A Cause for CelebrationNovember 28, 2013 - 5:00 am
“When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.”—Genesis 43:34
This Torah portion for this week is Mikeitz, which means “at the end,” from Genesis 41:1–44:17, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 3:15–4:1.
There are many causes for celebrations — weddings, a new baby, birthdays. We also tend to mark moments of achievement such as a new job or promotion, or reaching a physical goal like running a marathon or losing ten pounds with celebrations.
But what about spiritual goals? When’s the last time you heard someone say, “Come on over, I’m celebrating the fact that I controlled my temper all week!” Or, “Let’s have a party! I finished reading Genesis!” Yet, spiritual achievements matter just as much, if not more, than any other achievements in our lives. They deserve recognition and celebration even if we mark them only with ourselves.
In this week’s selection, we read that Joseph wined and dined his brothers while hiding his true identity from them. At the end of chapter 43, we find the brothers at a festive meal with Joseph, who they know only as the Egyptian prime minister. The last verse informs us that Benjamin was served five times as much as the other brothers. The brothers’ response? “So they feasted and drank freely with him.”
At first reading, this minor detail doesn’t seem to have major implications. However, the Sages teach that this moment was huge. The Sages explain that the brothers had refused any wine since the day they had sold Joseph into slavery. They had immediately regretted their deed and spent every day in repentance. But how could they be sure that they had fully repented? Their consciences were never fully clear — until this moment.
When they saw that the Egyptian ruler clearly favoured Benjamin, the brothers could have been jealous just as they had been of Joseph. The brothers had despised Joseph because their father loved him more, a fact they faced every day because of Joseph’s beautiful coat that Jacob had given to him. Now, here they were with Benjamin, Rachel’s other beloved son, and once again, Rachel’s son was shown preference.
The situation was similar; however, this time, the brothers were different. This time they were happy for their brother’s blessings. Instead of jealousy, they shared in his joy. That is why the brothers could drink and be merry. For the first time in more than 20 years, the brothers knew without a doubt that they had fully repented — and so they celebrated!
Studies have shown that people consistently achieve more when they focus more on their achievements and spend less time focused on their failures. This is true for spirituality as well. Have you finished studying a book of the Bible? Celebrate! Have you overcome a negative character trait? Give yourself a pat on the back! When we take the time to acknowledge and celebrate our spiritual achievements we will be encouraged to reach higher and achieve even more.