GOOD MORNING!  There are two ways to gain wisdom about life -- study revealed wisdom (the Torah) or look at life and distill the wisdom (philosophy, history, science). In Jewish law, one is obligated to stand for a scholar and for an elderly person -- even if the elderly person is not well-versed in Torah. Why? If a person is advanced in years he has lived life and has therefore gained wisdom about life.

We can even learn lessons from the animals. I bring to you this week a beautiful piece I received from Neil Hamburger who received it from his sister, Nancy Nashban. It discerns wisdom from the behavior of geese. By the way, if you would like to read an uplifting and insightful book which investigates the inherent purpose and design of creation, read Designer World by Rabbi Avraham Katz, distributed by Feldheim Books (available from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll free 877-758-3242).


As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds a 71% longer flying range than if each bird flew alone. Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can go where they are going quicker and easier when they travel on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose takes over at the point position. Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership because people, like geese, are interdependent upon each other.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Lesson: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging -- not something less helpful.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own, either with another formation or to catch up with the original flock. Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we'll stand by each other like they do.

Torah Portion of the Week

Pharaoh dreams of cows and sheaves and demands for someone to interpret his dreams. The wine butler remembers Joseph's ability to interpret dreams. They bring Joseph from the jail. Pharaoh acknowledges the truth of Joseph's interpretation (that there would be seven good years followed by seven years of famine) and raises Joseph to second-in-command of the whole country with the mandate to prepare for the famine.

Ten of Joseph's brothers come to Egypt to buy food, Joseph recognizes them, but they don't recognize him. Joseph accuses them of being spies and puts them through a series of machinations in order to get them to bring his brother Benjamin to Egypt. Then Joseph frames Benjamin for stealing his special wine goblet.

Next week ... the denouement!


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Pharaoh likes Joseph's interpretation of his dream and then appoints him to be in charge of Egypt's economy. The Torah states, "And Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'after the Almighty has informed you of all this, there is no one who is as understanding and wise as you.' " How could Pharaoh trust Joseph whose resume listed his last two positions as "convict" and "slave"?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, former head of the Mir Yeshiva, explained that Pharaoh saw Joseph's extreme honesty when Joseph began by saying that he had no power to interpret dreams on his own; that it was entirely a gift from the Almighty. Joseph did not want to take credit even for a moment. This total honesty in one minor point showed that Joseph could be completely trusted.

Note that Pharaoh saw one minor positive point in Joseph's character and extrapolated it to a larger scale. This should be our model in viewing people. Keep finding minor strengths and good qualities in others and then give the person positive feedback. This can help someone build a positive self-image. The more a person sees himself as having positive attributes, the more motivated he will be to utilize those strengths for further growth.

Many people have a tendency to notice minor faults and weaknesses in others and then keep telling them that they have major character problems. More can be accomplished to help people by focusing on the positive than harping on the negative ... especially if they have low self-esteem.