Weekly Davar - Miketz: Are you giving for others or for yourself?
The Weekly Davar
In memory of Barry Taylor Z"L
(Genesis 41:1 – 44:17)
Are you giving for others or for yourself?
13th December 2012
29th Kislev, 5773
GOOD AFTERNOON!! The message of Chanukah and of this
portion is never to give up; things can change in a moment. Joseph went
from the deepest dungeon in Egypt to being the most powerful man in the
world in a couple of hours. It’s amazing how fast life can change for
the better. Sometimes we just need to hang on for the ride and see where
it all ends up rather than judging too quickly.
Pharaoh's dreams of cows and corn demand interpretation. His butler
remembers Joseph's ability to interpret dreams. They bring Joseph from
jail. He is shaved, washed and dressed in appropriate attire for an
audience with a king. Pharaoh recognises the truth of Joseph's
interpretation (that there would be seven years of plenty followed by
seven years of famine) and raises Joseph to be the most powerful man in
the whole country with the mandate to prepare for the famine.
Joseph waits for his brothers to come to Egypt. Right on cue, they
arrive to buy food and don't recognise him. He accuses them of being
spies and puts them through a series of machinations in order to get
them to bring Benjamin to Egypt. Then Joseph frames Benjamin for
stealing his special wine goblet. Why is Joseph doing this? Has the
great man stooped to the pettiness of revenge? Tune in next week when
all will become clear.
With our Light up a Life volunteering programme coming up, I thought I would talk about the concept of giving.
I want to differentiate, and I believe it’s a crucial differentiation,
between giving purely for the recipient and giving with me in mind also.
I'm not saying that the latter is necessarily a bad thing, but it
certainly detracts significantly from the act of giving.
Giving a child a sweet, for example, because he is driving me mad, is
taking, not giving. I want quiet and I pay for my quiet by handing over a
sweet. This is a black and white example, but there are many shades of
grey and I want to illustrate by comparing our volunteering sign up
Two of our volunteering activities are almost ‘sold out’. They are
delivering sweets to children in hospitals and delivering cakes to Fire
Stations. There are two other activities that we are really struggling
with – driving charity staff to work on Christmas day when there is no
public transport and helping in homes for the elderly.
It’s quite apparent to me why this should be so. It’s much more
immediately fulfilling to see the smiles on a child’s face as you
deliver sweets to him than it is to play a game with a deaf and perhaps
senile elderly person who can’t express their appreciation. It’s much
more interesting to visit a Fire Station and hang out with the firemen
for a little bit – than it is to drive a boring charity worker to work
at 7 in the morning on Christmas day.
However, giving really shouldn't be about how it makes us feel – it
should be purely and simply about providing for the person in need.
It’s a lovely act of giving to deliver sweets to children in hospitals
and that’s why we do it. But those children usually have family around
them and are well cared for by dedicated nursing staff. Compare that to
recent reports about standards of ‘care’ for the elderly and their
incredible isolation and loneliness and I know which of those 2
activities I am volunteering for this year.
Giving is about identifying a need and responding to it. It doesn't need
to be glamorous; it doesn't need to be exciting; it doesn't need to be
interesting and it doesn't need to be fulfilling. It needs to be taking
care of another human being, plain and simple. And the more genuine the
need, the more meaningful the giving. Glamorous and exciting giving
usually (though not always) is much less meaningful in terms of what it
So if you are in London on any day between 23rd December and 1st
January, please do volunteer to give your time and energy to someone in
need. And if you really want to make a difference, please volunteer to
help with the elderly and driving staff to work – like I'm doing! Sign up here
Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
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