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Gifts to His Father

It’s not mother’s day or father’s day; it’s every day. We have a mitzvah to honor our parents, to respect them and provide for them. It includes the card or gift sent on special occasions, but most importantly, it’s the everyday gestures that count: the telephone calls; the little gestures that show you are thinking about them, that you are sensitive to their needs, and that you know just what will make them happy.

When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, heard that the brothers of Joseph his viceroy had arrived in Egypt, he told Joseph to send wheat as a gift for his father Jacob and his family. The following verse describe Joseph’s gift: “And to his father he sent like this: ten donkeys laden with all the best of Egypt.”

Pharaoh sent his own gifts to Jacob, and Joseph added his own, “like this,” meaning that just as Pharaoh sent gifts, Joseph did likewise. He did not ask Pharaoh’s permission or give from Pharaoh’s treasures; he added from his own wealth. He did not follow the king’s command simply to send wheat to his father, but sent the donkeys laden with the best that Egypt had to offer.

What were these gifts that Joseph sent, “from the best of Egypt”? Rashi in his commentary explains: “We find in the Talmud (Meg. 16b) that he sent him aged wine because elderly people find contentment with it. [I.e., the fact that wine improves with age often affords contentment to the elderly.] According to the Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 94:2 on verse 18), however, this refers to pounded beans [which have a soothing effect on a troubled spirit].”

Joseph knew that when his brothers would return to their father and inform him that “Joseph is still alive,” this news will cause his father great pain, for he will learn that his sons sold their own brother as a slave. Joseph wanted to mitigate this pain somewhat, so he sent ground beans, a special delicacy of Egypt. What was he alluding to? Sometimes a dish can be improved by grinding and pounding it into pieces. The beans were originally whole, but through pounding they could be turned into a delicacy. The selling of Joseph was a painful event that broke the family apart—yet a great benefit came out of it, for Joseph became viceroy of Egypt, in a position to save the land and his entire family from hunger.

The other gift that Joseph sent was old wine, which “causes contentment to elderly people,” as Rashi explains. For the 22 years that Joseph was separated from his family, none of them drank wine. They were in too much pain because of the separation. It is apparent, too, that Jacob did not either drink wine all those years. The wine that Joseph sent him gave him especial joy and satisfaction.

Joseph sent old wine, to hint to his father that even while in Egypt, he never lost hope of being reunited with his father. Although he did not drink wine, he set aside wine and aged it in the hope of their eventual reunion. He kept this wine for years in anticipation.

Every Jew can learn from Joseph never to give up even in the most desperate situation. We must strengthen our faith in G-d that we will soon be redeemed, when G-d will break open the “reserved wine” that He has saved for the feast of Moshiach.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 10, p. 151-159)


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