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Living like a Jew means living with a constant smile. Every Friday Night in Shul, the Hazan refers to the Jewish people, as עַם מְדֻשְּׁנֵי ענֶג, a nation that is fattened with pleasure. Knowing that your Father has everything or can create everything you need, and can give it to you…knowing that He loves you more than anything in the world…knowing that He has only good in store for you is the message of the whole Torah. The three most important words in the Torah are  בְּנִ֥י בְכֹרִ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל. My first-born son is Yisrael! The whole Torah is one big build-up to tell you that you have an Abba, a Father, a Daddy, a Tatty Who is running the world- and you are His Firstborn Son!!!

This is your biggest battle in life as a Jew:  to be able to smile no matter what you are going through, because everything is ענג, everything is pleasure! The life you live depends on the voice in your head. Here are the voices, the affirmations, that I try to adapt when going through hard times: “I trust the journey of my life and believe that everything is happening for my highest good. I am constantly growing and evolving, becoming the best version of myself. I am at ease with uncertainty and embrace change as an opportunity for growth. I forgive myself and others, letting go of the past to embrace the present. I am resilient, and I bounce back from setbacks stronger and wiser. I am in control of my thoughts and emotions, and I choose to focus on the positive. I am confident, capable and ready to overcome any challenge that comes my way.”

These voices, these affirmations, need constant maintenance. As a Jew, you need to find hope, even when it does not look like there is any. As Avraham told his son who was on the way to being offered as a sacrifice,   אֱלֹהִ֞ים יִרְאֶה־לּ֥וֹ הַשֶּׂ֛ה לְעֹלָ֖ה בְּנִ֑יSon! G-d will show us a sheep to offer as a sacrifice instead of you! This is despite the fact that G-d told him to slaughter his son, and he was on the way to fulfill G-d’s command! Avraham named the mountain, after that hope,  יְקֹוָ֣ק׀ יִרְאֶ֑ה , YKVK will show us. (See Radak) This hope is based on the fact that we know, that אין דבר רע יורד מן השמים, nothing bad comes from Heaven. (Midrashim) We don’t question what G-d does, because He is our Father – and a child does not question what his father does.

After hearing that Yosef was spiritually okay, Yaakov said, רַ֛ב עוֹד־יוֹסֵ֥ף בְּנִ֖י חָ֑י . These words are hard to explain in English. Simply, they may mean, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive.” But the Midrash tells us something else.  ורב כחו של יוסף בני שכמה צרות הגיעוהו ועודנו עומד בצדקו הרבה ממני שחטאתי שאמרתי נסתרה דרכי מה (Bereshit Rabba 94;3) “Yosef’s power was great! So many hardships befell him, and he still stood in his righteousness, much more than I did, that I said, my ways are hidden from me.”

When Yosef sent a message to Yaakov that he was alive, he knew that in the first words he sent, he needed to let his father know that he was also spiritually aliveIf Yaakov would hear that his son was alive in Egypt, he might die of a heart attack, think crazy, but spiritually unhealthy… that his son Yosef had fallen in his spirituality. So, Yosef told his brothers to tell their father, כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֤י יוֹסֵף֙ , specifically his words: אֲנִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף הַע֥וֹד אָבִ֖י חָ֑י  Literally this means, “I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?” But this was actually three messages in one sentence: 1. I am Yosef. I am not Tzafnat Paneach. Despite all I went through, I kept my Jewish identity. 2. העוד- I was given an additional letter to my name by the angel, Gavriel,   עֵ֤דוּת׀ בִּֽיה֮וֹסֵ֤ף שָׂמ֗וֹ בְּ֭צֵאתוֹ עַל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם שְׂפַ֖ת לֹא־יָדַ֣עְתִּי אֶשְׁמָֽע The night before I was rushed out of prison to interpret Pharoah’s dreams, the angel Gavriel taught me 70 languages. I couldn’t grasp the languages, so the angel added a letter ה  to my name, he called me יהוסף, Yehosef, and I could grasp the languages and face Pharaoh. ה – עוד , the letter Heh was added to my name by the angel. 3. אבי חי- Yaakov, my father is still alive. There are two opinions as to how King David, who was meant to be a stillborn, merited his 70 years. Either he received them from Adam, who lived 930 instead of 1000 years; or, he received them from three people. 5 years from Avraham, who lived 175 and not 180, like Yitzhak, 28 from Yaakov, who lived 33 years less than Yitzhak, 147 instead of 180, and 37 years from Yosef, who lived 110 instead of 147, like his father Yaakov. Yosef told his father the fact that אבי חי , the fact that Yaakov is still alive, and King David did not need to take from his life, is because King David will take from my life. This is to show my father that I am still spiritually safe – all in one sentence.

