Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayechi December 29, 2017

Torah reading:  Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

Haftorah reading: I Kings 2: 1-12

Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed. Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”  Genesis 48:1-5


Reuben and Simeon were Jacob’s first-born sons. They were the ones who by right and by custom should have received a double portion of Jacob’s estate, twice as much as any of their brothers. But now, Jacob adopts Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, as his own first-born sons. They will replace Reuben and Simeon as first-born sons and receive their inheritance. This elevates Joseph’s position, as the 11th born son, to an even greater position than the 1st born son. That’s because he, through his first two children, now receives four portions of his father’s estate. Usually, the first-born son receives two portions of the estate and the rest of the children only one, but Joseph gets four portions! Jacob elevates Joseph through this adoption, then he continues.

Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem). Gen. 48:6-7

The elevation of Joseph to the status of 1st born, reminds Jacob of Joseph’s mother, Rachel. He still feels the pain of her loss even after all those years; but in the midst of the pain and in the midst of his own terminal condition, he looks to the future with confidence. He adopts two boys as his own and promises them a double portion of his estate even though he has nothing to give them at this time. Jacob is living in a strange land. In fact, he has no land of his own except a small burial plot hundreds of miles away.

Yet he speaks with all the confidence of a promising future for his family.

Why? Because Jacob has found his hope in the promises of God, and that’s where we find our hope as well. If we feel as though we have nothing, if we are dealing with physical or emotional pain, if this year of 2017 has been a struggle, nevertheless, as we face the onset of a new year, we can utterly depend on the promises of God, just as Jacob did. We can look forward to the coming year with an absolute assurance that God will keep His Word. We can face the future with joy in anticipation of all that God has for us in the days ahead.

Jacob spoke to Joseph not out of what he presently possessed but out of the promise of God to him, and to his father, Isaac and to his grandfather, Abraham.

A story is told about a man at the age of 75 who planted a number of very small fruit trees.  His family wondered why he did so as he would likely never live to see the trees mature.  Some years later, after the old man had passed away, his son realized that when he visits the family farm, he has an option: he can either go to the nearby cemetery to mourn over his father’s grave or he can go pick fruit from the trees his father planted and think about the legacy of hope and faith his father left to the family.’

The Bible commands us to teach our children and our grandchildren about our God and the reliability of His promises.

In Tune with Torah this week = we need to ask ourselves: are we ‘planting fruit trees’ or are we complaining about our circumstances? Are we using the days allotted to us to build a spiritual legacy for those to follow or are we wasting time moaning about the present?

Jacob teaches us that the promises of God are irrevocable, unchangeable and more sure than the sun rising in the morning.  Our confidence and faith as we enter 2018 is founded on HIS integrity, not on world conditions.  Therefore we can pray with David, the sweet psalmist of Israel: ‘Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.’ Psalm 51:12

May this new year bring each of us closer to the LORD of Glory than ever before.




Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayigash December 22, 2017

Torah reading: Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

Haftorah reading:  Ezekiel 37:15-28

Have you wondered why the account of Joseph’s plight in Egypt is interrupted by a chapter about his half-brother Judah (Gen. 38)?  Genesis 37-50 is described as ‘the generations of Jacob’. The whole of this section is more about the LORD’s dealings with all of Jacob’s sons, rather than just one of them – and through them, or even despite them, the outworking of the purposes of the LORD for all people.

No doubt the placing of the chapter about Judah’s exploits at this point in the timeline has the advantage of chronological integrity. It also serves to illustrate how the cruel and scheming half-brother of Joseph (Genesis 37:26-28) became an honorable son to Jacob: humble, sensitive and self-sacrificing; caring for his father, and protective of Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin in Genesis 44:18-34. This is the testimony of Judah.


Judah’s oldest son was ‘wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him’ (Genesis 38:7).  According to Torah, a man was obliged to marry his brother’s widow and raise seed by her so the second son made as if to fulfill this obligation, but reneged on his duty at the last moment –  ‘which thing displeased the LORD,so He slew him also’ (Genesis 38:8-10).

