December 25, 2020
I’ve always wondered, what if, instead of Pharaoh positioning Joseph as Governor over Egypt during the 14 years associated with his dreams, he simply told his people, “Store your crops and grains for the next 7 years when we will have an overabundance of food, so that you have enough to carry you through the following seven years when there will be famine over the land.” Would Pharaoh have fulfilled his responsibility as a leader? Would the people have listened and prepared themselves appropriately?
Obviously, there is no way to answer these over-simplified questions, but what we can learn from contemplating this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, is to ask the more relevant question for today… what can we learn from this overt example of a leader positioning the community’s sustainability over the empowerment of each individual to take responsibility for themselves?
The truth is that with Joseph’s entrustment to his leadership position, Egyptian governance changed from an everyone-for-themselves outlook to a community-first perspective. Sure, during the years of plenty everyone would be happy, eating well, enjoying their “bullish” times. However, when the crops dried up, and the people began to starve during their newfound “bearish” times, from where would they find their sustenance? It was with this strategic outlook, with full intent on being ready to take care of the vulnerable members of the community, that Joseph laid out his plan.
This community-first mindedness has always been the Jewish way. Our sages teach us that when we first come together to form a community, the first communal structure we are obligated to build is the house of worship, or more specifically in Hebrew, Beit Knesset (“House of Gathering”). The second “organization” we are tasked to create is a Free Loan association. In order for the Jewish community to plant its roots and sustain itself, it obligates those with the capacity to support those in need. Once there are two organizations established, a community leadership is created to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of the organized Jewish community.
Since biblical times, when the Hebrews turn from a collective group of individual slaves into the nation of Israel, we repeatedly come across the importance of community-mindedness and providing a collective shelter for the many disparate and siloed groups within a nation of independent thinkers. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of the community leaders to always be thinking of the best interest of the collective group.
The Jewish Federation was created with this community-first approach in mind. The mission of the Jewish Federation is to ensure the sustainability of the community by bringing our local organizations together, ensuring their viability and the health and safety of the individual community members; listening to the community and in turn charting our course to our proverbial “Promised Land”; and finally, through securing the resources to get us there.
There are numerous Torah portions providing us the wisdom of our elders to return to this topic, however, today I want to take this opportunity with less than one week left in the calendar year to thank all the incredibly generous donors to the 2020 Annual Campaign! During a year, in which we experienced community tragedy, personal loss, cultural upheaval, partisan politics, and economic misfortune, to name just a few of our collective struggles, YOU, the members of our extended family, stepped up to the task. Because of your philanthropic support, our community will (for another year) be able to:
- ensure our community’s collective health, safety, and security
- support our most vulnerable populations through partnering with our local Jewish service agencies
- educate the South Texas community on the horrors of the Holocaust and present-day acts of Anti-Semitism
- sponsor Jewish education and Jewish camp scholarships
- outreach to the greater San Antonio community through political activism and shared community objectives
- provide a free monthly Jewish book to the hundreds of Jewish early childhood children
- and much, much more!
So please, if you have not yet made a contribution to the Annual Campaign, we ask that you consider a gift of any amount. Every dollar makes a significant difference to someone in need. And, if you are an individual or family in need of assistance, whether emotional, spiritual, or financial, please reach out to us and let us know as soon as possible, because the Jewish Federation is: