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December 18, 1987 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-18

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

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Joseph vs. Maccabees:
Are We In Control?

RABBI IRWIN GRONER

Special to The Jewish News

The story of Joseph and his
brothers reveals the role of
destiny in human affairs.
Pharaoh dreams about seven
well-formed cows and seven
lean cows which represent
years of plenty to be followed
by years of famine and want.
These events affecting the life
of Egypt and the whole socie-
ty of the Near East were
destined by the Almighty as
the fixed and unalterable con-
ditions of the society of
Joseph's time.
The episodes of the Joseph
story are related to the un-
folding of a Divine plan: for as
a result of the hatred of the
brothers of Joseph, he was
sold into slavery and was thus
available to interpret
Pharaoh's dream. He was

Shabbat Miketz:
Genesis 41:1-47:27,
Ezekiel 37:15-28

then elevated to the position
of viceroy and subsequently
became the provider for his
family, bringing his father
and brothers and their
families to Egypt — all of this
related to God's purpose that
this people would ultimately
be redeemed.
Does this mean that man
does not direct the course of
events?
I meet people all the time
who say: "Rabbi, I'm a born
fatalist. I believe that what
will be will be, and that when
my number is up, I'll go."
Indeed, the Bibld affirms
that man is in the hands of a
Power greater than himself.
However, if this belief is car-
ried to a harsh extreme, it
robs us of all choice and all in-
itiative. When a person
believes that he has lost con-
trol over his life, he has ab-
dicated moral responsibility.
From a Jewish point of view,
timidity is a worse sin than
boldness.
He who hides behind a
slogan of bashert, the Yiddish
term for "fated," has written
his own prescription for
failure. The student who
begins with the attitude that
he has no control over his
academic achievement will
fail in his course. t3 couple
who take a detached view of
their marriage, ul -i.ertain as
to whether they will be joyful

Irwin Groner is rabbi at Cong.
Shaarey Zedek.

or miserable, are slated for
unhappiness. The
businessman who forfeits all
initiative because things are
not under his control, has
already declared his
bankruptcy.
Whare does the truth lie?
Are we in control or are we
not?
Judaism recognizes both
positions. Man is powerful
and he is helpless. Clearly we
are not fully in control of life
and events. But a margin of
freedom is available to each of
us. What we do with that core
of freedom, how we act with
that slice of life that we can
control, on that we are judg-
ed. Maybe much of life is real-
ly bashert, but not all of it. In
that area where we have a
choice, where we can exercise
discretion, judgment and
responsibility, that is where
our humanity is tested, where
our responsibility as Jews is
measured.
Judaism recognizes this
polarity between man's
powerlessness and his moral
strength. On the High Holy
Days, so many prayers
describe the power and
grandeur of God in contrast to
the weakness, confusion and
evanscence of man. But the
Jewish tradition also contains
the bold statement that
"when the tzadik issues a
decree, the Almighty executes
it."
If we want to achieve our
moral purpose with all our
determination, God will help
us to achieve our goal. Jewish
survival bears testimony to
the strength of the Jewish
spirit. We have endured
because our loyalties and
commitments were so strong
that not all persecution or
hostility that we endured, no
matter how cruel or op-
pressive, could break the will
of the Jewish people to live.

During this week of
Chanukah, I note one of the
interpretations of the term
"Maccabee." It is derived,
some scholars say, from the
Hebrew term for hammer. In
the days of the Hasmoneans,
the Jewish people had deter-
mined that they would no
longer be the anvil on which
others would inflict their
blows, but instead would
become the hammer capable
of creating their own destiny.
As we continue our struggle
on behalf of Soviet Jewry, we
are united with our brothers
and sisters behind the Iron
Curtain who have kept alive
the bright flame of Jewish
heroism.

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