This Week’s Torah Talk

I took a cold shower before the show, as I do every week, and it brought me out of my post-surgery slump.

Rabbi Hershel Rabbs Remer: TONIGHT’S SHOW features a full line-up of topics, including: Lusting after Persian chicks, trashing shrinks and socialized health care, answering your questions from last week’s chat room, and time permitting, discussing Chanukah and cluing Luke Ford in on this week’s parshah.

My nephew Jacob Kleidman rocks, and because of his amazing generosity, after his penniless uncle’s router died last night cutting Rabbi Rabbs off permanently from the Internet, as soon as Yaacov’s red eye flight landed this morning, he bought a brand new router and paid to have it shipped overnight.

Parashat Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17):

Joseph goes from interpreting the dream for pharoah to giving advice. This from a guy fresh out of prison. It takes a lot of self-confidence. Jews do not generally lack for confidence.

Joseph interpreting dreams sounds like modern psycho-therapy. Today we turn to shrinks to interpret our dreams.

AS: “According to the Tanchuma, Pharoah gave a changed version of the dream in order to confuse and test Joseph, but Joseph corrected him every time, until Pharoah was amazed and exclaimed, “Were you eavesdropping on my dreams?””

A good therapist detects the thru-line in your session even if you go off course and say contradictory things. A good shrink doesn’t accept your recapitulation of events as gospel truth. He asks questions and probes for truths not immediately in your ken.

That’s why I often feel like I understand myself better after psycho-therapy.

In a sermon at Stephen S. Wise one Sabbath morning in 1998, Dennis Prager shared this story: After his first divorce, he entered therapy. When he relayed a painful story from childhood, the psychiatrist said, “I suspect that didn’t happen the way you relayed it.”

And Dennis said he doubled up in pain.

One of the characteristics of a leader is that they don’t only try to tell you things you want to hear.

* Gen. 42:1. “Live and not die.” In ancient Hebrew thought, severe poverty is like death. Nothing in Judaism says poverty is good. That’s a Christian perspective.

* Jacob tells his sons in Gen. 42:1: “Why do make yourselves conspicuous?”

AS: “Jacob’s rhetorical question has been the theme of many leaders who exhorted their fellow Jews not to flaunt their wealth and success to envious and often anti-Semitic neighbors. Whatever food Jacob’s family had was honestly acquired, but even honest resources should be displayed judiciously.”

Is this why Rabbs lives in poverty? So the goyim won’t get envious?

* Why didn’t Joseph get in touch with Jacob and let him know he was OK? Why did he name his first son for making him forget his childhood?

* Gen. 42:7. Why is Joseph so rough on his brothers? According to one Christian commentary, it is part of the Jewish penchant for vengeance (as opposed to Christian charity).

* Does Joseph need to do anything to make his dream-prophecies come true? Why not just leave that to God? Did Joseph’s ego need to have his brothers bow down to him?

AS: “Were it not for his obligation to carry out the dreams, Joseph would never have allowed his father to languish for so many years without knowing that his beloved Joseph was alive.”

I have many fervent dreams but I’ve never made anyone suffer so that I could accomplish them. Perhaps I am more righteous than Joseph?

* Joseph seems to have assimilated into Egyptian values. He practices divination (Gen. 44:5). He’s shaved his beard. He dresses like an Egyptian and follows their practice of not eating with non-Egyptians (religious Jews will only eat kosher food but they have no problem hosting non-Jews for meals).

* Why does Joseph practice divination? (Gen. 44:5)

* Gen. 42:9. Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies. I also wonder what you’ve got to hide when you accuse me of being a spy. What’s Joseph got to hide? How secure is he in his position? How common was it for Egypt to be ruled by a non-Egyptian? The goyim often don’t like this.

* Gen. 42:24. Joseph weeps. How much easier is it to weep for people than to do something to alleviate their suffering?

* Gen. 42:25. Does Joseph have money put in his brother’s sacks to provide them with the opportunity for atoning for selling him into slavery or to torture them?

* Gen. 42:28. This reminds me of the story of The Count of Monte Cristo. R S.R. Hirsch says: “Joseph wanted the brothers to realize how fully they were in his power and that he could as he pleased with them.”

* Gen. 43:34 Joseph has Benjamin served five times as much as any other brother. Creepy!

* What is the connection, if any, between this week’s parsha and Chanukkah?

* The Somali teen in Portland who was planning a big terror attack on Christmas was named Mohammed Mohammed.

Rabbi Rabbs posts to FB: Please remember Rabbi Rabbs on your holiday shopping list.

I am barely meeting my monthly bills, and very close to homelessness. In addition, I desperately need new tallis katans as the ones I wear now are old, torn, dirty, and the tzitzis are falling apart and might not even be kosher anymore. I may be forced to stop wearing tzitzis altogether because I cannot afford to have them replaced, and even if the strings are still kosher, it doesn’t look menschelikt to walk around with torn and stained clothes.

I am way overdue on having my Tefillin and Mezzuzahs checked. They also may no longer be kosher, but I simply do not have the money for any of those mitzvahs, and I cannot justify starving myself just to pay for those things, as fasting is about the only way I could cut costs at this point other than cutting myself off from the Internet and turning off the utilities, and then just sit here going out of my brains in the cold and dark until I die. And at that point, I might as well end my misery sooner than later.

I am also afraid to drive my car anywhere, because I cannot afford to fill it with gas nor am I capable of paying for any repairs.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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