Sometimes a person may have a certain insight that leads him to start searching for the truth - maybe even look into Judaism. Usually it comes from a revelation that he is tired of all of the falseness that faces him everywhere and yearns to escape from the confusion and get to the root of things. In nature…it is easy to stay centered on the spiritual world…

And what is the easiest solution? Run to the desert, to somewhere where all of the encumbrances cannot find him. It seems that only by breaking away from daily responsibilities can we serve G‑d without all of the distractions. This is the reason why our ancestors and the tribes chose to be shepherds, far from demands of society. In nature surrounded by the flock it is easy to stay centered on the spiritual world of holiness and purity.

In this week's parasha, the descent of Joseph's brothers to Egypt is described, including their initial meeting with Joseph: "Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him." (Gen. 42:8) This verse, like every verse of the Torah, can be understood in both obvious and subtle ways.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe provided an interesting insight: For the tribes it was inconceivable that the man before them, totally immersed in the governing of Egypt could be their brother. It was impossible that a person could stay connected to the spiritual truth while being so committed to details of the physical world. He could not be their brother. He must be an Egyptian. Joseph…was able to be connected to G‑d…also while involved with the world…

They were unable to think that Joseph was at a higher level than they. Even though all the responsibilities of governing rested on him, he was still Joseph the tzadik, a Jew attached to his Creator. This was something new in the Jewish experience. He was able to be connected to G‑d, not only in a situation of meditation and escape, but also while involved with the world. This is the reason that the brothers did not recognize him. They did not recognize this new level of spirituality in action.

This level that Joseph attained reveals the purpose of Creation. G‑d made the world to inject into it the light of holiness. If a person hides himself, even though he is creating the best environment for himself to serve G‑d, he is nevertheless not sanctifying the world or connecting it with holiness. Instead, he is strengthening the position that the world and G‑d are separate and contradictory.

When a Jew is involved in the world yet does not compromise his spiritual values one iota, he imbues the physical with divine light. By doing business honestly while at the same time keeping Shabbat and his set times for Torah study, he is living proof that it is possible to serve the community faithfully and honestly, as the Torah requires. Were each action of every Jew done in this way, infusing G‑d into the world, this would be total fulfillment of the purpose of the world. No one says it is easy. Still, the Jewish people are connected to Joseph, (see Psalms 80:2) and can draw strength from him to succeed. We must not be controlled by the world that surrounds us but rather persist in our spiritual mission: to enlighten the world with the light of Torah and its commandments.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul


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