At the beginning of Miketz, Pharaoh says to Joseph, "Now I have heard it said of you that for you to hear a dream is to tell of its meaning.” Pharaoh believes that Joseph is imbued with the gift of translating dreams into action. Rather than a dreamer, Joseph is an envisioner. After hearing Pharoah’s dreams, Joseph announces that Egypt will enjoy seven years of great agricultural abundance followed by seven years of universal famine. He interprets the dreams to mean that Pharaoh should appoint someone navon vehacham “discerning and sage” who will store food to assure survival for the future.
The Rabbis, in their infinite wisdom, ask why Joseph chooses those particular words- discerning and wise? Would not either quality in a leader assure success for a people?
Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, the Rambam comments that the two words refer to different kinds of knowledge, in different spheres of learning. “Discerning” he suggests refers to knowing how to support the people of Egypt from his hand with bread, how to accumulate wealth for Pharoah while wisdom refers to the knowledge of how to preserve the produce from rotting.
In other words, the first category of knowledge is important to social policy. An organizational official must understand how to develop programs that will accomplish their goals without causing the government to go bankrupt, financially and morally in the process. Discerning reflects the ability to match goals with the means of meeting the goals. Able to envision and create a plan for the vision to occur. Pronouncements are not enough. Goals with purpose and action are a key quality for any leader.
The second category of knowledge requires a certain expertise in a narrower field of knowledge. Rambam determines that the wisdom of leadership comes from knowing about the people who one leads. Standing where they stand through understanding the realities of their lives and concerns.
Jedlab, a Jewish think tank developed and organized by Ken Gordon, Yechiel Hoffman, Sara Shaprio-Plevan, Tikvah Wiener and so many other creative thinkers, is one of the most important organizations that we have to assure a Jewish future. We know of course that Jewish education is not a matter for the classroom alone. It is preeminately an adult endeavor, and the most effective education has always been children imitating what parents do. Also, education is intertwined with every activity of the synagogue.
Therefore, claims Ken Gordon and Jedlab, we, as as congregations, as Rabbis, educators, Cantors, teachers and members of a Jewish community, must invest in our schools and make the transmission of Torah to our congregation children as our highest priorities. Here is the dream… a future where children dedicate themselves to religious learning, where parents participate in the process by creating Jewish homes and where the entire congregation knows and supports what is happening in the religious school through involvement.
When we assure that our youngsters are supported in the process of Jewish education, we assure the survival of the Jewish people. We all must take an active part in this process. I urge parents and grandparents to discuss religious issues at home. Share with your youngsters your own view of God, the importance of religion in your life, and why it is important for them to learn their tradition. Become role models. If we are asking our children to study, we must study with them. We must show them that we are also dedicating ourselves to Jewish learning. Take classes at the synagogue, read Jewish books, learning more about Shabbat by doing Shabbat. I urge us volunteer to help in the religious school, share our Jewish stories, read to children, tutor students in Hebrew, become teachers. We are all responsible for the commandment lamed v’melamed- learn and teach. And we all have gifts to share.
I ask us all, during this period of Channukah- dedication, to dedicate ourselves to creating Jews. Whether this means more Jewish study for ourselves or encouraging the Judaism of others. Jedlab is this generations dreamer, we can help make their dream true for us all. If you wish to learn more about Jedlab, google their web-site, read the articles posted and the archives. You will be inspired, excited and ready to help assure that Judaism continues through the education of our youth.