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“There’s nothing to eat!” my son would often exclaim as he would stare into a refrigerator filled with food.  The freezer was as well stocked with frozen goodies.  I soon realized that his statements were not about reality but instead about desire.  What he wanted to eat, what he imagined savoring, was not to be found in the refrigerator.  Now, even weeks after Hurricane Sandy, such exclamations have disappeared.  The freezer is only partially restocked.  The refrigerator is once again filled.

For weeks we stared into an empty refrigerator.  We were forced to throw out the defrosted food.  We cooked what we could heat up on the gas stove.  We were happy to have the meal.  We were confident that the lack of electricity was only a temporary frustration.  Others were worse off.  There was still plenty to eat, just far too often not what we wanted to eat.  Now, we no longer stare into the refrigerator searching only for what we desire.  Sandy cast such feelings aside.  Now we are happy to have its light illumine whatever food might be on the shelves.

When Jacob saw that there were food rations to be had in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another?...  Go down and procure rations for us there, that we may live and not die.”  (Genesis 41:1-2)  This week we read that our forefather, Jacob, is confronted with a famine in the land of Israel.  He is unable to provide for his family. He instructs his sons to go to Egypt where unbeknownst to him, his son Joseph has stored plenty of food.  In an extraordinary measure of foresight and leadership Joseph stockpiled food throughout the seven years of plenty.  Now, during the seven years of famine, everyone is coming to him to procure food. 

The Midrash relates: You may learn from the story of Jacob that it is a man’s worst trial to have his children ask him for food when he has nothing to give. 

Imagine how difficult this trial was for Jacob.  He had nurtured his children throughout their years and sustained them on God’s dream.  They would settle in the Promised Land, the land of Israel, and their descendants would number as the stars in the night’s sky.  Instead they had only known struggle and hardship, favoritism and envy.

And now they know hunger. 

The scars remain.