The only way to survive is to unite

December 22, 2023 / 5 mins read

At our Annual General Meeting on December 18, Grade 12 student Davida B. (pictured right) shared this inspiring and insightful Dvar Torah.


In this week’s Parasha, Parashat Vayigash, Yosef reveals his true identity to his brothers. He tells them who he is, that he in fact is not dead, and that he is the one who will enable their survival. He tells them:

וְעַתָּ֣ה ׀ אַל־תֵּעָ֣צְב֗וּ וְאַל־יִ֙חַר֙ בְּעֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם כִּֽי־מְכַרְתֶּ֥ם אתִֹ֖י
Don’t be upset with yourselves for selling me
הֵ֑נָּה כִּ֣י לְמִֽחְיָ֔ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֱלֹהִ֖ים לִפְנֵיכֶֽם
Because God sent me before you to save your lives.

I find it very difficult to understand how Yosef is not angry with his brothers for selling him to Egypt as a slave, all because they were upset that he was their father’s favourite. It led to Yosef suffering as a servant and being in jail in Egypt for years.

Instead, Yosef sees that beyond the suffering, there is a greater picture. He sees the need for him to be in Egypt so that he can save his family from a famine – save the original Bnei Yisrael, the twelve tribes, to continue his family’s legacy, which turns into Judaism. Yet, this story reminds me of the generic saying “everything happens for a reason” which is not existent in Judaism. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l sums it up beautifully with my favourite quote: “Judaism is a religion of faith, not fate.” There is no set God’s plan – or God’s plan at all. If you believe in Hashem and serve him in the right way by following the Torah, you will be destined for good fortune. It doesn’t matter what you have done. You have the same opportunities as everyone else.

The answer I have come up with, and granted I am no scholar, is that Yosef is sitting on a pedestal watching his brothers admit to their sins through an interpreter, and on their hands and knees begging for food for their survival. He sees the reason why he is where he is and why he has so much power. He understands that he will be the reason that Bnei Yisrael/the Jewish people continue to develop into a religion and survive the famine.

This is similar to what is happening right now, although the situation with Yosef was from lack of food, and ours is from the horrible actions and tragedies committed over the past few months, and the ignorance that has led to the wide spread of anti-Jewish hatred. We cannot sit back and believe that there is a plan; we need to believe in Hashem, his powers, and his ability to get us through this tough time while serving him as best we can.

The main way we can do this in the diaspora is through prayer and unity. The Jewish people can only defeat the enemy if we band together.

TanenbaumCHAT is a great representative and example of the Jewish community’s potential if we all unite. At our school, we have people from across the spectrum of Judaism who learn together every single day in harmony.

On the Shabbaton this past weekend, I witnessed the significance TanenbaumCHAT has on New Stream students who connect with their Jewish identity for the first time, and on Talmud kids like me who are Shomrei Shabbat and are grateful for the opportunities TanenbaumCHAT gives them to develop their beliefs further, and of course every other student in between. Before October 7, in my Hebrew class, we discussed the divide in Israel between the religious and secular and how that is not the case in our class and school.

So the main message this section of the Tanakh taught me is to continue to unite the Jewish people. And I want to thank each and every one of you for coming here tonight and prioritizing your time in investing in ways to strengthen our school, which is also my education and community. Without you, our community would not be the same.

Thank you.