A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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As Joseph and our ancestors did, we keep the dream alive


And removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; and he had him dressed in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.” (Genesis 41:42)

Joseph arrived in Egypt as a slave and rose to the second in command of the most powerful country of its time. This portion is a story of darkness transformed into light.

From prison to power, he owed his success to God. As soon as Joseph became successful, he dressed as an Egyptian man. His outer robes told who he was, and yet he struggled with his inner identity. Upon meeting his brothers, he had to confront the disparity between his heritage and who he had become. His own brothers did not recognize him. It would have been so easy for Joseph to forget his past. He had already reaped the success of the golden chain.

Are we are entrenched by the very same golden chain? We must ask ourselves how we balance the world of living as Jewish souls and as Americans. Joseph kept a constant reminder with him. The golden chain that he wore was perhaps the heaviest of all the ornaments he wore. As American Jews, we wear our golden chain proudly. How do we move between two worlds?

Pharaoh recognizes that Joseph is “a man in whom is the spirit of God.” Pharaoh changes his name, marries and has two sons. He lives his life steadfastly, guiding the people of Egypt through seven years of plenty and time of famine. “So, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to procure rations, for the famine had become severe throughout the world.”

Adin Steinsaltz wrote, “From being a dreamer of dreams, Joseph became the person of the dream … as a burden and a responsibility and a course of action from which there could be no digression.”

Joseph the dreamer, the young lad, insensitive to his family, learned to listen.

In “The Endless Chain,” Elie Wiesel wrote, “Did we keep the Torah alive for 4,000 years, or did it keep us alive? One is linked to the other, one is justified by the other. The Torah is an endless chain in which we are links, living links in an endless chain suggesting eternity, for God’s voice reverberates in it forever. To forget Torah is to forget Sinai, and to forget Sinai for a Jew is to choose mediocrity. For a Jew to give up memory is to give in to the enemy. Torah means life. Torah means study. Torah means life in study.”

We are all a link in an endless chain. God asks us to choose life. And by doing so, we embrace Torah. Within Torah, Wiesel says, “all things come to life and acquire meaning, intensity. Words, gestures, desires will be turned into prayer and song.”

Joseph is a dreamer. As a youth, his dreams bring upon him the anger of his family. In Egypt, he gains his freedom through dreams. Our rabbis held that the power of a dream lies with its interpretation and not with the dream itself.” (Babylonian Talmud B’rachot, 56a). But as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory, wrote, “Joseph’s most impressive achievement … was the ability to implement dreams, solving the problem of which they were an early warning.”

Our ancestors came to this country with a dream. We, as did they, are implementing the dream. We know who we are because we understand the journey of those who came before us. Our chain is a link to the past and the future. It also girds to this country.

This portion teaches us that wherever we are, we are capable of change. Joseph is no longer the despised youth. Moreover, we walk in two worlds, with open ears, hearts and a deep connection to God. When Joseph saw Benjamin, he went into a room and wept. That is what we do when reunited with those we love.

Karen Alpert wrote:

 “Joseph, the lonely dreamer, sees all. He has seen the future of Egypt, and he now sees the true identity of his brothers. He resolves to repair the breach with his family. By saving his brothers, Joseph has saved all the Jewish people. Through his reunion with his family, the Jewish people are once again unified. Joseph, the dreamer, performs the work of God, the Ultimate dreamer.”

We, too, must live the dream.

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh serves Temple Emanuel and is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.

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