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Parshas Vayeishev

The Divine Decree Will Prevail

A man discovered him [Yosef], and behold, he [Yosef] was wandering in the field; the man asked him, saying, "What do you seek?" And he said, "My brothers do I seek; please, tell me where they are pasturing their flocks." The man said: "They have journeyed from here, for I heard them saying, 'Let us go to Dosan.'" So Yosef went after his brothers and found them at Dosan. (Bereishis 37:1-17)

The Torah's narrative portions are generally quite terse. Therefore, the lengthy description afforded in these verses would seem to be quite unusual. The Ramban gives the following explanation of this anomaly:

The Torah is informing us that Yosef had many good reasons to terminate his mission and return to Ya'akov. However, he refrained from doing so out of respect for his father's wishes. Furthermore, the Torah is illustrating that it is impossible to escape a Divine decree, and every effort to do so is futile. Without Yosef's knowledge, the Almighty prepared a guide for him to make sure he would find his brothers. This was what Chazal were referring to when they pointed out that the word "man" appears in these verses three times - denoting the three different angels that Hashem sent as messengers to insure that the Divine decree would be carried out.

The Torah thus teaches us a very important lesson: Whatever God has decreed will prevail. Indeed, this lesson is evinced in the entire episode of Yosef's sale, as is clear from Rashi's comment on Bereishis 37:20: "They said: 'Let us kill him…,' to which the Divine Spirit responded: 'And we shall see what will be of his dreams' - i.e., 'We shall see whose intentions will prevail - yours or Mine.'"

The brothers sold Yosef in order to make it impossible for his dreams to be fulfilled. They were convinced that if they sold him into slavery, he would never rule over them. Yet this very sale initiated a sequence of events that culminated with Yosef becoming their leader! This demonstrates the principle set out by the Ramban: "It is impossible to escape a Divine decree, and every effort to do so is futile."

Hishtadlus for this World, and Hishtadlus for the Next World

R. Chaim Friedlander, mashgiach of the Ponevezh Yeshivah (Sifsei Chaim, vol. 2, p. 7), makes the following comments with reference to the previous quotations from the Ramban:

We learn from this that one should not spend too much time and energy on hishtadlus (investing effort to make something happen). Rather, he should only do what is absolutely necessary to satisfy his obligation in this area. However, it is important to understand that this rule only applies in matters pertaining to worldly matters. Regarding mitzvos, one should do everything possible to insure success, and the more effort one exerts, the more commendable it is. For example, a person should not refrain from looking for a beautiful esrog because he trusts that Hashem will send him one. Rather, he should do whatever is necessary to get one. On the other hand, when a person refrains from exerting himself to the utmost in his performance of mitzvos, he commits a grave error.

Schemes and Plans

Excerpts from the Steipler Rav, zt"l, cited in "Chizuk!"

To be certain that Hashem Yisborach will give you such and such is an extremely lofty level, and not every believer is so firm in his bitachon ("Not everyone who believes really trusts" - Ramban, Sefer Emuna u'Bitachon).... But this is the general obligation, the goal, to believe that everything is from Heaven. It should be clear to you that all the effort in the world will not help one iota to get more than has been decreed upon you from Rosh Hashana (Bircas Peretz, p. 71).

* * *

The general principle is that a person's efforts and schemes will not help one iota to add or detract from what has been decreed on him on Rosh Hashana [except through tefilla, merits, or teshuva, which can change the decree]. The fact that a person's efforts apparently succeed according to one's plan is in reality because it was already decreed on him in Heaven that this should be, and even without his efforts everything would have worked out fine for his benefit in this form or something similar.

Sometimes Heaven allows a person to succeed in spite of the decree. However, along with this he will lose some other pleasure destined for him somewhere else. No hishtadlus can change the amount that has been decreed upon him. (See Yoma 35, "No one can touch what has been prepared for his friend even one hair's breadth.")

* * *

All this is to teach us that all of Man's actions and schemes will not help him to move even one iota from what has been decreed upon him from Heaven. Not only that, but the very action he does to acquire what he wants will merely bring about what has been already destined for him.

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos and a Freilichen Chanukah!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).

If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him: or 732-325-1257

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