Vayeishev Batmitzvah

D'var Torah

by Jasmine

Rabbi Hackenbroch, Gila, Rabbi Wayland, Suzanne, Chazan Alexander, family and friends. Shabbat Shalom, happy almost Channukah and welcome to my Bat Mitzvah celebration. I thank you all for making the journey to Woodside Park shul today.

 

Today we will be celebrating my Bat Mitzvah. We translate Bat Mitzvah as daughter of commandments.

Until now, my parents have been responsible for all the things I have done wrong. However, from today I am officially obligated to follow the 613 Mitzvot / commandments of the Torah and I am now responsible for my own choices and behaviour.

 

Traditionally, Bat Mitzvah girls speak about their weekly Torah portion or in Hebrew - their Parasha. My Parasha is called Vayeishev.

 

Vayeishev happens to be a Parasha that means a lot to me. My Grandpa leined this Parasha many years ago at his Bar Mitzvah and I am really honoured that he was able to lein his Haftora again today for my special day. As well as that, my Grandma's maiden name was Joseph before it was Gelbier, and in light of this - I feel truly honoured to be speaking about Vayeishev. Andrew Lloyd Webber has made the events of my Parasha rather popular and I am sure you have all heard of the famous theatre production of Joseph. Today, I shall be acquainting you with some of the valuable lessons we can learn from Yoseph, the main character in our Parasha.

I now ask you all to come on a short journey with me through the epic and adventurous story of Vayeishev.

Vayeishev famously begins with Yaakov and all of his family who were settled in Canaan. Of all his 12 sons, Yaakov favoured his second youngest son Yoseph, who was the firstborn of his most beloved wife Rachel.

 

Yaakov made for him a coat of many colours. Yoseph's eleven brothers were extremely jealous of the favouritism that their father displayed towards their brother Yoseph.

 

Yoseph then has two dreams. One dream involved eleven sheaves of corn bowing down to one sheave of corn in the middle. The second dream was of eleven stars bowing down to the one majestic moon. The next day Yoseph skips to his eleven brothers and tells them all about his two dreams - which both very obviously imply that he would eventually rule over his brothers. This increased the 11 brother's jealousy and hatred. The brothers seek revenge and strip Yosef of his coat of many colours and throw him in a pit full of snakes and scorpions. Upon Yehuda's advice, they subsequently sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan traveling to Egypt, who in turn, sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh's chief butcher. The brothers then take Yoseph's coat of many colours and dip it in blood. They present this blood-soaked coat to their father in order to fake Yoseph's death. Yaakov cries a powerful cry and remains a sad and mournful man for over twenty-two years.

 

Yoseph's adventures then take a new turn. Within Egypt, Yoseph gets accused of attacking a lady of the palace called Potiphera. This results in Yoseph being thrown into an Egyptian prison. In the prison he meets a butler and a baker. They then tell him their dreams and he interprets them and accurately determines their fate.

That is pretty much where Vayeishev ends.

 

There are many important life lessons we can learn from this celebrated and exciting Parasha. However, I have chosen to focus on the recurring and very significant theme of Jealousy.

 

The problem of jealousy is an important and repeated theme in the Torah.

 

The story of Cain and Abel is about jealousy. The story of King Saul and King David is about jealousy. And of course, our story of Yoseph and his brothers is about jealousy.

 

It is interesting to note that the Torah devotes so much of its ink to the dangers of jealousy - Why is that? Well it's because human beings have to deal with jealousy, day in, day out, year after year, for all of their lives. Jealousy is not necessarily about material objects - rather it's about people.

 

Allow me to explain, Yoseph's brothers did not get into a fit of jealous rage because they particularly wanted a coat of many colours, they were jealous because Yoseph got a special coat from their father, and they didn't.

A modern day example of this can be seen among a group of children in a restaurant. They are sat down at a table and there is a container of toothpicks in the centre of the table. The toothpicks are totally ignored as they discuss the menu. but then, one of the children decides to take a toothpick, and suddenly all the other children are crying for toothpicks.

 

Now trust me on this; 6-year-olds and 8-year-olds don't need toothpicks. So why did they want toothpicks all of a sudden? Because the others had toothpicks and they didn't.

 

The Midrash tells a story of just how foolish Jealousy can make us.

 

In this story there are two people; one extremely envious and the other a pleasure seeker. Satan comes to them and says "I will give one of you a wish for whatever you want, and you will get it, but only on the condition that whatever you get, the other man will get twice as much". They were both arguing over who should have the wish because neither of them wanted the other person to have more. Finally, the envious man said that he would take the wish. He didn't know what to wish for though... He thought of wishing for a big house, but he couldn't face the other man getting a bigger house. He thought he could get a million pounds - but he couldn't face the other man getting two million pounds. In the end he decided the wish should be to take one of his eyes out, knowing that the other man would lose both of his eyes.

 

The Midrash shows us just how twisted we can become when we are jealous. The Ten Commandments are the essentials of Judaism and the 10th Commandments is, "Don't be jealous of your neighbour's wife, or his donkey, or any of his possessions."

 

Is this a fundamental principle of Judaism?

 

If a person is jealous of someone else's donkey, he can't be a good Jew? If a person is jealous of someone else's car, he can't be a good Jew? If a person is jealous of someone else's I-pad, he can't be a good Jew? So why did G-d include jealousy in the Ten Commandments, along with faith in G-d, serving idols and keeping Shabbat?

 

Rabbi Frand asks - Is it really so fundamental to Judaism?

 

The answer is a definite yes... Jealousy is the exact opposite of faith. "Don't be jealous", tells us that G-d controls the World. Don't be jealous of your neighbour's wife because the wife Hashem gave to you , is the one He wants you to have as a life partner. Don't be jealous of your neighbour's house because the house Hashem gave to you, is the one in which He wants you to live in. Don't be jealous of your neighbour's donkey because that donkey is meant to be that person's donkey not yours and don't be jealous of your neighbours I-pad or car, because everything Hashem gave you is what He wants you to have.

 

The Pirkei Avot famously asks "who is happy" and answers "someone who is happy with their lot". From here we can deduce that if you are not happy with your lot, you are an unhappy person.

 

We therefore see that jealousy lies at the root of most people's unhappiness.

 

If we believe Hashem knows what is best for us, there is simply no room for jealousy or unhappiness.

Thank G-d, I have been blessed with so many wonderful possessions and people that I can be thankful and happy for.

 

I am extremely lucky to have all my grandparents living near by and the support of my family who I love very much. And every week, I look forward to Friday night when we all get together for our Shabbat meal.

 

And as for me, I have just started at JFS. I have lots of friends and I am really enjoying myself there. I particularly like art and I am always finding ways to be creative at home. When I'm relaxing, I love playing with my little dog Snoopy and taking him for walks. As I become an adult I want to focus on my Jewish Identity and continue to learn as much as I can about Judaism. At school I really enjoy Jewish studies and I am proud to be in Set One of the text programme. I also enjoy attending the Youth Service, B'nai Akiva and One-to-One here at Woodside Park Shul every Shabbat and I hope to further strengthen my identity by touring Israel with my school in Year 9.

Mum and Dad, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being wonderful parents and always being around for me and my brothers. You have taught me right from wrong, how to be giving and caring and that I can achieve anything that I set my heart on.

 

Also, I would like to thank Miss Green for helping me write my D'var Torah. You are a fun teacher and I have looked forward to our in-depth discussions each week.

 

Finally, I would like to wish everyone here a life full of all the things they want and need, without jealousy... and in turn, a life full of happiness.

 

Thank you all for listening. Shabbat Shalom.

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