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Dear Friend,

“I never knew what real happiness was until I got married; and then it was too late.” – Mr. Goldberg.

“Researches say I am not happier for being richer; but do you know how much researches make?”—A wealthy man.

At the tender age of 17, Joseph, the beloved child of our Patriarch Jacob, is snatched by his own brothers, who cast him into a pit. Then they lift him from the pit and sell him as a slave. Under the natural course of things, he would remain a slave for the remainder of his life. In his new masters home in Egypt he is accused of attempted rape. He his cast into a dungeon where he spends the next 12 years of his life, from age 18 till 30. There he becomes a servant to two ministers of Pharaoh, his chief butler and chief baker, who have sinned against the Monarch and have also been cast into the cell.

Now both of them dreamed a dream, each one his dream on the same night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison.

And Joseph came to them in the morning, and he saw them and behold, they were depressed. And he asked, “Why are your faces sad today?”

And they said to him, “We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter for it.” Joseph said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to G-d? Tell [them] to me now.” So the chief cupbearer related his dream to Joseph…

Joseph explains to them the meaning behind their dreams. Two years later, Pharaoh has a dream. Searching for an explanation, his chief butler suggests bringing Joseph, who is at once summoned to the king. Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh as a prediction that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. A system must be put into place to allocate food from the years of plenty to sustain the country during the pending famine. Pharaoh appoints the Hebrew prisoner as the Prime Minister of Egypt and puts him in charge on preparing for the famine. Joseph’s labor proves successful. He creates a brilliant system of allocation. He manages to save the entire population during a devastating famine. Ultimately his very own family, the Jewish family, is also saved from starvation because of his wisdom and leadership.

Joseph while lingering in a cell, not knowing if and when he will ever go free, this young prisoner notices two senior ministers in Egyptian royalty look sad. He asks them “Why is your face sad today?” Yet this seems to be a strange question. Were they then sitting and enjoying sushi at a bar mitzvah?

Why would Joseph be bothered by their mood at all? They were not his family or friends; they were not even of the same Jewish tribe. They were Egyptian gentiles, ministers of Pharaoh. Did he really care about their despondency?

This story teaches us volumes about what it means to be a Jew—and that is why the Torah tells us this episode, even though it is irrelevant to the flow of the narrative. Despite all of his horribly agonizing experiences, Joseph did not lose his inner sense of happiness and joy. Because for him joy was not about having everything you want at every moment; Rather for Joseph, joy was about findingmeaning in every experience and using it as an opportunity to grow and become closer to G-d, to truth. Joy was about finding G-d in every moment and in every experience, and thus realizing that this is part of your journey and mission in life. Joseph taught humanity how to create music out of broken chords.

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom,” a wise and kind man said.

I heard the following story from a friend: The black security guard at a major slaughter house in Johannesburg, welcomed the sound of jangling keys, as it signaled lockup time at the plant, the end of a long and tiring workday.

Out of the building came 60 ritual slaughterers, a group of bearded Jews from Israel who came to prepare kosher animals for consumption in South Africa for a few months. The meat would then be frozen and sent to Israel. They would come in each morning at dawn and engage in slaughtering till early afternoon when they would return to their lodgings.

One day, as they were about to depart, the African black guard tells the head of the group, known as the “Rosh,” that “one rabbi was still inside somewhere. He never came out. What happened to him?”

The head of the group went off to search for the missing rabbi, but shortly later he returned alone. “Sir, I am positive he’s in there somewhere,” the security guard replied with conviction. “No sign of him,” said the “Rosh.” “Are you absolutely sure he didn’t leave yet?” “Sir, I am positive he’s in there somewhere,” the guard replied with conviction.

Looking none too pleased, the head of the group, the “Rosh,” went off looking for the missing rabbi for the second time. After a few minutes he was back, but no one with him.

Meanwhile, not a hundred feet away, in a walk-in freezer locked from the outside, the missing ritual slaughterer lay semi-conscious, literally freezing to death. Toward the end of the day he went into the freezer, the door shut behind him, and he was locked inside. The noise was so loud that all of his knocking and screaming did not help. Nobody heard him. His muted calls for help began to slur until they faded completely. “So this is what it feels like to die . . . ,” he mused. Barely coherent, he managed to mutter the Shema. He was ready to meet his Creator.

As if in a distant dream, he heard what seemed to be the sound of a screaming angel. “I’m locking up now,” the “Rosh” yelled, his tone leaving no room for arguments. And yet the security guard persisted, “Sir, allow me to check myself, maybe the rabbi is in some type of trouble . . .”

At the mention of the word “trouble,” the “Rosh” jumped and dashed towards the freezers … And there he was freezing to death. At the last moment he was saved.

The “Rosh” asked the black security guard: “I’m really curious. There are 60 rabbis who walk out from this place every day. We all have beards and look, more or less, the same. How did you know that this particular ritual slaughterer was still inside the plant?”

“It’s really very simple,” the black guard answered. “Every single morning without fail, I am greeted with a solitary ‘good morning.’ From all of you guys, there is only one man, who stops each morning and tells me “Good morning, how are you? How is your family?” Every evening, upon leaving, he wishes me a hearty ‘good night.’ This morning I received my usual cheery ‘good morning,’ but I still hadn’t received my usual ‘good night’ . . . I knew that he still inside the plant!”

secret to happiness rabbi nycEvery single day of your life, even when you feel down and about, try to emulate Joseph.

Take 25 seconds of your time, and approach one person in the world and with sincerity ask them: how are you? Are you happy? What is bothering you? How can I help you?

It can be your spouse; your child; your mother; someone in the office; an employee; a partner; a friend; or a strange in the street; a homeless man or woman. Every day—just one sincere and real “good morning.” It changes the world and saves lives.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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