Sometimes we receive gifts when we least expect. At times, those unexpected gifts can impact our lives more than we could ever expect:
Towards the end of Chanukah last week, we received a package and a letter at our synagogue. It was from our former postal deliver, Mike Carter, from long ago (he retired in 2003). He hand-carved a chanukiyah (menorah) as a gift for us. Mike wrote:
…”While on the route, I was always treated with warmth and respect by all that I came in contact with at the Temple.
I am sending a menorah that I made with my scroll saw. It is made with love, respect and thanks for the many kindnesses I received while delivering your mail. I hope you will accept it in the spirit in which it is givien. I will continue to pray for Israel and Jewish people all over the world to be able to live in peace and safety.”
Mike Carter, your gift of love moved us beyond words and touched our souls. We are so honored by your generous spirit and memories of your time serving as our mail deliverer. The fact that you chose to share your story and gift with us now, after so many years, reminds us that each one of us has the ability to impact others in ways both big and small. Thank you!
Mike’s message is both universal and very particular to us as a Jewish people. When Joseph goes to Egypt and saves the Egyptians from famine, Pharaoh wants to return the favor and treat Joseph and his family with kindness, in such a way, that it changes the future of the Jewish people. We see this special gift in this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, as Joseph is reunited with his family. Pharaoh extends a beautiful and unexpected present to them: he offers to bring them to Egypt and to give them the best the land has to offer. (Genesis 45:18) Just Joseph’s kindness, respect and dignity are rewarded with gifts of kindness, respect and dignity by Pharaoh (until later on when “there arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph.”)
2022 has been a difficult year: antisemitism has been on the rise, violence, hatred, racism and bloodshed continue around the globe. Yet Parshat Vayigash and Mike Carter remind us there is always hope: if only we all treated every human being with kindness, dignity and respect every day, there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. If only we reached out to those who made a lasting impact on our lives to let them know, there is hope for an envisioned future. If only each of us could love our neighbor like ourselves, today, tomorrow and forevermore, then perhaps 2023 will be a year full of special and wonderful gifts. This is the most important lesson of these special days. Thank you, Mike Carter!
Wishing each of you and your loved ones all the best for a 2023 filled with the promise of hope, good health, friendship and peace.
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom