Parashat Miketz

Nourishing Others

Judaism can provide spiritual sustenance to those who need it, to those who seek it.

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Provided by the Jewish Outreach Institute, an organization dedicated to creating a more open and welcoming Judaism.

The saga of Joseph continues in this week's Torah portion. Pharaoh's dream yields to Joseph's interpretation that Egypt will experience years of plenty and years of famine. As a result, Pharaoh must stockpile food so that the people can be nourished during the years when food is not abundant. It is wise advice, a plan that Pharaoh charges Joseph to implement. Implicit in Pharaoh's charge and the system that Joseph establishes is a willingness to share Egypt's bounty with its neighbors.

jewish outreach institutePerhaps that is why it is not surprising that when the region experiences the famine that Joseph anticipates, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt for food.

Although there are numerous elements in the story that cry out for explication, this is a story about food and survival. But it is also a story about a willingness to share what offers nourishment to the people to others.

Read Every Year

We read the experience of Joseph each year, but it seems that we have forgotten his advice. We do not fill our storehouses during years of plenty nor do we seem willing to use what was saved in these storehouses during the lean years. 

While it may be easy to determine the years of plenty and the years of famine when speaking about food, it is more difficult to do so when the conversation is about spiritual sustenance. But the message is the same nonetheless: share your bounty with those who seek it, who need it.

Judaism can provide spiritual sustenance to those who need it, to those who seek it. But as long as we try to package it as entertainment, it will never yield its fruit.

Our Jewish communal institutions should be in the business of providing meaning rather than entertainment. For it is in that meaning that individuals can find purpose in their lives.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.