When Pharaoh dreams of seven fat cows and stalks of corn being consumed by their skinny counterparts, his court magicians explain that he will bear seven daughters, who will all die.
Yosef, on the other hand, interprets Pharaoh’s dreams with optimism and practicality. There will be good, and then there will be bad, but the latter, we can overcome.
For all of us trying to keep our heads above water and find meaning and hope during this period, through our daily heart-wrenching losses and constant thoughts of our hostages and our family members in combat, it is super-helpful to speak of the good and the bold miracles all around us.
Just as Joseph rose from the deepest pit of Pharaoh’s prison to become the Viceroy of Egypt within one day, on October 6th the Israeli people were in the deepest societal pit of our country’s short history, with antipathy and mistrust on all sides, and little hope in sight.
But overnight, our fate changed.
Simchat Torah morning, we awoke to horrors that on the one hand, remind us what our world would look like without a State of Israel.
But we also saw the galvanization of 120 % of our reserve soldiers – despite widely- publicized threats of the opposite occurring – including retired officers and young ultra-religious new recruits.
As we gathered on bases, climbed into tanks and planes, and began volunteering to support one another in unprecedented numbers (more than half of the population), we experienced a forgotten affinity – even love – for all the tribes of our People, and the distinctions of right and left, observant and less-observant, that dominated our worldviews the day before, became irrelevant for the time being.
World-wide, many of our brothers and sisters of all backgrounds felt an inexplicable spark of Jewish belonging. They showed up at rallies, donated money and suitcases of equipment and protein bars for IDF soldiers, and started seeking reliable news sources about this remarkable “citizens’ army” that was rising up like a lion against the indescribable barbarism of its enemies.
And for the first time in many years, our flag returned to being a symbol of pride for almost every Israeli.
While we still grasp very little of what is happening, this dramatic turnaround is clearly above nature.
For as our history has taught us – from the Tanach, through modern times — intense disunity amongst the People of \Israel brings attacks upon us from without. The direct consequence of internal hatred is הסתר פנים, Divine hiddenness, and the helplessness and heaviness that we feel today, as our enemies painfully remind us yet again that are essence is indeed One, despite our differences.
The encouraging response to this satanic undercurrent of antisemitism that is rearing its head, has been renewed pride in our Jewish identities, support for Israel, and in general, more connection to Jewish wisdom, practices, and values. Living, not only stating, that we are One People.
All that we are going through so reverberates in the final parshiot of Sefer Breishit that we are reading now, which bring us our earliest lessons of Jewish Peoplehood and mutual responsibility.
Of all the brothers, only Judah is able to convince Jacob to let Benjamin come down to Egypt with him, to save the family from starvation, because Judah promises: “אָנֹכִי אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ”
“I will be responsible for him.” (Breishit 43:9)
And while Joseph suffers terrible isolation in Egypt after being betrayed and sold by his brothers – which the names of his two sons poignantly reveal – he never abandons his Jewish identity or stops yearning for his family. His first question of his brothers, “Is our father still alive??” “Od Avinu Chai?”
The reunion of Jacob’s family, and their 70-member descent into Egypt, opens a painful chapter of darkness in Jewish history, but we emerge as a diverse, over 2-million strong People with an eternal, life-affirming destiny of bringing morality, light and holiness into our world.
Three thousand years later, this sense of passion and destiny is echoed in the messages of our brave, dedicated commanders and soldiers, who want only to win this war, eliminate Hamas and all threats to their Land and People.
Our hearts cannot contain the endless stories of heroism and sacrifice that fill the media, like the last letter home of young Ben Zusman z”l of Jerusalem, where he wrote: “I am happy and grateful for the privelege I will have to defend our beautiful Land and the Jewish People. Even if something happens to me, I do not want you to be sad. I was able to fulfill my dream and my destiny….I always said that if I must die it should be defending others and my country. Yerushalayim, our guards will protect you (quoting the song) – may the day come that I will be one of them.”
And my question is now, how can we merit their sacrifice?
I think firstly, we must internalize the importance of our Unity, as the greatest deterrent to future attacks upon us.
Secondly, we must relearn the value of Humility, to help us continue to love and respect one another, and to ensure that militarily, we are always awake, prepared and aware that our successes are a function of God’s blessing, not necessarily our military superiority.
Thirdly, we can no longer stutter about the need for Jewish Sovereignty throughout Israel. We need no longer ponder who can be trusted to preserve life and freedom for all of our citizens. The answer is clear.
And finally, we must understand that our radical Arab enemies – including the PA and Abu Mazzen who planned and financed the Munich massacres – are not interested in land, but in obliterating freedom and non-Muslim life throughout the West, not just in Israel.
Once we apply these lessons, the Jewish dreamer within each of us will surely overcome the darkness of our enemies, because Jewish history is not linear or circular, but a spiral.
I believe that this War, which should be renamed “Meishiv HaRuach” – the Revivor of our Spirit (as it began on the day we started praying for winter wind and rain) – is pushing us higher and closer to Redemption, the only true peace imaginable for our world.
And that we are each an integral part of this process.
Hoping that we can each work on ourselves as we support one another, take our unique, rightful seats on this blessed train of Jewish destiny, grab a shoulder in front of us, and not let go, until we arrive to a much better world, together.