Because now I can…..

This week’s portion is Vayigash, which means to to go up, or in the past “went up”.  Vayigash is the continuation of the Joseph narrative.  A quick overview: The portion opens with the conclusion of the cliffhanger of what will happen to Benjamin?  Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and the tension can be felt in the story, the family sparks flying along with the palace intrigue.  Pharoah is told quickly what is happening.  Vayigash also gives the geneology of Joseph’s family, who came with his brothers ot the land of Goshen.  Joseph tells his brothers to pack up and come to Goshen to ride out the famine yet in the end it sounds more like a business deal.  A few interesting aspects found in the story here.  First, Joseph rides up to Goshen to meet his father, Israel, and then also introduces a select few of his brothers to Pharoah.  Joseph also shows his business savy by collecting livestock and then land and then parcelling it back out to the Egyptians when the famine is over with stipulations about how much the government is going to get of their crop.  Pharoah allows Joseph’s family to stay because they are shepards and according to the text, the Egyptians find shepards “abhorrent” but seemingly necessary job they, the Egyptians, don’t want to do.  So Joseph’s family gets seemingly prime land to do an unwanted job.  Interesting.  Why Goshen and not the seat of power?

A couple of interesting notes.  Twice in the portion, once with Joseph and Israel and once with the brothers and Joseph, the Torah tells us that first the brothers wrapped their arms around Joseph’s neck and then Joseph wrapped his arms around Israel’s neck.  I’m surprised I didn’t see much about this in the commentaries I read.  So, I went to Google and checked out the meaning of neck in Biblical symbolism.  This wrapping aoround the neck is a Biblical form of submission or giving power to.  The brothers submit to Joseph and then Joseph to his father.  When you stop to think about it, the neck is one of the strongest, most needed, yet most vulnerable parts of the human body.  Besides our heart, if the structures inside our neck are cut off, we cannot survive and exist.  In the part of my life as an EMT, a lot of time is spent going over airway and opening and controlling the airway and being aware of spinal precautions and injuries.  We breathe and eat through our necks and our spines hold us up and send and receive messages from the rest of our body.  We also speak from the voice box in our larynx, also in our neck.  A baby’s neck is wobbly with their large heads and must be stabilized.  So the idea is one is submitting their life, their existence, to the other person by wrapping their arms around the other person’s neck.

The second interesting note is that of the whole interplay of shepards being “abhorrent”.  I’ve never taken care of sheep but have seen sheep in a farm setting.  The Egyptians had other livestock as they mention horses in the portion. I wonder what the abhorrence was and was Pharoah saying yes to Joseph’s family coming more about them doing something everybody else didn’t want to do than being Joseph’s family? Were their skills and lifestyle were convenient for Pharoah?  Now as an ESL instructor for over 20 years, this gives me pause that immigration has always been a thorny issue with interesting backstories on both sides.  The Torah is silent about how the Joseph and his brothers reacted to this.  Did they accept it as that’s the way things are or as do we have to do this for survival?  It’s a lot of effort packing for a vacation, never mind moving about two hundred people.  Again, there is no clear specifics if everyone came at once or slowly over time.  This also sets up for and foreshadows the exodus with Moses later on.

The part that struck me the most was the part about Joseph giving Benjamin, the son of the right hand, as Benjamin’s name translates, a “gift” of jewels and money after Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.  Andrew Lloyd Weber doesn’t mention this part of the narrative in the musical.  Did Joseph do this in front of the others or did he do this in a Mario Puzo kind of way, holding him back or meeting him in a garden somewhere and handing him a bag with the jewels and money with a slap on the back and a nice, firm handshake, and maybe a hug?  What was said between these two brothers?  Again, silence.  Joseph never outright apologizes.  Should we expect from our worldview for Joseph to apologize yet at the same time Judaism teaches true repentance is not repeating the same bad actions when put in a similar situation.  Will Joseph ever encounter this particular situation again?  Some situations happen only once and someone may never have the chance to be put in another, similar or same situation.  Joseph is no fool, he knows what he is doing and probably had this planned all along.  I can easily picture Joseph sitting on a throne of some sort when his brothers show up, having tasted the power of the Pharoah, looking at his brothers with disdain as they stick out like sore thumbs among the Egyptian elite, knowing they don’t recognize him in Egyptian dress and with the years passing, probably some physical growth if he is at the end of his teens, early twenties.  Like most people in power, this scene is played out in front of the people who are the beck and call of royalty, just think of the recent PBS production about Queen Victoria.  A group of silent witnesses who gossip after everything is said and done.  Joseph finds a time and way to set up Benjamin and give his brothers the ultimate test in maturity and changing as humans.  They pass and Joseph rewards Benjamin for being a pawn in Joseph’s test.  Benjamin is never given a chance to speak his side of the story.

