Asher W., age 12
Tribe of Benjamin
Elrond was born at a very young age some time in between creation and 2000. It was so long ago he can’t remember. His mom, who was there at the time, says he was born in Rivendell, California. Hid dad works at a finance, in a spectacularly clean office. His room is fairly clean except for one or two askew articles of clothing. It just happens Elrond’s favorite Bible verse is Psalm 23:06, my favorite too. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Elrond’s favorite hobby is reading. His favorite book, other than the Bible, is Lord of the Rings. If you are lucky enough to get Elrond as a counselor, you will definitely be ensured an amazing two weeks of camp.
Halie F, age 7
Reuben is a flower. We are smart. We are great and love art. We have a flag! My counselors Ruski and Citrus are cool. We are cool to Benjamin. We like cats and horses. We win at stuff.
This week we’re looking at this week’s and last week’s parsha.These sections from the life of Joseph are great to read together and would be great to look at on your own or as a family over this holiday break. So we’re looking at Miketz and Vayigash and next week is the last parsha in Genesis. We’re still with Joseph and his brothers and their crazy story. This chunk in Genesis starts in Genesis 41 and ends in 47:27. When this section begins, Joseph is still in prison. He met the cup bearer and the baker in the parsha before, but once they get out of prison they forget about him for a little while. This section starts with Pharaoh retelling his dream and Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams is remembered. When Joseph is pulled out of prison to hear and interpret Pharaoh’s dream, he has bad news to deliver. Pharaoh’s dream says that there will be 7 profitable harvest years followed by 7 years of famine. God gives Joseph the interpretation of these dreams, but also give Joseph advice to transmit to Pharaoh on how the people of the area are to survive the years of famine to come. Pharaoh is so impressed by Joseph that he brings him out of prison permanently and puts Joseph in charge of food storage and rationing. Think about that for a second. You’re Joseph and when you wake up in the morning you are in prison and you’re not guilty of anything. At the end of the day you are out of prison and Pharaoh has given you pretty much the biggest job there is in the whole land of Egypt. And the biggest job puts him in charge of making sure that all of Egypt and the surrounding area survive the famine to come. Woah, that is pretty mind blowing!
The Bible tells us that during the years of plenty, Joseph’s life is also plentiful. He gets married and his wife has two sons named Ephraim and Manasseh and their names have pretty significant meanings. Manasseh means God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household and Ephraim means God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
…and then the famine begins. So Genesis 42 brings Jacob and the rest of Joseph’s brothers back into the story. The famine doesn’t just affect Egypt, it affects the surrounding areas as well. This part of the story with Joseph’s brothers in Egypt is pretty weird and also high drama. We have a scene where Joseph and all of his brothers (except for Benjamin) are in the same place at the same time, but the brothers don’t recognize Joseph. Joseph is in the power position in every way in this exchange and it takes awhile and several trips for Joseph to reveal his identity. Over the course of this time Joseph is testing his brothers which might seem kind of messed up until you remember that the last time he was dealing with them they were debating over whether they should kill him or just ruin his life and send him away. The details of how this all works are really interesting, but a little too complicated to go into in a blog post. The short version of it is, Joseph isn’t ready to entrust his identity to his brothers yet. The timing has to be right, but the text lets us know that seeing his brothers and being with them is emotional for Joseph. We see that at its fullest in the beginning of Vayigash. In Genesis 45:1-8 Joseph fills his brothers in and we get to hear in his own words how he feels about the years that have gone by.
Now Joseph could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him, so he called out, “Remove everyone from before me!” Thus no one remained with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He cried in a loud voice. Egypt heard and Pharaoh’s household heard. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him because they were let disconcerted before him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me, if you please,” and they came close. And he said, “I am Joseph your brother — it is me, whom you sold into Egypt. And now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourselves for having sold me here, for it was to be a provider that God sent me ahead of you. For this has been two of the hunger years in the midst of the land, and there are yet five years in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest. Thus God has sent me ahead of you to insure your survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance. And now: it was not you who sent me here, but God; He has made me father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler throughout the entire land of Egypt.
