By Shmuel Sackett
I have always said that if I could be a “fly on the wall” during any story in Tanach, it would be in this week’s parsha, when Yehuda faces off against the #2 man in Egypt – who turns out to be Yosef. The Midrashim on that encounter are simply incredible. As part of that story, Yosef did something he had never done before. The Netivot Shalom points out that the whole time when Yosef was with his brothers – accusing them as spies and everything else he did to them – there were always people in the room around him. His slaves, bodyguards, servants, Egyptian officers… he was never alone with his brothers. Yet, in this parsha, when he wants to reveal himself to his brothers and tell them who he really is, the first thing he does is send every one out of the room:
“And he cried out – Have everyone leave my presence!” (Breisheit 45:1) Why all of a sudden did he need to be alone??? Think about it for a second. When is there a time in the Jewish calendar, when someone is all alone? Nobody is around. Nobody – not even the greatest Rabbi or Prophet – can accompany this person. He must be all by himself. When is that??? It’s Yom Kippur – when the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh Ha’Kadoshim, the Holy of Holies. He must be alone. The Kedusha in that room, the connection to Hashem is so awesome that he simply cannot share it with anyone in the world. That was the feeling that Yosef wanted to experience when the time came to reveal himself to his brothers. It wasn’t just a brother saying, “Hey guys, it’s really me!!” – it was Yom Kippur. Yosef was like the Kohen Gadol and his brothers were the Aron – the ark - that is inside. Nothing else is there… except holiness and being one with Hashem. He wanted to feel that “Kohen Gadol moment” when he told his brothers the truth.
People think that this special feeling is only once a year, for one person in the world – the Kohen Gadol - but the Netivot Shalom revealed an amazing secret. We can have that feeling every single day. Every single one of us! We can enter – all by ourselves - the “Kadosh Ha’Kadoshim” and be one with Hashem… and we don’t even have to be a kohen to do it! It’s called Sh’moneh Esrey. It’s one of the most precious gift known to Jews; the gift of praying to Hashem.
Take your time in Sh’moneh Esrey. Close your eyes and see yourself all alone... just like the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. Just like Yosef in this week’s parsha. During those few moments, there’s no world politics, no NFL playoffs, no school, no business deals, there’s nothing going on… it’s just YOU and HASHEM.
I realize that we are all in a rush and I too am known as a “fast davener”… in all areas except Sh’moneh Esray. During that amazing Tefila I take my time. I connect to our Father and King. I make those moments count and do the best I can to be just like the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. You can do the same. No special skills are necessary… just a loving heart and a burning soul which every Jew possesses. Let’s get to work!