Judah then selfishly and insensitively deceived his daughter-in-law, sending her back to her father’s house, but never recalling her to marry his third son. So Tamar deceived Judah and posed as a cult prostitute, easily seducing him, by now a widower himself, into fornication. Judah sent his payment to the ‘prostitute’ but his Canaanite friend, ironically enough, could not find the woman Judah had slept with. In order to avoid public humiliation, Judah then thought to cover up his sin by ignoring it.

His self-righteousness and hypocrisy were displayed when Judah heard that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. He pronounced the death sentence against her. Yet when Tamar produced Judah’s pledges which he had left with her when they were intimate, Judah was brought to humble confession of his sins: ‘she has been more righteous than I’.

This encounter changed Judah.   In this week’s reading we see a repentant Judah who shows the fruits of his repentance in care and compassion towards his elderly father, his brethren and all their children, and his youngest brother Benjamin. His repentant heart finds its greatest expression in the wonderful and moving speech in which he offers himself as a slave to Joseph in order to spare his youngest brother.

Here in Genesis 44 he is sensitive care and passionate compassion  Here is humility and self-sacrifice. Here is a taking of responsibility for the well-being of others .

In Tune with Torah this week – Humility, self-sacrifice and responsibility are character traits to be emulated and taught to our children and grandchildren.  However, we cannot give what we do not exemplify.  How are we demonstrating a repentant heart? Are we willing to sacrifice for others? Do we accept responsibility when we fail?  Do we walk in humility?

Shabbat Shalom


To all of my subscribers who will be celebrating with family and friends at this time, may the Holy One of Israel bless you with good health, joy, peace and an abundance of His love at this special time and reveal Himself to you in deeper and deeper ways in the year to come.

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayeishev December 8, 2017

Torah reading:  Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

Haftorah reading:  Amos 2:6 – 3:8

There is something extremely curious about the birth of a giraffe.  The mother gives birth standing up.  When the baby giraffe emerges from her womb, it literally drops to the ground, landing hard on its back.  The newborn will lay there almost motionless until after a few seconds, onlookers are shocked to see the mother give her baby a swift kick, a kick strong enough to knock the baby head over hooves.
Why does she do that? Because she wants the newborn to get up on its feet. Somehow, the baby giraffe understands what his mother wants and struggles to get up, but after a feeble try, gives us and drops back to the ground.
Boom! A second hearty kick from the mother rolls the young one over several more times. The newborn tries again to prop itself up again on its spindly legs, and finally manages to stand upright.
But before the viewers can breathe a sigh of relief, the mother kicks the baby off its feet again!  The zoo keeper explains to the onlookers: ‘The mother wants her baby to remember how it got up.  In the wilderness where they live, if the baby doesn’t quickly get up and follow the herd, it will be picked off by predators.’ The swift kick is necessary for the baby’s life!
Perhaps we all have something in common with a baby giraffe.  Have you ever been kicked off your feet?  Have you been kicked while you were down? And have you been kicked by the very people from whom you expected kindness and understanding?
All of us have times in life when we get side-swiped by circumstances or side-lined by harsh judgments from those we most expect to stand by us. How we respond in those moments reveals the truth about what we really believe about God, about His plan for our life and about the meaning of our faith.
In this week’s Torah reading we drop in on Joseph at 17-years of age. As we open to Gen. 37:3, Joseph’s life is good and his future looks bright! But he is about to be kicked off his feet. He is about to be kicked hard while he is down. And the ones doing the kicking are his own family.
Yet somehow, Joseph managed to avoid the very thing that had consumed his brothers—the emotional stronghold of bitter jealousy. Somehow, Joseph faced trauma and the high-jacking of his dreams without becoming bitter; for his brothers, it’s a very different story. There’s a deep message for us all right here.
Bitterness is seething anger that hardens into a rebellious, vengeful conclusion. An unforgiving spirit lets anger take hold: anger over circumstances, anger at your spouse, at your children, your employer, whoever. If we embrace it, coddle it, dwell on it, it quietly takes over our entire life.  We feel entitled to hate the person, justified to desire their ruin, and energized to seek their downfall. That is the story of Joseph’s brothers. How did it happen?
Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons and when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than them, they hated him and could not speak a civil word to him.  Why was Joseph Jacob’s favorite? There are several reasons. Joseph was Rachel’s firstborn, Jacob most beloved wife. Rachel had died about a year before, so it is natural that Jacob would transfer his affection to their son. And Joseph was born late in Jacob’s life, giving the old man a special joy. Rightly or wrongly, Jacob cherished Joseph in ways he hadn’t shown to his other sons, and Joseph was hated for it. The brothers were jealous of his relationship with their father.
“And he made him a robe of many colors.” Jacob exercised his fatherly privilege and chose to appoint his firstborn son by Rachel as his heir.  He skipped his other nine sons and selected the youngest at that time. The symbol of the birthright was a special tunic. The Hebrew words used to describe this coat or tunic suggest that it was richly ornamented, but the most important detail the Hebrew gives us is that it was long-sleeved and extended to Joseph’s ankles.  Why is that important?  The tunics worn by working men in that day were sleeveless and stopped at the knees. A long-sleeved, tailored garment was worn by a manager, someone who had been put in charge, and was therefore exempt from the work himself. So the coat was a symbol of position. The brothers were jealous of his position. 
Verse 5 tells us: Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. In v. 6-8, Joseph tells his brothers that they were all in the field binding sheaves of grain when suddenly his sheaf rose up and their sheaves gathered around and bowed down. You don’t have to be brilliant to figure out the meaning of that dream, do you?

