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Jewish Karma (Beshalach 01/27/24)

Jewish Karma

In this week’s parsha, Beshalach, the Exodus is in full swing. Over six hundred thousand Hebrew slaves are now free and heading to the promised land. One would think that Moses would be involved in directing the masses on their way. Yet, Moses had a different priority – he went to fetch Joseph’s coffin: (Exodus 13:19).

“And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely redeem you: then take my bones from here with you.”

The fact that Moses was personally involved in transporting Joseph intrigued the rabbis. They felt there was a great lesson here (Midrash Tanchuma):

לְלַמֶּדְךָ, בַּמִּדָּה שֶׁאָדָם מוֹדֵד, בָּהּ מוֹדְדִין לוֹ

“This teaches us that just as a person treats others, so will they (God and other people) treat him.

Joseph buried his father in the Land of Canaan as it is said, And Joseph went up to bury his father. And since Joseph was a ruler in the land, he did it with great fanfare, He brought up chariots and horses with him. Therefore, Joseph was treated in kind by having the most esteemed person in the world at that time transport him, Moses.

When Joseph buried Jacob, Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his house, and the elders of the land of Egypt escorted Jacob’s coffin. Likewise, Joseph was privileged to be escorted by the Shekhinah (God’s Presence), the Ark, the

Kohanim, the Levites, and the Clouds of Glory.

As a reward for involving himself in Joseph’s reinternment, Moses was also buried by the most exalted “Being,” as it is says: And God buried him in the valley.

Similarly, because Miriam exhausted herself, waiting to see the outcome for baby Moses, as it is said: And his sister stood far off watching the child (Exod. 2:4), the Holy One, blessed be He, waited for her in the desert, with the Clouds of Glory, the Levites, and the Kohanim, for seven days as is said; And the people journeyed not till Miriam was healed (Num. 12:15).”

The way we treat people, is the way we, in turn, will be treated. In English, we say, “What goes around, comes around.” Although this aphorism has a negative connotation, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work in a positive way as well.

A recent example of this teaching is from a beautiful story I read in the book, “Small Miracles.” A Jewish man, Samuel Weinstein, outlived all his family and died penniless in a non-Jewish nursing home in Upstate New York. Because of one synchronicity after another, a Jewish businessman, David Brody, happened to be staying at the nursing home that night. The businessman offered to drive the deceased to New York City so that he could be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to get the poor man buried, the businessman was referred to a Jewish burial society in Washington Heights. He tells the aged director his story and the name of the deceased.

“Hmm,” said the director, “that name sounds familiar. Mind if I take a look at the body?” he asked, heading for the station wagon.

When the director returned to the office, David noticed a small tear trickling down his cheek. “My dear friend,” he announced to David, “not only will we be happy to give Samuel Weinstein a plot in our cemetery, we will give him the place of honor! God’s ways are indeed mysterious, my friend. The man in the back of your station wagon happens to be none other than the very same philanthropist who originally established the Free Burial Fund. He will be laid to rest in the cemetery plot he himself purchased … Your journey was long and arduous, Mr. Brody. But through your most commendable efforts, Samuel Weinstein has indeed been returned to his rightful place!”

This story is astonishing; please read the complete version in Small Miracles (Volume 1, page 19) or here:

לְלַמֶּדְךָ, בַּמִּדָּה שֶׁאָדָם מוֹדֵד, בָּהּ מוֹדְדִין לוֹ

“This teaches us that just as a person treats others, so will they (God and other people) treat him. The rabbis of the midrash focus on the challenges of life in this world. Their message: create and spread positivity; it will surely return to you.

Speaking of positivity, thank you for the contract extension. Your exuberance has been palpable, and I am grateful for your confidence and trust in me. I started on a two-year contract when I began here ten years ago. I was new to the congregation and new to Conservative Judaism. We grew together and have come to truly appreciate each other. The past ten years have been challenging yet satisfying, and MHJC is expanding its influence. I am fortunate to be able to do the work I love among people I love. May God bless our next ten years together.

With much gratitude,

R’ Neil

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
244 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview, NY 11803
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