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Alexi Shaff - Dvar Torah

Rabbi Greg, Family, Friends and Members of the Congregation. Today is a very special day in my life and it will certainly be a day to remember. My parshah, or Torah portion, is called Vayeishev and is a very popular one. It is the portion when Joseph receives his techni-coloured coat and covers Joseph's struggle through his life, his ups and downs and of course, the receiving of his coat. In my dvar Torah, I will be taking you through my portion and speaking about some things that really stood out to me while incorporating my family and a bit of our history.

One of the sections of my portion that stood out to me was where Joseph's brothers were planning on killing him, yet his one brother, Reuben intervenes and suggests that instead he should just be thrown in a pit as punishment for what Joseph had done. To me this symbolizes fighting for fair justice, and standing up for the better, for what you believe in. This is very important to me as in my life, I strive to make the right decisions and always fight for justice. The other part of my portion that really stood out to me was when Joseph gets taken from Canaan to Egypt. This links incredibly well with my life and history as part of my family also had to flee many years ago from Latvia to South Africa, in the earlier years of the 20th Century.

This story begins with my great grandparents, Benzion and Chana from my father, Gary's side, getting taken into custody in St. Petersburg at the time of the March 1918 Revolution after they were branded Bourgeoisie by the Secret Police. By pure chance of a photo that spared them being shot in the notorious Death Chamber and the assistance from a Russian friend, Rochachoff in obtaining two rail tickets, they were able to abandon all possessions and flee back to Riga. A life saving coincidence that was to indicate the existence of our Family. This story is one of pure strength, courage and bravery and I am incredibly proud to say that my family went through hardship and did everything possible for me, my future children and my grandchildren.

I have learnt from my parshah that standing up for what is right and just is one of the greatest deeds in life and one must always be aware of this and encourage others to do so as well. We also need to do everything possible in order to give a better worth of life to our future generations. It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

Shabbat Shalom

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