Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–MIkeitz

Our Torah portion focuses on dreams and dream interpretations. Pharaoh has dreams that portend feast and famine for Egypt. After all the soothsayers in Egypt fail to interpret these dreams for Pharaoh Joseph gets his chance. After wowing Pharaoh, Joseph finds himself in charge of the entire Egyptian empire: second only to Pharaoh, himself. Joseph, “the Dreamer,” finds his dreams of supremacy come true. His brothers would bow before him; the whole empire would bow before him. Joseph’s power is controversial. His dream interpretations saved Egypt. His abuse of power cost every Egyptian his/her freedom. Ultimately, many argue that it cost Israel its freedom and caused 4 generations of slavery.

The Haftarah is a piece from the books of prophets associated with each Torah portion. This week, the Haftarah is pulled from Zechariah. Over the course of Chapters 3 and 4, we learn of a dream (vision) that the prophet has of a conversation with God. The dream is one of peace and healing. The prophet hears from God, “In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree.” Further, as a sign of the Temple’s restoration, God warned Zerubbabel (Governor of Judah) that the rebuilding was by God’s power and not the fruit of his ego, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Zechariah’s dream speaks of an age when we are at peace. Our liturgy speaks of the day when every knee will bend and every tongue will swear faithfully to the one God of all creation. We will not battle over language or religious labels; we will understand that faith transcends it all. The struggle to argue the supremacy of one faith system over another roots in ego and a lack of faith.

I spent this week with my grandson (and his parents). I saw all but one of my children this week (Diogo is in Australia). There are times at night that I wake up worrying about the world we are leaving them. I dream that I can somehow make a difference in this world, and hand off to them a world better than the one I inherited. I wake from the dream to find that, in so many ways, people are more polarized than ever before. Am I kidding myself, as did Joseph, believing that I really have the power to save the world? Am I dreaming, as did the prophet, of the ingathering of people and the restoration of God’s unified kingdom?

This year, this world said good bye to the earthly course of a great many celebrities who breathed their last earthly breaths. It was a tough year, as we walk through our memories of how these people entertained us, motivated us, vicariously held us, and frustrated us over the many years of their careers.

Of far less celebration, though of much greater impact was the loss of Abdul Sattar Edhi. Born into poverty and having to care for his mother until she died when he was still a teenager, he grew to be Pakistan’s greatest philanthropist. “The Huffington Post” claimed that he might be “the world’s greatest living humanitarian.” He never accepted a salary from his foundation and lived as an aesthete for his entire life. He lived to serve and to lift others personally, professionally, socially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Edhi is the adoptive parent or guardian of almost 20,000 children. He created a network of over 1800 ambulances and has trained hundreds of doctors and nurses. He was uneducated, but argued “What use is education when we do not become human beings?” Further, he taught, “Empty words and long praises do not impress God. Show Him your faith by your deeds.”

Perhaps, this week’s scriptures remind us that each of us has the power to make a tremendous difference in people’s lives, but we have to dream big dreams. Theodore Herzl taught us, “Im tirtzu, ain zo agadah – If you really want it, it is not a dream.” We have to make sure that we dream these dreams and do this amazing work for each other and not for our own accolades. We are spiritually rebuilding God’s temple. We are saving the world from emotional and spiritual famine. I pray that we continue to dream these dreams of peace and awake to find ourselves placed in opportunities to make our dreams come true. Shabbat Shalom.