Verses 9-11: Joseph had a second dream, this time with different symbols, but with the same meaning. His dad heard Joseph’s dream and thought it was a joke, but his brother’s didn’t. Verse eleven reports that his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

Now if your little brother had a crazy dream, you wouldn’t get jealous unless you really believed God was speaking to him.  The very fact that Joseph’s dreams provoked such violent jealousy testifies that the brothers believed the dream! They believed that God was speaking to their younger brother.  So the brothers were jealous of God’s favor on Joseph.

Self-pity, jealousy and anger finally pushed the brothers over a dangerous line. They were mad at their father for his favoritism. They were mad at God for the good things that were coming to their brother and not to them. There was only one way to get back at them both: they would take away the darling object of affection.

The first plan suggested was ‘Let’s kill him.’ Reuben, the oldest, inserts a voice of reason and suggests instead, ‘Let’s throw him into that pit over there.’  In the end, when a caravan of slave traders comes by, they haul Joseph up from the pit and sell him into slavery, wash their hands of the troublemaker and sit down for lunch!  Problem solved…or so they thought.

It appeared to be ‘problem solved’ for some years but you all know how it ends.

Our purpose right now, however, is to focus on the early part of the story.  What does it say to us?

In Tune with Torah this week = We need to ask ourselves some pretty confrontational questions.

Do I have an issue with jealousy?  Do I have any bitterness in my heart towards someone who enjoys a relationship that I wish I had?  Am I jealous of another’s position or promotion?  Do my emotions get riled up when someone gets more favor than I do at work or in my community?

Jealousy kills spiritual growth; it is a poison of the worst kind to our souls.

Our choice is pretty clear: do we go the way of Joseph who guarded his heart against bitterness? Or do we go the way of his brothers whose bitterness poisoned their lives for years?

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayechi December 25, 2015

Genesis 27:28 – 50:26

This is the last Torah reading in the book of Genesis. It ends with the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers and the death of Jacob.

Afraid that he had not really forgiven them for their betrayal of him, the brothers send Joseph a message after the death of Jacob, asking for forgiveness.  The message grieves Joseph who has indeed forgiven long ago.  He replies:

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50:19-21)

This message bears a great resemblance to an earlier one. When he revealed himself to them seventeen years before, he said:

“I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no sowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:3-8)

These two interactions between Joseph and his brothers are critical moments in the history of biblical faith.  These are the first occasions recorded in the Scriptures when one person forgives another for an offense.  But that’s not all: these two exchanges also establish the principle of Divine Providence.

