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Telling Your Story: Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson on Parashat Vayigash

n Parashat Vayigash Judah approaches Joseph to plead for the release of Benjamin, offering himself as a slave to the Egyptian ruler instead of Benjamin.

Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson, Mashpiah Ruchanit (Spiritual Mentor) and senior lecturer of Rabbinics and Hasidic Thought at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, shares a Hasidic storytelling tradition: When you hear someone else tell your story, you know that you have been redeemed. How does this possibility of personal redemption relate to Joseph and his brothers?

Full transcript below:

When was the last time you heard someone tell your story? In the Hasidic tradition, there is a tradition that when you hear someone else tell your story, you know that you have been redeemed. I want to ask for a moment, what does that mean? Really in our lives we tell many stories. We tell ourselves many stories. We have narratives and sometimes there’s a story that escorts us for our whole life. I have a story that I was three and a half when I made a pact with God about how I was going to live my life because I couldn’t ride a bike that was my size because I was too tall. And I tell a story that it was from that moment on, I made a pact with God that we were going to walk in the world together.

There are stories that we tell ourselves and how do we know if that’s really who we are? How do you know if the stories you tell yourself are the stories that you really are? I bring this up here in our Parasha because the Me’or Einayim, Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, asked this question on the verse ויגש אליו יהודה “and  Yehuda approaches Yosef” and tells the story over again; a story that they’d know. We know the story, we just read it in the last Parasha. We know the story, Yosef knows the story, but the pasuk says ‘approaches him.’ Not even Yehuda approaches Yosef. That him, similar to וירא ה, אליו “Hashem reveals himself,” herself, itself to him, not to Avraham, that internal, that inner voice that’s inside of us.

And when we hear someone able to reflect to us that inner story, then we know that that story is a real part of who we are. It doesn’t only exist inside of ourselves, but actually has a place in the world. Maybe we weren’t ready to bring it out into the world. Maybe we doubted it, but when someone comes to us and tells us our story, similar to the way Yehuda is telling Yosef Yosef’s story, at that moment, the windows of the heart open, the windows of the soul open, the tears come. There’s a deep breath that comes when we cry and then the abundance of the water that shed from our eyes. I always say that tears are mikvah for the eyes and at that moment, our truth has a place in the world. When was the last time someone told you your story and how did you react?

Shavua Tov.

Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and  teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.

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