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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)

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.

Torah Portion

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.

Davar Torah
Are you giving for others or for yourself?

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 statistics.

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 achieves.

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

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

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