History, as has been noted, is “His Story” – the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for mankind. Though we think we are in command of our destiny, the truth is that God is on His throne and it is He Who reigns over our days. His purposes are accomplished, often in ways that we do not understand, but nevertheless work for our good and, more importantly, for His overall plan of Redemption.  There are no coincidences with God; no accidents.  God never says “Oops!”

Joseph’s greatness was that he sensed this. He learned that nothing in his life happened by accident. The brothers’ betrayal, the plot to kill him, his tenure as a slave, the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, his time in prison, and his disappointed hope that the chief butler would remember him and secure his release – all these events failed to throw him into an unredeemable depression.  Rather, to his credit and for our example, they became stepping stones in the journey towards the fulfillment of his destiny.  How? Because along the way, Joseph chose to learn from his experiences rather than rail against them.

No leader succeeds without facing opposition, envy, false accusations and repeated setback. Given his closeness to his father, Jacob, before he was separated from him, it is reasonable to expect that Joseph learned this principle from Jacob, himself.

I don’t know if Winston Churchill read the Bible but he certainly reflects the life journey of Joseph in his famous quote:  “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

What sustained Joseph through the many trials he endured was his faith.  Somehow Joseph internalized that life was not just about him, but about something much bigger.  The faith he learned from his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather stabilized him in the midst of chaos, encouraged him in the darkness and humbled him in success.  It as that very humility that enabled him to say to his brothers, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”

In Tune with Torah this week = By recognizing, like Joseph, that we are no more than co-authors of our lives, we are empowered to survive without resentment towards the past or despair about the future. Trust in God despite any obstacles or setbacks is his message to us this week. Whatever malice other people may harbor against us, if we can say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good,” we will survive, our strength intact, our energy undiminished.  May the God of Joseph, Whom we also serve, grant us that same perspective.

If you have found this message helpful, pass it on to a friend.

Shabbat Shalom and blessings to all at this season.

Weekly Torah Commentary — Vayigash Dec. 18, 2015

Genesis 44:18-47:27

In this dramatic reading, Joseph and his brothers are finally united.  It is the first biblical record of forgiveness between family members and has much to say to us, not only about forgiveness but also about reconciliation.  They are not the same thing.

Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness means giving up the right to seek repayment from the one who harmed you. From one perspective, forgiveness is a form of voluntary ‘suffering’. Look at it this way.

If a friend hurts your reputation with gossip or unkind words, you have two choices: ‘pay’ them back with a cold shoulder, with unkind words about them to others, or refusing to reconcile with them.  Or you forgive, and you absorb the suffering yourself.  Someone always pays every debt.

Forgiveness is a promise first, to refrain from retribution or revenge and secondly, to deny yourself the luxury of brooding or obsessing over the wrong that was done.  Forgiveness does not excuse the misbehavior of the other person, but it does recognize that all humanity is flawed and therefore you choose to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We all need forgiveness at various times throughout our lives so give it freely and you will reap it back in abundance.

In revealing himself to his brothers, Joseph freely expressed his forgiveness.  In fact, he went so far as to free them from the burden of guilt by saying, “it was not you, but God, who sent me here…”

But, you may ask, if he was so ready to forgive them, why did he treat them harshly when they first went down to Egypt?  This is where we learn about reconciliation.  You can forgive someone for an offense without reconciling with them.  In fact, reconciliation often takes some time depending on the nature of the offense.  Because you forgive someone who betrayed you, for example, doesn’t mean you have to trust them immediately.  That’s what we see displayed in Joseph’s actions.

