Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Fair Weather Friends
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSunday, December 25, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
"God was with Joseph in Egypt, and he was a successful man." (Genesis 39:2)
"The chief jailor did not supervise anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the Lord was with him." (Genesis 39:23)
"Human friends can always be found when a man is successful, but in time of trouble they tend to forsake him. Not true of God: He was with Joseph when he was a slave, when he was in prison and also when he was a viceroy." (Torah Sheleimah 39:18)
When life gets difficult, we learn who are true friends are. Everyone can remember a moment when they suffered and only a few reached out to offer an sympathetic ear. Many may even find themselves suffering now with few people to whom they can turn for assistance.
We all experience ups and downs in our lives. We all know the cliché, "be careful who you step on on the way up you are bound to see them on the way down." Life is a journey of peaks and valleys and it is really hard to go it alone.
As much as this is lesson about having realistic expectations of our friends, it is also instructive about how to be a friend. We all feel discouraged at points in our lives, and therefore, shy away from others' pain. We must not. We must get in there with them. It will challenge us physically and emotionally but we have to make the effort - the rewards are bountiful. This Hannukah give the gift of real friendship.
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, December 14, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom (Genesis 32:4)
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. (Genesis 32:23-25)
True story: My brother was in from Israel last week. Amidst dinner I received a call that a member of the congregation had been admitted to the hospital. After we finished dessert, I went to see the person in the hospital. My brother felt I left abruptly and wondered about why. Had he said something that offended me? Later on, he called me to see if everything was ok. I was unable to take his call and he became even more agitated so he called our mother to see if she had heard anything. My mother then called me. (I thought it was somewhat amusing that in our 50's he was still "telling on me.") Needless to say, I called him back and we connected before he went back to Israel.
For my brother, there was some anxiety until we made contact. We have so many ways to communicate, yet our communication has gotten so much worse. How often has a text or email been misunderstood? How much anguish can we avoid by simply picking up the phone?
In this week's reading Jacob sends word to his brother Esau through a messenger. The messenger delivers Jacob's wishes and returns with a report. That night Jacob suffers tremendous concern that could have been avoided ha he simply gone and met Esau face to face. Lesson learned. Go to the source, avoid involving others, meet face to face - it will give you a good night's sleep.
Bridging the Gap
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
Rachel said to Jacob, "Give me children or I will die?" Jacob was incensed at Rachel and said, "Can I take the place of God?" (Genesis 30:1-2)
Might it be that Jacob is disappointed to learn that his love is not enough to satisfy Rachel; that Rachel's primary passion is to be a mother, not just a wife?" (Sforno)
Feelings are so complicated and confusing. We think we are feeling one thing and it turns out we were feeling something else entirely. We think we are angry when, in fact, we are sad; or we feel sad but, we are really anxious. Even when we know what the feeling is we sometimes blame it on the wrong person.
We might recognize that we are upset and the real reason is the way we have been treated at work. Yet, we come home and are angry at our spouse or children. Our spouses and or our children become upset in turn. They might then take it out on their siblings. And so on and so on…..
The interaction between Rachel and Jacob is real. Fearful that she will be unable to conceive she is upset. She becomes angry and blames Jacob, who, upset with her accusation, fights back. Because in the heat of an argument it is difficult to step back and get some perspective, a cycle of anger is perpetuated. Then it becomes difficult to walk it back.
If we can find a way to draw each other close during moments of sadness, frustration, fear and even anger, we will have closed a gap rather than broadened it.