Food For the Soul
G-d and The Butler
In [the Parshah Miketz] we read that Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, was imprisoned alongside Pharaoh’s royal butler. Joseph befriended the butler and carefully followed his case. When the butler was exonerated, Joseph beseeched him to appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf. The Torah informs us that the butler forgot about Joseph, causing him to languish in prison for two more years. The Midrash explains that this was because Joseph should have placed his trust in G‑d, not the butler.
Why was it wrong for Joseph to ask the butler for help? Was he not meant to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity placed in his path? The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the person who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d will be his security.” The Midrash explains that this verse refers to Joseph. Joseph fulfilled the first half of this verse, but not the second. He trusted G‑d to provide an opportunity for salvation. He believed that G‑d had placed the butler in his path. But once the butler arrived, Joseph looked to him for redemption. The butler became his security, not G‑d.
Joseph’s mistake was that he should have realized that he had no way of knowing if his attempt to have the butler intercede for him would bear fruit. For all he knew, G‑d might not have intended at all to bring about his salvation through the butler. He should have realized that while he was meant to pursue the avenue placed before him, he was not meant to rely on it for certain that this would be the avenue that G‑d will choose. In point of fact, the butler did bring about Joseph’s salvation in the end. But Joseph may have been punished for taking it for granted. Instead of the butler bringing up Joseph’s case before Pharaoh immediately, he promptly forgot his promise, and Joseph languished an additional two years in prison before Pharaoh’s need for a dream interpreter reminded the butler of the imprisoned Hebrew slave.
Even when we seize the initiative and succeed, we must search for G‑d’s covert hand that orchestrates and choreographs our success. Joseph should have continued to trust in G‑d even as he negotiated with the butler. If the butler would succeed, gratitude would be due to G‑d. The butler was only a medium through which G‑d would deliver liberation.
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
Kindle 6 Lights before sunset
In commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah we kindle the Chanukah lights—oil lamps or candles—each evening of the eight-day festival, increasing the number of lights each evening. For tonight we kindle six lights. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 6th day of Chanukah).
IMPORTANT: Because of the prohibition to kindle fire on Shabbat, the Chanukah lights must be lit before lighting the Shabbat candles, and should contain enough oil (or the candle be big enough) to burn until 30 minutes after nightfall.
Mind Over Matter
Why do we go to work on Chanukah? On other Jewish holidays, work is not permitted. Because the light of those days is too pure to enter the mundane world. To be part of such a holy day, we must temporarily leave that world behind.
But on Chanukah there shines a far more intense light, the light of the six days of creation that was hidden for the World To Come. A light through which all mysteries are revealed, all questions answered. A light so powerful, it can enter our everyday world of work and business, and encompass everything we do. And make that shine as well.
On Chanukah, there shines a light that reveals the divine within everything, everywhere.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
The Soul Cannot Be Imprisoned
Even in jail, Joseph retained, and was mindful of, his spiritual heritage-the teachings of his father. This heritage was his light with which he overcame the darkness of prison. It filled him with hope, joy and delight. The constraints of prison did not fetter him. It was but a temporary confinement, and immediately upon his release he rose to rule over all of Egypt. The prison-house of Joseph is an allusion to this world into which the souls of Israel-the “children of G‑d”-are made to descend, to become vested in finite bodies in order to observe Torah and mitzvot. The analogy with a prison is noted especially during the time of the galut (exile). Thus, we must remember Joseph and the events of his life. We must realize that the very idea of confinement is alien to us, because Jewish life is essentially unrestricted. The present era of constraints is undoubtedly only temporary. It is merely a step toward the ultimate goal of illuminating the world. The fulfillment of this mission will be followed immediately by the final redemption of Moshiach.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
The Art of Delegation
When I was twenty, a friend and I spent a weekend organizing a shabbaton in a small synagogue somewhere in America. The rabbi of the congregation was a wonderful person who had been in his position for over fifty years. I remember looking around at the tiny vestibule of the poky little synagogue, and the sparse crowd of congregants, and wondering how a person with such obvious talent and charisma could have spent so long in the one place and have seemingly so little to show for all his efforts.
I glimpsed a partial solution to the mystery as I started setting up the tables for the meal; right behind me, every step of the way, came the venerable octogenarian, straightening chairs and reorganizing my cutlery settings. The man was congenitally unable to let go. He took personal charge of the children’s service, demonstrated to the waiters the correct method of serving soup, led the Grace after Meals and interrupted every speaker with a running commentary of corrections and suggestions. He worked so hard and meant so well, yet the shabbaton was a shambles.
It’s hard to hand over control; trusting others to do the job without you. It is so tempting to insist on staying in the loop, finessing and finicking every single detail. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and isn’t the only way to guarantee perfection doing it yourself? But you can’t do it all. You have to be willing to lean on others and work together for a common goal. Many hands make light work and the mark of a successful leader is the ability to step back and allow others their turn in the limelight.
When I think of successful models of leadership I think of the Rebbe who empowered so many to live for his vision and trusted them to work out the details for themselves. The Rebbe didn’t usually tell us what to do or how to do it; he just inspired us with the self-confidence to try, and then allowed us to map out our own path to success.
Yet, as I write this, I think back to the thousands of hours the Rebbe devoted to serving the needs and whims of individuals. If he had mastered the art of delegation why did he personally have to stand for hours every Sunday handing out dollar bills for people to place in charity? Why personally sign the thousands of letters that went through his office? Surely the proper function of a leader is to decide policy and set the general tone and direction, and then to allow his faceless bureaucrats to grease the wheels of routine governance.
Perhaps an answer can be sourced from this week’s Torah reading. Joseph was “the ruler of the land” (Genesis 42:6), and also the most successful Jew to ever stride the world’s financial markets. It was his drive and sense of vision that saved the world from starvation. Yet the very same verse continues: “He was the one who provided grain to all the people of the land.” I can just imagine the scene: Joseph standing at the front door of his granary, greeting every one of the thousands of starving peasants with a smile and cheery word and personally handing over the precious grain that meant life in times of famine.
Sure, he would have had sufficient flunkeys and lackeys to take care of the nitty-gritties of corporate governance and routine existence, yet a true leader never forgets that to serve the simple needs of the common people is the highest calling to which one can aspire.
It is so difficult, yet so crucial, to maintain balance; thinking globally, acting locally. Trusting others to lead in their own right, yet never removing oneself entirely from the mundane wants and needs of the entire flock. There is no shame in asking others for their help, or learning how to delegate, but never, ever insulate yourself in an ivory tower of privilege. True leadership doesn’t mean doing it all yourself, yet being a true leader means doing it all for others.
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum