Proud Menorah 

Parshas Vayigash

10881521_1013495911998866_6236482894758019390_n.jpgAh what a sight… we were car number four in a motorcade of vehicles, all of them boasting a Menorah on the roof; as we snaked thought the busy and not so busy streets of downtown Palo Alto.

Last Saturday night (Motze Shabbos), a group of ten Menorah-cars driven by volunteers, brought Jewish pride and the light and joy of Chanukah to many a passerby on the streets of Palo Alto. We got many honks, looks, waves, smiles and even shouts of Happy Chanukah.

I am really proud of having been a part of this beautiful Menorah parade and of course you are invited to join next year, for an even bigger and better one.

While driving in the parade, the coordinator was very particular that no one be left behind when stuck at a red light. More than once, one or two cars got stuck at a red light and we, the rest of the motorcade pulled over to the side of the road waiting for the one or two stragglers to catch up.

Once, then twice, and then I started to get impatient. Why can’t we just leave him at the red light? I asked. We will still have the rest of the group to continue with the parade!

I thought back to when I was a small child and was in my father’s car joining a big Menorah parade through the streets of central London. Over there, there wasn’t such a policy. True, we lost a few cars here or there by red lights and wrong turns; but the group continued and the parade went on.

Why can’t we do the same?

And then I realized the validity of the Palo Alto policy.

If every time someone got stuck at a red light, we continued on for the sake of the group and at the expense of the individual; eventually there will be no group left! Indeed in London the parade ended only half the size of when it started out! If the individual is sacrificed for the sake of the group, eventually there will be no group left to preserve!

In this week’s portion of Vayigash, we read about the confrontation of Yehudah and the viceroy of Egypt (who was really Yosef). Yosef had accused Binyamin of theft and was threatening to take him as a slave. This of course was to test the brothers to see how they would react. Yehudah goes all out in challenging the ruler of the then super power, in order to save one individual, his brother Binyamin.

This is in sharp contrast to how they behaved years before, as we read just a few weeks ago in the portion of Vayeshev. The brothers didn’t like Yosef and were willing to sell him into slavery (or worse even kill him) just to get him off their back. Then the thinking was that the individual can be sacrificed for the sake of the group.

And now the brothers headed by Yehudah have passed the test. Instead of throwing Binyamin under the bus (especially when he may have been guilty of theft), they were willing to put themselves on the line to save their brother. It is this caring for another that Yosef was waiting to see, which would show that they had since learned their lesson, after having sold Yosef into slavery years before.

We should learn from Yehudah how to care for another and how to reach out to others. Even if we are talking about only one person (and someone who we could even accuse of having done a crime); we should care for him or her as if they are the only one. We should never sacrifice one individual for the sake of the ‘group’ or community.

At Chabad, we focus on the individual. There is no one who is insignificant. Each person is worthy of being cared for and reached out to. After all, a hundred times zero is zero. 
What is the value of a whole community, if we won’t care for each individual as if he or she is an entire universe?

Shabbat Shalom