Friday, November 22, 2013

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

Most children thrill to go on a swing. It is challenging to start off from the still position and slowly build up momentum. Gradually, the swing goes higher and higher. Watching the child swinging reveals an interesting point: in order to get really high on the upswing, one must develop a really strong downswing. After reaching the lowest point, at which there is the greatest momentum and energy, one swings up aloft to the highest point.

It is one of the ironies of life that in order to swing to the greatest height, it is often necessary to plunge to the lowest point. It seems to be a law of nature that there is often a “descent” in order to “rise”—a negative situation before the positive. In the Torah this principle is illustrated by the chain of events which begin in this week’s Torah reading Vayeishev (Bereishis [Genesis] 37:1-40:23): the descent of Joseph into Egypt and his subsequent rise to greatness.

In a tragic example of a breakdown of brotherly relationships, Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt. For thirteen years he suffered slavery, imprisonment and derision, but eventually ended up as the viceroy of all Egypt. From this position he was able to save his family and thousands of others from starvation during the terrible years of famine.

This pattern is the key to the twin concepts of exile and redemption. The divine promise of redemption depicts an exalted state of being and consciousness for all humanity. However, somehow, in order to achieve this, there must also be the “down” swing: the bitterness and darkness of exile.

On a comparable note,  this forthcoming weekend (Friday/Shabbos – Nov 22/23) will the 19th / 20th   of the Hebrew month Kislev – which marks the 215th anniversary of the release in 1798  of the “Alter Rebbe” (“Old Rebbe” - Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi – the founder of the Chabad – Lubavitch Chassidic movement) from Czarist prison, and his life in the balance. His release resulted not only in a personal freedom, but more importantly, in the dissemination and expansion of Chassidic teaching in an unprecedented way.

Similar to the story of the imprisonment of  Joseph and his subsequent freedom which resulted in a universal benefit to all of Egypt and the world of that time; so also the Alter Rebbe’s release brought about  what the Lubavitch movement is today- the dissemination of Judaism to all parts of the globe.  Hopefully, as this “swing” soars upwards with this re-awakening of Jewry to their roots and heritage, this will herald in the ultimate redemption of all Israel, with the arrival of our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our day.

(With excerpts from  Rabbi  Tali Loewenthal - Chabad.org)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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