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December 20, 1985 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

68

Friday, December 20, 1985 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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THE CLASSIFIEDS

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Bible Offers Guidelines
For Jewish Fatherhood

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In this week's sidra we again
read the dramatic story of the
reunion of Joseph and Jacob in
Egypt. We read of the son who
kept the image of his father
alive for so many years, and the
father who had given up on life
because he thought that his
favorite son had been killed.
One would expect this reunion
to be filled with pathos and
pent-up emotions. Indeed,
Joseph reacted with strong feel-
ings. "And he fell on his neck
and wept on his neck a long
time" is a moving description of
a son's love for his father.
But what of Jacob, the aged
father? No embracing, no emo-
tions, no tears, no feeling? No,
our rabbis tell us. Jacob neither
embraced nor kissed Joseph, for
he was occupied with the read-
ing of the Shema.
How terribly strange and
anti-climactic. One is even
tempted to say how cruel. Here
in the flesh is his favorite child,
whom he had given up for dead,
decades ago; the son for whom
he had woven the beautiful coat
of many colors; the son who had
visited him in his thoughts for
years and years and whose ter-
rible murder he had relived so
many times. Here he is now,
alive and well and the second in
command to Pharoah — and
when Joseph runs toward Jacob
and warmly embraces him,
Jacob turns aside and recites
the Shema.
Where was the ecstatic joy
and the sweeping happiness of a
grateful father? Did our rabbis
mean to say that the normal pa-
rental response was not in or-
der? Were they out to impose an
inhumanly rigid discipline on
our emotions? And why the
Shema? Why at this particular
time?
The best way to understand
this cryptic and enigmatic rab-
binic comment is through an
understanding of what
fatherhood implies and also
what the Shema symbolizes in
our Jewish tradition.
Shema is our most profound
expression of the unity of God.
It is the cornerstone of our faith
for it establishes the Malchut
Shamayim, the dominion of God
over the world. It is a commit-
ment which affirms the cen-
trality of Godliness in our per-
sonal lives and in the life of our
community.
What is the meaning of
fatherhood in the Jewish tradi-
tion? Fatherhood is not merely a
physical guardianship; it is a
spiritual obligation to endow our
children with a sense of mean-
ing, purpose and commitment
that emanates out of a God-
centered lifestyle. Fatherhood in
the Jewish Weltanschaung is not
realized in being a "pal" to the
child or even in providing the
child with life's material needs
and luxuries. It is expressed by
inculcating the child with a
sense of spirituality, a sense of
living life with a transcendent
purpose. The successful father,
Jewishly speaking, is one who

has inspired his child to cherish
Torah and tradition regardle:.-.,s
of the challenges and vicis-
situdes of life.
When Jacob was reunited
with his beloved son, he was not
only happy, but also worried.
Jacob was afraid that Joseph, in
his climb to the top of the Egyp-
tian ladder of success, might
have abandoned the most fun-
damental teaching of Judaism.
Now that Joseph was a world
statesman, a chief economic czar
and in charge of an entire em-
pire, perhaps he had forsaken

Vayigash: Genesis
44:18-47:27. Ezekial
37:15-28.

the faith of his fathers. Jacob
wondered if his son could still
say the Shema? Could he yet af-
firm the traditions and ideals of
his youth? If he could, it would
mean that Jacob had not lost a
son, either physically or spiritu-
ally.
Therefore, when Jacob and
Joseph are finally reunited,
Joseph fell on his father's neck
and kissed him. Jacob, however,
said the Shema. This was his
way of making the physical re-
union with his son a spiritual
experience as well. In this way,
he could dramatize his fears and
underscore his expectations.
Jacob's response indicates what
he expected of his Jewish son
and thereby exemplified what it
means to be a Jewish father.

Dulzin Seeks
Active Zionists

Hollywood, Fal. (JTA) — Leon
Dulzin, Chairman of the World
Zionist Organization and Jewish
Agency Executives, called here
this week on "declarative
Zionists" to transform them-
selves into "committed Zionists"
who study Hebrew, give their
children a Zionist education and
send at least one family member
on aliyah to Israel.
Dulzin addressed some 200
delegates attending the Pan
American Convention of the
World Union of General
Zionists, headed by Jacques
Torczyner.
The WZO leader told the con-
vention, "The great task of
Zionism today is to assure the
continuity of the Jewish people,
and the surest way to achieve
this goal is to establish and
strengthen vital links between
Israel and the diaspora. This
"declarative
means
that
Zionists" — those who announce
themselves to be Zionists —
must assume a certain specific
set of responsibilities that will
make them 'committed Zionists.'

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