[JOI Word of Torah] Big Tent Judaism: Miketz
Kerry M. Olitzky
kolitzky at joi.org
Mon Dec 3 18:16:40 GMT 2007
"Big Tent Judaism" Word of Torah
December 8, 2007 / 28st Kislev, 5768
The saga of Joseph continues in this week's Torah portion. Pharaoh's dream
yields to Joseph's interpretation that Egypt will experience years of plenty
and years of famine. As a result, Pharaoh must stockpile food so that the
people can be nourished during the years when food is not abundant. It is
wise advice, a plan that Pharaoh charges Joseph to implement. Implicit in
Pharaoh's charge and the system that Joseph establishes is a willingness to
share Egypt's bounty with its neighbors.
Perhaps that is why it is not surprising that when the region experiences
the famine that Joseph anticipates, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt for food.
Although there are numerous elements in the story that cry out for
explication, this is a story about food and survival. But it is also a story
about a willingness to share what offers nourishment to the people to
Although we read the experience of Joseph each year, it seems that we have
forgotten his advice. We do not fill our storehouses during years of plenty
nor do we seem willing to use what was saved in these storehouses during the
While it may be easy to determine the years of plenty and the years of
famine when speaking about food, it is more difficult to do so when the
conversation is about spiritual sustenance. But the message is the same
nonetheless: share your bounty with those who seek it, who need it.
Judaism can provide spiritual sustenance to those who need it, to those who
seek it. But as long as we try to package it as entertainment, it will never
yield its fruit.
Our Jewish communal institutions should be in the business of providing
meaning rather than entertainment. For it is in that meaning that
individuals can find purpose in their lives.
Joseph sought to discover purpose in his life. That is what his youthful
dreams were all about. But it took him nearly his entire adult life to
really discover his purpose: to provide sustenance to his family. One
doesn't have to become vizier in Egypt in order to discover such truth.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is the author of many inspiring books that bring the
Jewish wisdom tradition into everyday life, and is, among other books, the
author of Introducing My Faith and My Community: The Jewish Outreach
Institute Guide for the Christian in a Jewish Interfaith Relationship
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You are welcome to use these ideas in your own work and writings as long as
you would be so kind as to credit Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and the Jewish
Outreach Institute, thank you.
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