Tell my father that I am not an Egyptian Jew – Tzafnat Paneach, an American Jew – Joe, an Israeli Jew – Yossi, or even a Cool Jew – Jo Jo. I am a Jew that was in the worst places, and I did not budge from the way you brought me up.

Tell my father that all along, I was connected to angels; Gavriel was with me in jail! I did not fall into depression.

Tell my father that I look at my life, at the years I live and the years that are taken away from me: are all good. Even if I die before all my brothers, it is all good. G-d took some years from my life to use for a greater plan, to give from my years to King David, the last 37 years of Yosef’s life.

When Yaakov heard this, he said, my son, is such a Tzaddik, GREATER THAN ME! I could not see G-d’s hand in my sorrows. I could not be connected to angels in hard times. I could not stay on the level of Yisrael; my name for the 22 years that my son was away was “downgraded” to Yaakov. And more than the amount of my years that I can offer to King David, my son Yosef can give! My son Yosef is greater than me!

So, when Yaakov was told by G-d to go down to Egypt to be with Yosef, G-d said, וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּמַרְאֹ֣ת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֣ב׀ יַעֲקֹ֑ב וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי: He said Yaakov, Yaakov! Rashi says, that G-d was telling Yaakov, I love you so much, Dear Yaakov, Yaakov! The double usage of Yaakov’s name was the way that G-d told Yaakov “I loved you, all along!!!”

The pain and suffering that you went through was all to help you, to make your son king, to provide you food in the years of famine and to bring you and your family down to Egypt in a respectful fashion, and not in chains, as slaves! For 22 years, you may have felt that you were being punished that you had Yosef taken from you, and you may have thought that it was because you did not perform the mitzvah of Kibud Av Va-em to your parents Yitzhak and Rivka for 22 years. No! It was not a punishment! It was for your good!!!!!

Yosef could have thought that all he went through was a punishment for slandering his brothers to his father. It could have appeared that there was punishment for Yosef and for Yaakov, but under the surface, it was all G-d’s greatest goodness!

When Yaakov met Pharoah, Yaakov appeared so old that Pharoah asked his age. Yaakov replied, saying that his life had been hard. For every word that Yaakov answered Pharoah, he lost a year of life. To top that off, Yaakov even lost a year of life for every word that Pharoah used when he brought up the fact that Yaakov looked old. A total of 33 years short of what he was supposed to live! The Midrash says that G-d held Yaakov accountable for having a hard life, and for it even being noticeable on him that he had a hard life. “I saved you from Esav, from Lavan; I gave you back Dinah, and also Yosef – and you are complaining that you had a hard life?!?” (Bereshit Rabah 95)

If you are a Jew, and you are living the way a Jew is supposed to live, realizing that G-d is only good, you smile throughout your entire life! The test of life is the test of Emunah. Even Avraham Avinu, who discovered G-d at the age of 3, knew G-d only at the age of 40, (Rambam Avodah Zara 1 3) and only when he was 75, at the Brit Ben Habetarim, G-d found that he trusted in Him . וּמָצָ֣אתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ֮ נֶאֱמָ֣ן לְפָנֶ֒יךָ֒ וְכָר֨וֹת עִמּ֜וֹ הַבְּרִ֗ית Emunah is a life long challenge.

The most important message we tell our children is the blessing that Yaakov gave his grandsons: הַמַּלְאָךְ֩ הַגֹּאֵ֨ל אֹתִ֜י מִכָּל־רָ֗ע I now realize, that G-d saves me from ALL EVIL, from ALL BAD. Nothing bad will happen to you! Just smile, and see that you are עם מדושני ענג, that you are a nation that is satiated with pleasure!!!!

About the author, Yosef

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