During a recent trip to London I was privileged to hear Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchok Jacobson address a group of yeshiva students. At one point, he recounted an exchange he once had with one of his students in New York. "I want to be a cow", the young man bemoaned. "Why would you want to be a cow?" Rabbi Jacobson countered. "A cow can eat when and what he wants, wear whatever he wants, and go to the bathroom wherever he wants. A cow does not have to say a blessing or put on a kipah, or pray with a minyan. A cow does not have to keep Shabbat, put on tefillin, learn Torah, or refrain from gossip. It does not have to be kind to animals or anyone." Rabbi Jacobson answered, "I do not know what you are crying about; you already are a cow."

G‑d has made us his partner in Creation….

Even if a person does all the things he is supposed to do, but does them unwillingly, he or she might look and speak like a person, but, on a certain level, they are thinking like a cow. What differentiates a person from an animal? And, even more important, what makes a Jew unique? These next two Torah portions deal with dreams: this week Joseph's, next week Pharaoh's. A regular person sometimes remembers their dreams, and sometimes does not. Sometimes our dreams are of important things, sometimes not. This is not the case of a righteous person (tzadik). When the Torah tells us the dreams of a righteous person it is because there is an important lesson to be learned from them. In Pharaoh's dream, he is a bystander, only watching what happens with the cows and the stalks. Let's compare this to Joseph's first dream which is filled with activity: "We are standing in the fields gathering bundles of sheaves"; a Jew is always busy. G‑d has made us his partner in Creation and instructed us to make this world a home for Him.

Through performing G‑d's commandments the Jewish people bring out the oneness of the world….

Even more, what type of work are they performing in Joseph's dream? They are gathering stalks of grain and bundling them together. Each stalk grows separately but Joseph and his brothers bring them together. The world appears to us to be made up of many separate, unconnected things, but the truth is that everything is really part of G‑d's oneness and unity. Like Joseph and his brothers in the dream, it is our job to reveal unity in everything that G‑d has created. His holiness is found in every part of the Creation. This is the reason the Jewish people are called "one nation in the world". Through performing G‑d's commandments the Jewish people bring out the oneness of the world.

The exile began because a Jew was too involved in his own problems….

The unity of man is a wondrous thing, but it is not enough for a Jew. When you are standing on the subway, not only do you have to know what makes you the same, you also have to know what makes you different. We have a mission. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said many times, that the first exile began with Joseph being sold to Egypt. Where was Reuben, who perceived himself as Joseph's savior? Rashi says he was chastising himself for his sins. This is incredible. Instead of being there to save a Jewish child, he was wearing sack and ashes. The exile began because a Jew was too involved in his own problems and thus was oblivious to see and act on someone else's difficulties.

Chanukah has the same message. The Greek Syrians did not want to kill the Jews; they only wanted them to stop practicing their Judaism. We do not have to assimilate; we do have to fulfill our mission. This is the simplest reason behind the Chanukah candles. At least once in a while, a Jew has to shine out and light up the street!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanuka, Shaul

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