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Torah Sparks

December 7, 2002 - 5763

Annual Cycle: Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 (Hertz, p. 155; Etz Hayim, p. 250)
Triennial Year II: Genesis 41:53 - 43:15 (Hertz, p. 158; Etz Hayim, p. 257)
Maftir: Numbers 7:54 - 8:4 (Hanukkah - 8th Day) (Hertz, p. 599; Etz Hayim, p. 809)
Haftarah- I Kings 7:40 - 50 (Hertz, p. 990; Etz Hayim, p. 1273)

Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Torah Portion Summary

(41:1-44) Pharaoh dreams of seven lean cows devouring seven fat cows, and seven thin sheaves consuming seven healthy sheaves. When none of his advisors can give him a satisfactory explanation, the cupbearer remembers Joseph, who is brought to Pharaoh and interprets the dream to mean that there will be seven prosperous years followed by seven years of famine. He suggests that Pharaoh appoint someone to supervise storaging to prepare for the famine. Pharaoh chooses Joseph.

(41:45-52) Joseph's wife bears him two sons, Ephraim and Menasseh.

(41:53-57) The seven years of plenty pass and the famine begins.

(42:1-6) Ten of Joseph's brothers come to Egypt to get food. Their brother Simon is left behind as a pledge that they will return.

(42:7-28) Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they don't recognize him. He sets up a deception in order to engineer Benjamin's being brought to Egypt, accusing them of being spies. The only way they can clear their names is by bringing their other brother to Egypt.

(42:29-38) The brothers tell Jacob what happened to them. He refuses to send his youngest and most beloved son Benjamin. (43:1-15) After the food runs out, Jacob is forced to agree to allow Benjamin to go down to Egypt with the other brothers.

(43:16-34) This time Joseph receives the brothers with great honor, and arranges a feast for them.

(44:1-17) Joseph tests the brothers again with the accusation that Benjamin has stolen his silver goblet.

Torah Text Being Considered

"The seven years of abundance that the land of Egypt enjoyed came to an end, and the seven years of famine set in, just as Joseph had foretold. There was famine in all lands, but throught the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt felt the hunger, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; whatever he tells you, you shall do." Accordingly, when the famine became severe in the land of Egypt, Joseph laid open all that was within, and rationed out grain to the Egyptians. The famine, however, spread over the whole world. So all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to procure rations, for the famine had become severe throughout the world." (Gen. 41:53-57)


  1. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak turned to those standing around him and said, 'Do you know the difference between our father Abraham, peace be with him, and Lot? Why does such a spirit of satisfaction pervade the story of how Abraham set before the angels curd and milk and tender calf? Did not Lot also bake for them and give them to eat? And why is the fact that Abraham received them in his tent regarded as so deserving an action? For Lot also asked them in and gave them shelter. Now this is the truth of the matter: In the case of Lot it is written that angels came to Sodom. But concerning Abraham, the Scriptures say, "And he lifted up his eyes and looked and lo, three men stood over against him." Lot saw heavenly angels while Abraham saw poor, dusty wayfarers in need of food and rest." Rabbi Eleazar said: Come let us be grateful to the rogues for were it not for them we (who do not always respond to every appeal for charity) would have been sinning every day. (Ketubot 68a)
  2. Rabbi Chayim of Sanz had this to say about fraudulent charity collectors: "The merit of charity is so great that I am happy to give to 100 beggars even if only one might actually be needy. Some people, however, sat as if they are exempt from giving charity to 100 beggars in the event that one might be a fraud. (Darkai Chayim, 1962, p. 13)
  3. Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsburg said, "When a poor man asks for aid, do not use his faults as an excuse for not helping him. For then God will look for your offenses, and He is sure to find many of them. Keep in mind that the poor man's transgressions have been atoned for by his poverty while yours still remain with you. (Fun Unzer Alter Otzer, II, p.99)
  4. In answer to an inquiry from a community, overburdened with beggars Solomon b. Adret ruled that although, the poor are everywhere supported from the communal chest, if they wish in addition to beg from door to door they may do so, and each should give according to his understanding and desire. (Responsa, pt. 3, #380)
  5. If one noticed a poor man asking for something and ignored him, and failed to give tzedakah, he has broken a prohibitive command, as it is written: Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy brother (Deut. 1:7). (Rambam, Mishneh Torah - Gifts to the Poor 7:2)
  6. Poor Gentiles should be supported along with poor Jews; the Gentile sick should be visited along with the Jewish sick; and their dead should be buried along with the Jewish dead, in order to further peaceful relating. (Gittin 61a)
  7. If the poor man stretches out his hand and he has nothing to give him, he should not scold and raise his voice to him, but he should speak gently to him and show him his goodness of heart; namely that he wishes to give him something but cannot. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Ediah, 249:3-5)
  8. Rabbi Chana bar Chanilai would leave his hand in his pocket so that (by the immediacy and naturalness of handing him money) a poor person who came to ask would not feelhumiliated. (Talmud, Brachot 58b)
  9. Rabbi Eliezar stated, "The reward of charity depends entirely upon the extent of kindness in it." (Talmud, Sukkah 49b)

For discussion:

We all meet an occasional pan handler on the street. In our society today there are governmental and social agencies which handle such matters. So why should we give that person anything? Or maybe we should give anyway? What do you usually do and why?

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