With Our Own HandsDecember 4, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his fatherand wept for a long time.”—Genesis 46:29
This Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means “and he approached,” from Genesis 44:18–47:27, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 37:15–28.
It wasn’t news when I changed my daughter’s diaper for the first time, but when Prince William changed his new son’s diaper, the news went viral! Why? Because princes don’t have to change diapers. They have no shortage of the finest nurses and nannies to do the dirty work. However, when Prince William chose to change a diaper in a grand display of love for his newborn son, the world collectively went, “Awwww . . .”
In this week’s Torah selection, we read about the reunion between Joseph and his father Jacob. The verse informs us that “Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to . . . meet his father.” The Sages notice something in this verse that compels them to comment. They explain that Joseph himself harnessed the horses for the chariot. Why do the Sages feel that this bit of information is important for us to know?
The Sages explain that in the context of who Joseph was, this action was noteworthy. Joseph was royalty, not one to get his hands dirty. Plenty of servants and expert horsemen were available to get the royal chariot ready. However, Joseph chose to be involved because he was on the way to see his father. The Sages explain that Joseph wanted to personally get the chariot ready in order to honor his father.
We live in a world where it is so easy to pay other people to do the less-than-glamorous stuff in life. We can pay nannies to change diapers and nurses to take care of elderly parents. We have schools that allow us to free ourselves from the burden of educating our children, once considered the exclusive role of parents. We can get take-out for dinner and buy the blankets and sweaters that our grandmothers once made by hand. Even in the realm of helping others, we can easily write a check and have others do the work of feeding the hungry or clothing the poor.
There is nothing wrong with any of these things, and they certainly help us all to be more productive and efficient. However, Joseph teaches us that sometimes, we have to get involved with our own two hands — not because we have to, but because we want to.
This week, take some time to do something hands-on. Whether that means personally feeding an elderly parent, volunteering in a soup kitchen, or getting down on the floor with a child. What you do might depend on your stage of life. But no matter who we are or what we do, there is no substitute for our own two hands. They are an extension of our heart, and the best way to express our love.