In this holiday season which is often full of awkward social interactions and tense meet ups with family I am encouraged to know that nothing that happens over my holiday vacation will be this dramatic. I am also encouraged that Joseph’s read on the situation was positive and spoke of God’s goodness and control in the situation, not the brother’s malice and sin. The brothers did pretty much everything they could to break up their family, but God restores it and in the process enables Joseph to be in a place where he is able to save countless lives.
I think that the Joseph narrative is a great place to be reading in the Bible this time of year as we are celebrating the miracle of the victory at Hanukkah and as we are celebrating the birth of Messiah. When people are in control we choose disobedience and we choose power for ourselves and we choose to hurt others. And God brings restoration, hope, and promise for the future into the messes that we create.
I want to close this week with verses from Isaiah 11:1-4, 9. Some of you might have come across these verses in the Advent season, but I think that they pair really well with the story of Joseph and God’s restoration. These verses are about promise of the Messiah who was to come (Jesus or Yeshua) and how he will change everything.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord– and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea!” What an amazing promise. What hope that gives me and I hope gives you. Joseph saw God’s hand at work even in the midst of his struggles and even in the midst of heartache inflicted on him by his loved ones. Yeshua came into the world to restore all things and during his time on earth was rejected and mistreated. But, we can look forward to a day when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. I hope these reminders of God’s goodness and sovereignty are an encouragement to you and pray that you would see God’s hand at work in the midst of your current circumstances.
Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal!
Why would Someone want to Join Camp Gilgal?
Kaelee F., age 12
Tribe of Levi
I definitely recommend Camp Gilgal for an awesome camp experience. I’ll start telling you about key things about camp. Let’s start with packing. All right, you must pack sunscreen, bug spray, sleeping bag, showering and pool materials. Also, make sure you pack hot-day clothes and cold-day clothes because Camp Gilgal is in the mountains so the weather isn’t predictable. I mean, it was like 50 degrees on the fourth of July! Don’t forget your Bible! Now, you’re at camp. You are nervous. Try making new friends. When you wake up in the morning you’ll see the time is about 7 o’clock. I know, it’s early, but you will see that once you’re up, you are up. Then, make sure you line up with your tribe (people you share a cabin with) in front of all the cabins to head to breakfast. All meals are amazingly delicious. You can always figure out something to eat if you are really picky too! There are cabin clean-ups every day after breakfast. People will inspect them and give you a score. Tabernacle is next. Bring your Bibles to these. They are services that are kid friendly! I don’t really like services, but I am actually engaging in these ones! After, you’ll take an art and Hebrew class. They’re a blast! Lunch is next! Delicious food as usual! You may pick activities you would like to participate in from Mad Science to sports! But before you can swim in a refreshing pool and play games in the game room! Dinner is after! Yummy food in my tummy! During diner there may be a theme dinner where you follow a theme! That makes dinner that much more fun! After dinner you may play a game with the whole camp or have camp fire talk. This is supposed to give you extra knowledge about God! It’s bedtime! Get ready, hop in and rest. This isn’t the only time you rest during the day! There’s F.O.B. That means Flat On Bunk. You can basically do anything that’s quiet and independent! It usually lasts about an hour! Anyway, Camp Gilgal is super-duper fun! Missing out is the exact opposite of fun! I hope you enjoy this as much as me, especially because it’s a Jewish and Kosher camp! What are you waiting for? Join today!
Tribe of Levi
The Gilgal Gazette is used to share some of the campers’ experiences with the rest of our community and others. For the Gilgal Gazette, you write about your favorite activities of camp. I like the Gilgal Gazette because it is fun to write about your experiences. Writing for the Gilgal Gazette also helps you get to the Gilgal party at the end of camp. You better write an article for the awesome Gilgal Gazette. Right now, you are reading an article about some writing for the Gilgal Gazette. Ha-ha!
The Game Room
Josiah O., age 11
Tribe of Benjamin
The game room is awesome. There is foosball, Air Hockey, Table Tennis, and snack SHACK! I personally think the snack shack is the best so I will tell you about it first. At the snack shack you are able to get candy, ice cream, and soda and even Root beer floats! And then we came to foosball, if you are a champion don’t play against Elrond (he’s a counselor). Then there’s air hockey where you want to win and table tennis does not appeal to me. Otherwise the game room is AWESOME!