This part struck me the most for two reasons.  First, being a spouse and being a parent and being a sibling.  The little extras that get passed around to the people who have to deal with a situation that isn’t of their making.  The ice cream cones for having to go places they don’t want to or the extra long playdate for similar reasons.  Also this week I received an email that one of the most corrupt and abusive bosses I ever worked for is retiring at the end of this week.  I’ve had many bosses and supervisors, at EMS right now I have ten alone, but this particular person takes the cake for one of the top five of the worst of the worst.  Before I left, I made sure I emailed my list of grievances to him, all of his bosses, and all the people who worked with us in the form of a video.  He then had the gall to email me after I sent the video and say after all the backstabbing and public humiliation he put me through in front of other workers and students that I was an integral part of the program he was in charge of.  He even tried calling me when he said he had no access to the outside world during a medical rehabilitation.  I promptly deleted the voicemail. I wanted to go to his retirement party and sit there and let my kids loose but I didn’t.  I made the analogy to the person who originally referred me for the job that I would rather scrub a dirty ambulance from top to bottom with a toothbrush than ever deal with him again.  And then here I am reading this portion about what Joseph did to his brothers.  People told me I should not have done this due to social media and it’s a small world and blah, blah, blah.  Yet Joseph did the same thing in his own way, giving his brothers a taste of their own medicine and rewarding the fall guy for his emotional pain and suffering.  I understand Joseph now in this portion, sitting, watching, waiting, and playing the games he has to.  I know this particular boss will never apologize.  If he had 

apologized or reinstated what he took from me, maybe I would have stayed but I’m not sure.  Part of me says I have received apologies from a few people I never thought I would have over the last couple of years from grievances of long ago, so maybe…..  Yet the other part says I would rather scrub that ambulance with a toothbrush if I ever have to be within breathing room of this person again.  Joseph didn’t have this indecision.  There’s no sense of apologetics thoughout the portion, only of power and on the opposite extreme, heartache and reconciliation. He did what he did and what he knew he had to do to find out where his brothers stood.  Have we all had a Benjamin in our lives?  Yes, we have.  So what can we carry with us from this portion?

For all the lovely dovey Hollywood endings we see in the media, reconciliation is a process and not one we as humans want to admit to or maybe in some cases never go through.  Yes, people have apologized to me but we haven’t reconciled.  They aren’t part of my life except maybe when I see them grocery shopping or a social media post.  Joseph has made that jumpy leap to reconciliation but the Torah leaves it in the dark about the aftermath.  Is it a tense one or is everyone at ease with each other or somewhere in the middle? Or has it simply been forced?  Every situation is unique.  Does the distance to Goshen from Pharoah’s court make it easier?  I wonder at this time of year when many people I know are making long car rides to see relatives that see infrequently.

Overall though, Joseph reminds us that sometimes you do what you have to do and no matter the outcome, life continues and one must continue with it as Joseph so eloquently does.


Daily Prompt: Fraud

via Daily Prompt: Fraud

What exactly is fraud?  Can a person be a fraud?  How does the law define fraud?  Why do some people always seemingly get away with fraud and being a fraud?

Not being an attorney, fraud seems to end up in the legal system when Party A steals from Party B through indirect channels.  Yet doesn’t fraud include selling drugs and being on government aid?  Doesn’t it include calling 911 numerous times, sometimes in one day?  Doesn’t fraud include lying to people, bilking people out of money?

What does fraud really include?

People in my area joke fraud seems to be in the drinking water, especially when it comes to local politicians.  I’ve heard stories of manilla envelopes being passed around, leaders shutting down venues suddenly when someone waves a few million dollars in their face, or did some of that end up in their pockets?

Are we all frauds?

I had a teacher in grammar school who always talked about “taking off our masks”.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized we wear different masks with different people and different situations.  Some people hide behind their mask very well and some don’t.

Even Shakespeare is suspected of being a fraud, the whole thing.  Yes, a man from Stratford, England was named Shakespeare but people have made the argument that he was a scapegoat.  The real author, the person who created so much of our literature canon today, has remained anonymous and created a mask.  Was this person a fraud as well?

Where will one encounter fraud today?