Had his brothers truly changed? Or were they still quarrelsome and cantankerous? Joseph put them through a series of tests designed to reveal their character, the ultimate one being the encounter with his brother, Judah, in Genesis 44:18-34.  Judah – the one who originally suggested selling Joseph – now humbly pleads for mercy regarding Benjamin and even offers himself to take Benjamin’s place.  That was the moment when Joseph knew that his brother’s repentance was real.  And so the very next verse, Gen. 45:1, says “Joseph could stand it no longer…”and putting everyone out of the room he cries out, “I am Joseph!”  Though he had forgiven them long ago, at this moment they are reconciled.  Joseph could trust them again.  Why? Because when faced with the opportunity to abandon (betray) Benjamin as they had betrayed him, they refused to do so and instead begged for mercy.

Joseph never lost his hope for a restored and healed relationship with his brothers and reunion with his father.  But Joseph was wise enough to know that while forgiveness can be given – even at a distance from the offender – reconciliation requires a rebuilding of trust.  The tests he put his brothers through paved the way for full reconciliation.

We have all been hurt and we have all hurt others. If we refuse to forgive, we damage our own souls.  (Even the Mayo Clinic has published articles on the negative effects to one’s physical and mental health of harboring resentment and bitterness.)  The Torah – indeed – all of Scripture exhorts to forgive one another.  But that’s the first step.  The next is reconciliation.  Depending on the offense, it can take a little time or a lot of time. There will always be a need for patience on the road to reconciliation. What matters is that like Joseph we never give up hope.

In Tune with Torah this week = Are you holding on to any resentment or bitterness? Do you harbor a coldness, an irritability toward someone? Are you refusing to ‘let go’ of past hurts? Do you justify your negative attitude and anger towards someone?  If any of these questions elicit a ‘yes’, don’t you think it’s time to move on? To mend broken relationships? To cleanse your own soul of the damaging effects of nursing old wounds? May God help us all to move closer to unity and peace within our families and communities.

Shabbat shalom.





Weekly Torah Commentary – Miketz December 11, 2015

Genesis 41:1 – 44:17

In this Torah portion, Joseph interprets the dreams of the Pharaoh, predicting seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, and as result becomes Viceroy or Prime Minister, the second most powerful man in Egypt. After the famine began, his brothers come to Egypt to buy food. Joseph recognizes them, but they do not recognize him. He keeps his identity hidden while he decides to test them. It will be yet some time before he reveals himself and asks for his father.

Biblical scholars have long wondered why Joseph never contacted his father. He’s called a tzaddik, a righteous man so how to explain this? Wouldn’t he have realized that his father was grieving?

Nachmanides (the Ramban) suggested in his commentary that Joseph could not have contacted his father until the dreams of his youth came true.  Only then could he be vindicated and reveal himself to his family.

Other commentators disagree with this view. Dreams are in the domain of God, they say; let Him worry about dreams. It is man’s job to do what is ethical, and the ethical thing for Joseph would have been to inform his father Jacob that he was alive and well.

A contemporary writer takes yet another position. Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun has suggested that perhaps the question is not Why did Joseph not contact Jacob? but instead, Why did Jacob not try to contact Joseph?

The answer seems straightforward; Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. However, Joseph had no idea what had happened back at home, and he could well have been asking himself: “Why doesn’t my father contact me?” We can agree that the sequence of events, from Joseph’s perspective, may suggest that line of thought.

Consider: Joseph knew that Jacob was well aware of the hostility between Joseph and his brothers. Could Joseph have wondered why Jacob sent him to look for his brothers in the first place?

Furthermore, there was a pattern in the family’s history that whenever relatives did not get along, the solution was to separate. It happened between Abraham and Lot, between Ishmael and Isaac and even with his father Jacob and his uncle, Esau. Could Joseph have assumed that because of all the dissension he stirred up in his father’s house, Jacob had decided to send him away?

Could it be that only upon learning from Judah that Jacob thinks his favorite son had been “ripped apart by beasts” [Genesis 44:28] did Joseph realize that his father thought that he was in fact dead?  Is that realization what prompted Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers at that moment and send for his father?

Another viewpoint: Given Joseph’s intimate relationship with his father Jacob, is it possible that Joseph thought, How can I expose to my father the terrible thing my brothers did? And if I betray them to my father, am I not doing as they did to me? What good will come of it? Shall my father lose his other ten sons because I make myself known to him?

