary to ride out the years of famine. I am sure, I guarantee, that Yosef did not waste or discard even the smallest bit of grain that could be collected and stored. Perhaps in Egyptian homes and in surrounding areas there was waste of precious produce during the years of plenty. People could never imagine a time when they would be without. Nevertheless, I am sure many had regret about throwing out, discarding food and ”stuff” that could have been used or stored for the future. People have a tendency to trivialize the small, seemingly insignificant articles in life. Yet we hear and read about Yaakov Avinu going back and risking his life for ‘Pachim Ketanim’ – for some small worthless jugs that were almost empty. The Torah testifies about Yaakov’s demeanor which, in turn, shows us the importance of small items or small remnants of items that are still useful.

I know people reading this will think how frugal the Rabbi is. As true as that may be, we still owe it to ourselves to recognize there is no difference in quality between the last swirl of toothpaste and that very first squirt paste that oozes out of a brand new tube. I know that Hashem will bless us with more if we treat all of that which He provides us with respect, care and appreciation. One way we can demonstrate that is by using all of what He gave us, even the last swab of toothpaste!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784