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Vayechi"Although you intended me harm, Hashem intended it for good - in order to accomplish -- it is as clear as this day -- that a vast people be kept alive" (Bereishis 50:19).
After so many weeks, we have finally come to the end of the drama which encompassed several parshios: the poignant story of Yosef and his brothers. One of the many lessons we should learn from this affair is how Yosef dealt with his brothers after he revealed himself to them. It was his much deserved opportunity to "wipe the floor" with them for having mistreated him and mistrusted him. Yet, instead of giving them the tongue-lashing which is the very least they deserved, we find him consoling them, again and again; assuring them that they were not to blame for what had happened and that it had all been the workings of the Almighty Who had planned it all with only the best of intentions in mind. The brothers, on the other hand, seem to feel more and more guilty for what they did.
It is very possible that had Yosef lambasted them for what they did, they would have obstinately insisted that they were right. But, specifically because Yosef took the opposite approach, dealing with them kindly and compassionately, they were free to do some honest introspection and realized the error in their ways. This is exactly what the wise King Shlomo meant when he taught us, "A soft answer turns away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger" (Mishlei 15:1). When trying to influence others, we can usually accomplish our goal only by speaking to them nicely; not by attacking them viciously.
Recently, I had the privilege of meeting Rabbi Rafael Grossman, Rabbi of the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan and the Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Baron Hirsch Congregation in Memphis, the largest Orthodox congregation in America. Rabbi Grossman is a brilliant scholar and an excellent speaker, with a wealth of precious stories from his fascinating life's many experiences. I took him to visit Migdal Ohr and spent several enjoyable hours with him. The following fantastic story is one of many I heard from him during the trip.
Many years ago, a prominent member of Rabbi Grossman's congregation invited the Rabbi to spend Shabbos with him in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Suddenly, the Rabbi heard a commotion in the streets below his hotel room. Looking out the window he could see a group of Chassidic fellows screaming "Shabbos" at a cab driver, who was yelling back at them, at least as loudly. Rabbi Grossman was afraid that the demonstration might get violent, and declared that he must go down and intervene. His wife suggested that he just butt out of a situation which he probably could not help improve anyway. But the kind hearted Rabbi insisted that it was his religious and moral duty to at least try.
By the time Rabbi Grossman arrived on the scene, he found that the cab driver was being accosted by a particularly vocal Chassid who looked like he was about to deliver blows to the Sabbath violator. On the other end, the cab driver seemed quite ready to return every punch he would suffer. The Rabbi stationed himself between the two and asked what in the world was going on. The Chassid stated simply that this man was violating the Holy Shabbos in the midst of the Holy City of Jerusalem. Oddly, the cab driver replied that he sends his children to religious schools, which charge a hefty tuition, rather than send them to free public schools. In order to give them a religious education, he said, he must work on Shabbos. Similarly, in order to buy more expensive, kosher food products for his family, he must work on the Holy Day.
Rabbi Grossman exclaimed that the driver was a tzaddik (a righteous man). The Chassid was overwhelmed and asked the Rabbi if he, himself, was religious. "I happen to be a Rabbi," he responded. "Then how can you possibly declare that a public Sabbath violator is a tzaddik?" the chassid asked in exasperation.
"According to his frame of mind," explained the Rabbi, "he is a tzaddik." He doesn't understand the Torah as we do, and he thinks he is doing a mitzvah."
"Well, we have to explain to him that what he is doing is a very big aveiroh (sin)," insisted the Chassid.
"Yes, you are right," agreed the Rabbi. But this is not at all the way to 'explain' it to him. King Shlomo said, 'The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the shouting of him who rules among fools' (Koheles 9:17). I have a suggestion. Tomorrow, I am having the Shabbos meal at the Plaza Hotel. Why don't both of you and your families come and join me as my guests. We can all get to know each other better and share our ideas with each other." And with that the Rabbi returned to his room.
When the Rabbi told his wife what had happened, she asked how the two parties had responded to his suggestion. "They both laughed at me," he said. "So what did you accomplish by making a fool out of yourself?" she asked. "I prevented two Jews from hitting each other," he replied. "That alone was enough of an accomplishment for me."
The next day, while eating his Shabbos meal, Rabbi Grossman was amazed to see a familiar man enter the dining room with his wife and children. It was none other than the cab driver he had met the night before. He quickly called them over to his table where the young children declared that they had never seen so much food before and didn't know where to begin eating (they decided to start with the cake).
But Rabbi Grossman and his wife were even more overwhelmed when, a few minutes later, the Chassid came in too, with his wife and children! They all sat together at the same table and got to know each other. The women, in particular, became very friendly. The driver's wife had a successful business selling tichels (woman's kerchiefs) and, after Shabbos, she introduced the Chassid's wife to her supplier and she began selling them too.
To make a long story short, the families became quite friendly and kept in touch with Rabbi Grossman. The cab driver became more and more religious, and the Chassid became more and more tolerant as his wife's business thrived too. After several years had passed, they informed the Rabbi that their children were becoming engaged to each other! Eventually, they married, and moved to the US were they are presently very successfully involved in kiruv; reaching out to non-religious brothers and sisters and, in a mild-mannered, understanding and loving fashion, bringing them closer to Torah-true Judaism.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network