When the Torah wants to say that something exists or will exist in unimaginable quantity, it uses the term “kehol hayam–like the sand of the sea.” We recognize this expression from the promise to Avraham about the number of his offspring (an analogy that alternates with “stars in the heavens”). This week, in Parshat Miketz, it is used to capture the grain surplus that Egypt stores away as a result of Yosef’s brilliant economic plan in the face of famine. “Joseph gathered grain, as much as the sand of the sea, so much that they stopped counting, for it was beyond count” (Genesis 41:49).
The Hasidic master Avraham Hayyim of Zloczow (1750-1816), in his collection of teachings called Orah Le-Hayyim, calls out the Torah for exaggerating. After all, he writes, the sea is so large that even the Land of Egypt cannot contain all of its sand! Of course, he finds a spiritual message in the Torah’s wording, which we will explore Shabbat afternoon after minhah. But let’s appreciate the impulse to exaggerate when we want to express appreciation for the goodness and blessings in our lives. What’s worse: to overstate our gratitude, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic about what we really have; or to understate it to such a degree that we barely seem grateful? I’d always prefer excessive thanks to inadequate gratitude.
That’s what prayer, especially Pesukei deZimrah, the morning passages of praise, often does. Isn’t it better to give thanks in excess than to neglect to give thanks at all? So every other Shabbat morning, I’ll be leading a singing warmup to our services at 9 AM. Since we just began two weeks ago, we’ll use the same passages and melodies as last time, with just one addition. The links are below. Feel free to listen before Shabbat and join us tomorrow morning.
Shabbat Shalom and Shalom al Yisrael,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 4:10 PM
Torah Reading: Genesis 41:1-44:17
Haftarah: 1 Kings 3:15-4:1