30 Day Challenge: Day 1 – I need someone….

I’ve been given this 30 day challenge to teach and show what I do.  I can start with my elevator pitch but I have 29 days left to get to that.

When teaching English learners English, I like to use songs and music.  The reason I do this is because music helps the words, the grammar, the syntax all stick easier than simply doing rote memorization.  Teaching with music is also more fun than simply sticking with a book.

The Beatles “Help” is one of my favorite songs to use for advanced beginners to intermediate learners.  One needs the word “help” in English.  The song also teaches simple past, expressing using the verb “need”, the word “so”, “much”, adjectives, pronouns, conditional, and some great vocabulary.

The word “help” also sums up what I do, not only in my business, but all around.

In my business I help people transform their lives.  Yet like other business owners, this isn’t just my business, it is my life.  For the past 23 years, seven of the last have included my LLC, I have worked with, helped, taught, held hands with, cried with, gone through English grammar and literature with ad nauseum, pulled words and information out of people’s mouths, put their thoughts and information on paper, career coached and counseled them, wrote out their dreams and thoughts for them, banged my head against a few computer screens and desks in frustration, and overall seen people move on to better places and positions.

Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

For mature audiences only and for those that can handle tough issues and graphic portrayals.

The copy of this book that I found contains notes and a lot of highlights.  I’m wondering if someone, or two, used this for a class or book group, or both.  Finding scribbles and highlights is fascinating because it shows what other people reading the same thing latched onto during the reading.

In today’s day and age, Michael’s relationship with Hannah would be treated as a major crime, the setting for a show like Law and Order’s Special Victim’s Unit.  Olivia Benson would be on the case of a woman having an affair with a teenager half of her age.

This book could only take place in the setting that it does.  Everyone has secrets to hide yet justice is being handed out on a continual basis.

I just wonder for a country like Germany that has forced and compulsory state sanctioned education, just like the United States and a few other countries, how someone like Hannah would have fallen through the cracks and would have never learned to read or write, even functional literacy.  That is the major gap that is left by having the story from only Michael’s point-of-view.  He says that Hannah would never answer his questions.

Having worked with English Learners and with clients who can read barely beyond a second or third grade level as adults, Hannah’s complete lack of anything really makes me wonder.  Did the system just pass her along, so to speak, as happens today even though not many people are willing to discuss the subject.  Did she come from a poor family that the system missed somewhere?  Who knows?  It is left to the reader’s imagination.

Hannah preyed on Michael and the feeling seemed to go the other way as well.  No one is a good guy in this story.  Heartbreaking in some ways, yes, but these are two imperfect human beings.

Daily Prompt: Sail

via Daily Prompt: Sail

This word is a summer word.

Teaching English, English uses this verb to describe what a boat does.  Other uses include a balloon sailing up in the air, or a bird sailing on the wind.  Are wind surfers sailing or surfing or both?

Enya uses this in one of her songs.  She describes sailing away.

In English you can sail in, sail into, sail on, sail up, sail down, sail toward, sail away…..basically any type of direction you need to go.

Years ago I took a basic boating class and the instructor always complained about local birds pooping on the sails.  The physical sails are tough and strong but too much bird poop is a bad thing.

Hoist your sails and live your life.

Photo Challenge: Transient

via Photo Challenge: Transient

I don’t have a photo I’ve taken for this word.  Someday.  Yet for right now the word can be discussed.

Transient population.  This expression always pops into mind.

Yet what does it mean to be transient?

This is a word that is related to transport, transportation, transfigure, transpose to go across something.  The suffix trans- and moving of some sort.

Does owning a home mean one is not transient?  Staying in one place for a long while?

What about nature?  Most animals are transient, constantly on the move.  For them being transient is a good thing, usually, and they are listening to what their body, more specifically something in their neurological and reproductive system, is telling them to do.

Are we humans meant to be transient?  Our ancestors were.  Yet being classified as a “transient” today is a negative thing.  Is that because one may not be part of a community for a long while?


Daily Prompt: Meddle

via Daily Prompt: Meddle

Don’t meddle in other people’s affairs.  Don’t meddle in something that isn’t your business.  Don’t be a meddler.  Don’t meddle in politics.

How many times have we heard this?  Who came up with these words of advice anyway? How many people still do this kind of stuff?

This word always makes me think of busybody old ladies sitting around gossiping with the blue wigs and drinking tea.

Some people mistake this word with “metal” because of the pronunciation.

Can one meddle in a good way?  Is community advocacy a good way of meddling?  How else can one meddle in a positive way?