Rabbi O’s Weekly: Vayashev (Genesis 37-40)

How Do You Wrap Your Chanukah Gifts?
Here’s a rarely discussed Chanukah topic: How should one give a Chanukah present? Sometimes it’s sufficient to simply ship it with an attached note but usually we have to wrap it and hand deliver it. A group of researchers (https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-gift-wrapping-explains-why-sloppy-is-better-128506) set out to find out what impact wrapping has on a recipient’s appreciation of a gift. In the first round of the study, they recruited 180 students, all of whom were Miami Heat fans, and gave them an assignment for which they were given a mug as a reward. Half of the mugs were Miami Heat mugs and half of them were for the rival team, the Orlando Magic. Half of the mugs (both the Heat and Magic) were wrapped neatly, and half were wrapped sloppily. When surveyed about whether they liked their gifts, the satisfaction rate did not break down by Heat vs. Magic, but rather, those with the sloppy wrapping enjoyed their gifts much more than those with the neat wrapping. To understand why, the researchers conducted another experiment. A different group of students were given gifts, half of which were neatly wrapped, and half sloppily wrapped. Before opening them, the students were asked to imagine what was inside the package and write down their expectations for the gift. The students then opened the package, and they all received the same pair of JVC earbuds. Those with the sloppy packaging were much more satisfied with the gift than those with the neat packaging. The study concluded that nice, neat packaging can lead to dashed expectations, whereas sloppy packaging can help manage or even exceed expectations. The Gemara, has a very telling comment about the sale of Joseph: A person should never distinguish one of his sons from among the other sons by giving him preferential treatment. As, due to the weight of two sela of fine wool that Jacob gave to Joseph, beyond what he gave the rest of his sons, in making him the striped coat, his brothers became jealous of him and the matter unfolded and our forefathers descended to Egypt. (Shabbos 10b) One would think that the animosity the brothers had towards Joseph was something more profound than mere jealousy over a coat but R. Yehuda Leib Chasman (1869-1935; Hebron, Israel) notes that without the comment above, one would think the jealousy and hatred were deeply embedded and the coat of many colors was merely a symbol of that jealousy. However, according to the Gemora the opposite is true; the many-colored coat was the cause of it. The brothers saw it and reached the conclusion that Joseph must be the most beloved son. Is it possible that they could have been so superficial and make one of the most monumental mistakes in Jewish history based on a coat? R. Chasman notes a precedent for this superficial way of thinking. When two people come to court, one dressed in rags and one dressed in an expensive garment, the judges instruct the wealthy person to either dress in rags or to dress the poor person in a garment like yours. It is derived from the verse, “Distance yourself from a false matter.” (Shavuos 31a) Who would think that a judge, someone who had spent years studying law and had a stellar reputation, would have his judgment influenced because one litigant is dressed nicer than the other? Yet, we see, it is human nature to judge a book by its cover. This is the trap that the brothers fell into, not realizing that Jacob had deep reasons for giving Yosef the coat of many colors. Each of Jacob’s 12 sons possessed specific traits and talents that would be required by their descendants, the 12 tribes, in order for each tribe to fulfill its unique role in the building of the Jewish people. Each son expressed a different facet of their father Jacob’s personality. Jacob, also known as Yisrael, embodied the entire Jewish people—also called Yisrael—in microcosm. Joseph, unlike his brothers, was a complete replica of his father, fashioned in his physical and spiritual likeness. Joseph was Jacob’s firstborn in thought, for Jacob had intended to marry Rachel first, and Joseph was Rachel’s firstborn. Joseph possessed Jacob’s physical and spiritual likeness, as well as the necessary traits that would eventually define the entire Jewish people. Joseph’s role was to provide the other tribes with the means to develop their individual roles. As such, he preceded his brothers to Egypt and laid the foundation for his brothers’ eventual sojourn there. Joseph’s descendant, Joshua, conquered the land that the tribes then developed into the Jewish commonwealth. And at the end of days, the messianic era will be heralded by Mashiach of Joseph, who will prepare the way for Mashiach of David. Jacob made Joseph a coat of many colors to represent and remind his multi-faceted pivotal role in creating the Jewish nation. It is natural to jump to conclusions based on external wrappings—even gift wrapping can cause us to reach a conclusion based on expectations. We look at a person’s clothing and think we know everything about him or her. When we learn to manage our expectations and pause before drawing conclusions until we get to know the person, our relationships will be less stressful and more meaningful.  Good Shabbos/Happy Chanukah Got a question?