Ultimately, however, we grow to visibly exemplify the purpose of it all—to serve the Creator

Historically, these two aspects of man’s mission in life are represented by two different, and often conflicting, parties in the Jewish people.

In the founding family of the Jewish nation, there already existed this dichotomy in the persons of Joseph and Judah. Joseph exemplified learning and self-improvement, while Judah was the epitome of self-sacrifice and self-effacement. Their very names convey their differing natures: Joseph (Yosef in Hebrew) means to “add on,” Judah (Yehudah) to “submit.”

Initially, Joseph’s brothers, led by Judah, rejected him. But then Judah conceded to Joseph, acknowledging not only the necessity of the growth which Joseph represents but also Joseph’s more dominant role in the initial stages of Israel’s development.

But later in history, the schism between Joseph and Judah reappeared. While Joseph was the uncontested leader of his brothers in Egypt, and descendents of Joseph (Joshua and Gideon) led the people of Israel during the initial stages of their conquest and settlement of the Holy Land, the predominance of Judah was firmly established with the crowning of David as the king of Israel. But a descendent of Joseph, Jeroboam, refused to accept the sovereignty of the royal house of David. After the death of David’s son, Solomon, Jeroboam led a mutiny against the Davidic dynasty and established himself as king in the northern part of the Holy Land. For the next three centuries, the Jewish people were split into two kingdoms: Judah in the south, and the northern, Joseph-dominated kingdom of Israel.

The deeper significance of this rift was the unreadiness of the “personal growth” element, represented by Joseph, to yield to the “servitude” of Judah – as Judah, centuries earlier, had acknowledged the predominance of “Joseph” in the initial stages of Israel’s mission. In other words, Israel had not yet matured to the ultimate realization of its mission as the utterly selfless service of G-d. The resolution of this rift is the key for the ultimate redemption of Moshiach and the perfection of the world in the harmonious service of its Creator.

It is therefore most appropriate that on the same Shabbos in which the Torah section of which describes Judah’s approach of and reconciliation with Joseph is read, we also read a section of the Prophets which describes the ultimate reunion of the two, this time with Joseph’s acknowledgment of Judah’s sovereignty and leadership. Here, the basis of Judah’s right to the kingship is also emphasized: because he is G-d’s servant, he is the eternal leader of Israel. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel:

"And the word of G-d came to me, saying:

"Son of man! Take one stick and write upon it “For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions”; and take another stick and write upon it “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for the house of Israel his companions.”

"And join them one to the other to make one stick, and they shall become one in your hand…

"Speak to [the people of Israel]: So said the L-rd G-d: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations into which they have gone, and I shall gather them from all around and I shall bring them to their land. I will make them into one nation in the land, in the mountains of Israel, and a single king shall be over them all; no longer shall they be two nations, no longer shall they be divided into two kingdoms. Nor shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, their abominations and their sins… I will cleanse them; they shall be My nation, and I will be their G-d.

"And My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have a single shepherd. They will follow My laws and observe My statutes and do them… and David My servant shall be their prince for ever."

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Introductory reading to Ethics of the Fathers:

All Israel has a share in the World to Come, as is stated: “And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever. They are the shoot of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I take pride.” (Sanhedrin, 11:1)

Chapter One

1. Moses received the Torah from [G-d at] Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.

2. Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.

3. Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

4. Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah, and Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem, received the tradition from them. Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah would say: Let your home be a meeting place for the sages; dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.

5. Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem would say: Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household. And do not engage in excessive conversation with a woman. This is said even regarding one’s own wife—how much more so regarding the wife of another. Hence, the sages said: One who excessively converses with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits purgatory.

6. Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit.

7. Nitai the Arbelite would say: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in retribution.

8. Judah the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shotach received from them. Judah the son of Tabbai would say: When sitting in judgement, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgement, regard them as equally righteous.

9. Shimon the son of Shotach would say: Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses. Be careful with your words, lest they learn from them how to lie.

10. Shmaayah and Avtalyon received from them. Shmaayah would say: Love work, loath mastery, and avoid intimacy with the government.

11. Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.

12. Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron—a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.

13. He would also say: One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes. One who does not learn is deserving of death. And one who make personal use of the crown of Torah shall perish.

14. He would also say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

15. Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.

16. Rabban Gamliel would say: Assume for yourself a master; stay away from doubt; and do not accustom yourself to tithe by estimation.

17. His son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on sin.

18. Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: On three things the world endures: law, truth and peace. As is stated, “Truth, and a judgement of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.”

Studied at the conclusion of each lesson of the Ethics:

Rabbi Chananiah the son of Akashiah would say: G-d desired to merit the people of Israel; therefore, He gave them Torah and mitzvot in abundance. As is stated, “G-d desired, for sake of his righteousness, that Torah be magnified and made glorious.” (Makot, 3:16)

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