This week’s parsha is Vayeshev which means “and he lived.” The parsha begins this way and is talking about Jacob finally returning to the land of Canaan, to the land that his father had stayed. Vayeshev covers Genesis 37:1-40:23 and brings us quickly from a Jacob focused story, to stories that deal with his sons. This week deals with Joseph especially. It might be a pretty familiar story, but it is one that is always worth a second look.
Genesis 37:2 says something really interesting that for me colors the way that this parsha unfolds. It says, “This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.” I would expect that when the story begins “this is the account of Jacob’s family line” that what might follow would be about his oldest son, or about all of his sons. Instead, we are introduced to Joseph who is not Jacob’s oldest son, but is Jacob’s oldest son from his favorite wife Rachel. Favorite is an idea that comes up a lot in these parshot about Joseph and the rest of Jacob’s family. When we are told that Joseph is tending the flocks with his brothers, the text doesn’t list Leah who was Jacob’s first wife at all. We skip the ten sons born to Jacob from other women and go straight to Joseph, Rachel’s eldest son.
Jacob isn’t shy about his favoritism. I would guess that it was something that he talked about, but what we read in this section is that Jacob made an object to symbolize his preference for Joseph. In a time where all clothing was hand made and for the average shepherd family more for practical use than for fashion, Jacob giving Joseph an ornate robe is a big deal. Verse 4 says, ” When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Jacob’s preference of Joseph is not helpful to his relationship with his brothers. I am sure that this family had other issues, but we see a direct connection between Jacob’s favoritism, the brother’s feeling passed over, and the brothers hating Joseph. Just like Jacob acted on his favoritism, the brothers act on their hatred. Together they put together a plan that removes Joseph from their family. Not only are they acting against Joseph, they are acting in a way that will cause Jacob great pain and the brothers move forward anyway.
Once the brothers have succeeded in getting rid of “their Joseph problem” Joseph finds favor in Egypt. Genesis 39:2-5 tells us about Joseph and his new boss. “The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and on the field. ” This sounds pretty good. The LORD is blessing Joseph and he becomes a powerful Egyptian’s favorite trusted servant. But, this is another good news bad news scenario because Joseph also finds favor (through no fault of his own) with his boss’s wife. Oops! This scenario plays out badly, even though Joseph doesn’t act wrongly. So, again Joseph is favored and Joseph is sent away.
In prison this gets repeated. Bad news: he is in prison. Good news: he is a model prisoner and is given responsibility. Good news: he is given an opportunity to help other prisoners. Bad news: he is still in prison. We’ve seen God bless Joseph and we’ve seen Joseph’s circumstances end up being pretty crummy. This parsha ends in a pretty depressing cliff-hanger for Joseph. In prison he helps someone powerful who then gets out of jail. The last verse of this parsha says, “the chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” In three chapters Joseph goes from favorite son to forgotten prisoner in a strange land.
Ok, sorry to bum you all out. This isn’t the end of Joseph’s story. I won’t give away how it all turns out for him and his family (you’ll have to tune in for the rest of December), but what I can tell you is that even though Joseph has been dropkicked out of home by his brothers, falsely imprisoned, and forgotten in jail he has not been forgotten by God. I am sure that there were moments where he felt forgotten or abandoned by God. I am sure that there were points where he second guessed his interactions with his brothers and maybe even regretted being favored by Jacob, but God had not abandoned him. And we know that Joseph hadn’t given up on God. He gives credit to God for his success (even as a servant) and he gives credit to God for his ability with dreams (even in jail).
Joseph is a really encouraging story for me and I hope that you will be encouraged in looking at in again this week and in the coming weeks. God was actively involved in what was going on with Joseph even when he couldn’t see it. God was actively involved in the situation working all things for good, even when Joseph’s brothers, and Potiphar’s wife, and the other prisoners in jail only wished him harm. This is true for us too. It isn’t easy to see when we are in the middle of the story, but I hope that this parsha will encourage and remind you to look to God and ask him to teach you to trust Him when you can’t understand your circumstances. God doesn’t leave or forsake his people. That includes Jacob, that includes Joseph, and that includes you.
Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal!