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Parshot Festivals

Life’s most precious jewels

  • ParshaRabbiRichard
In this week’s portion, we read, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.” Before his death, Joseph made his brothers promise to bring back his mortal remains to the land of Israel. Now, at the time of the Exodus, this was uppermost on Moses’ mind.
by Rabbi Rodney Richard, Emmarentia Shul | Feb 06, 2020

The sages teach us that it is regarding this incident that King Solomon wrote in the Book of Proverbs, “The wise-hearted will take mitzvot [commandments].” What “wisdom” was there in Moses’ involvement in taking the remains of Joseph that so impressed King Solomon?

Rather than acquiring the belongings of the Egyptians, which G-d had instructed the children of Israel to take with them as spoils before their departure from the country, Moses, with his insight and wisdom, chose to involve himself in a loftier pursuit.

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, presented a well-known analogy. A man once left his family in search of a livelihood. His wanderings led him to a distant island, where he found jewels and diamonds strewn all over the ground. Upon discovering these treasures, he furiously began filling his pockets and bags until a few locals approached him and explained that jewels and diamonds were available in abundance on that island and, thus, were of no value. The most precious commodity on the island, they informed him, was wax, which was in very short supply. The man immediately dropped all the diamonds and jewels and began investing in wax. Over the course of time, he became the leading wax dealer on the island, building enormous warehouses of wax and earning widespread fame and admiration for his success.

Finally, he decided he would return home and bring his newfound wealth to his family. He loaded hundreds of cartons of wax onto a ship, and sailed home. When his family saw what he had brought, they stared in disbelief. “Is this all you have accumulated?” they asked. He explained to them how precious and valuable wax was on the island where he had worked but, very quickly thereafter, remembered that in his hometown, his many tons of wax were of little value.

The Chofetz Chaim explained that we are similarly born into a world replete with precious jewels – priceless mitzvot. We have endless opportunities during our lifetime to perform mitzvot, which will accompany us when we depart this world – our spiritual balance sheet. Unfortunately, though, our perception is easily and very quickly distorted. We mistakenly spend years amassing “wax” – wealth and possessions – which may have value in this world, but are of no value in the world to come. It’s only when the ship is about to sail home that we realise the folly of our ways.

Moses was teaching us what it means to live a Jewish life; a life of purpose.

Yes, we do live in a physical, material world, but we should never lose focus of that which is of eternal meaning and value.

Shabbat Shalom!

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