According to this approach, Joseph’s consideration was completely selfless. To have been reunited with his father would clearly have been a great personal triumph for him, but it would have had tragic consequences. Therefore, Joseph chose to remain apart.

In Tune with Torah this week = try to imagine yourself in Joseph’s position. What would you have done? And why?

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayeshev December 11, 2014

Genesis 37-40

And the wife of his master lifted up her eyes to Joseph and she said ‘Lie with me.’ And he refused, and he said to the wife of his master ‘behold my master does not know anything with me in the house (i.e. he places his full trust in me) and all that is his he has put into my hand. There is no one greater in this household than me (i.e. he has given me the highest authority) and he has not withheld anything from me besides you in as much as you are his wife, and how could I do this great evil and I will have sinned to the Almighty (Gen. 39:7-9).

From this passage we learn from Joseph a profitable insight in how to deal with temptation.

The wife of Potiphar, lusting after Joseph, challenged him face to face.  Keep in mind that Joseph was a young man in his prime, a young man who’d been deeply hurt by his brothers’ betrayal.  He’d suffered the humiliation of being sold as a slave, but by now had been living for some time in a lavish home, enjoying the prestige of being the household manager of one of Egypt’s high-ranking officials, far from the moral and spiritual atmosphere of the home of his father.  This kind of advance by a forbidden woman could easily have swayed a weaker soul.

But what did Joseph do?

Notice his first response to her appeal: “And he refused…” Joseph’s moral compass, his inner integrity remained intact; pain and humiliation had not dimmed the clarity of his convictions.  When faced with this overt temptation to do wrong, his first response was a resounding “No.”

Joseph’s response to temptation stands in stark contrast to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Her mistake was the one we so often make: to engage in a discussion. The moment we allow ourselves to entertain thoughts such as, “Oh, but it will be so nice….Yeah, but you know it’s wrong…Well, maybe just this one time…But how could you do that to…Oh, but I just can’t shake off the desire to…” we position ourselves for failure. Once our desire overrules our resolve and we begin to ‘negotiate’ with ourselves, it becomes much more difficult to do the right thing.

Therefore, our most effective strategy when facing temptation is to avoid the battle altogether as Joseph did.  This can only happen if we have established firm boundaries regarding our personal behavior.  Joseph’s immediate and firm “and he refused…” is our model.

Once that was established, Joseph then points the woman’s attention back to her husband. This is a young man who knows the pain of betrayal.  He isn’t about to do to his beneficent boss, a man who has placed complete trust in him, what was done to him by his brothers. His ‘explanation’ had a very specific purpose.

Joseph understood the principle that winning a single battle does not always mean you’ve won the war.  He knew she would try again and therefore, his exhortation to her is critical and delivered very diplomatically.  He did not accuse her of seeking to betray her husband but the message was clear.  If he would not, surely she shouldn’t.  If she was willing to accept the lesson, her attempts at seduction would cease. But first, she had to hear his non-negotiable, determined refusal.

Unfortunately, his admonition fell on deaf ears as we read in later verses that she pursued him “day after day”. When the day finally came that they happened to be alone in the house and she grabbed his shirt, Joseph wriggled out of it and ran from the house into a public area.  (Gen. 39:11-12)  The time for words was over; he removed himself from the scene immediately.

Joseph’s example applies in every area of life.  Whether we struggle with anger or lustful desires, with bodily discipline or curbing our tongue, the strategy is the same.  Having our personal boundaries clear in our mind and heart enables us, like Joseph, to declare our own firm “no” when faced with compromising those principles.

In Tune with Torah this week = consider any area of your life where you struggle to do the right thing or make the right choices.  Is it because you haven’t established clear boundaries? Self-discipline only works when there is a clear standard by which we have chosen to live.

This is a time of year when many people are thinking about “resolutions” for the new year. It is legendary that most such “resolutions” don’t last.  As we approach 2015, perhaps the only “resolution” we should be considering is that of establishing clear behavioral boundaries, particularly in areas of past struggle.

Shabbat Shalom