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Parshas Mikeitz

"Would You Believe…?"
by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba) states that the passuk "Praised is the man who has made Hashem his trust", describes Yosef. The Midrash continues that the next phrase "and turned not to the arrogant" also refers to Yosef who was imprisoned for an extra two years for asking the sar hamashkim, Pharaoh's steward, to remember him and ask Pharaoh to release him from jail. This Midrash is perplexing. It first praises Yosef for his faith in Hashem, and then chastises him for his lack of trust.

Today, the Torah world is flourishing, Baruch Hashem. There are many yeshivos throughout the world, where the Kol Torah can be heard. All yeshivos, however, are not equal. Each Torah institution offers its own derech, approach, to learning. Also, the calibre and commitment of the students varies from place to place. One might find the task of selecting a suitable Yeshiva to learn a daunting task. There is, however, an easy way to evaluate the level of each yeshiva. In most yeshivos, the Rosh Yeshiva or Mashgiach delivers a weekly mussar shmuess, talk. The Mashgiach will begin with a discussion on the weekly parsha, and proceed with a message relevant to his students. By attending these talks or listening to them on tape, one can discern the strengths and weaknesses of each yeshiva. If the Rosh Yeshiva exhorts the talmidim that they should guard their health and should not stay up learning late into the night, one knows that here is a place of diligent learning. If the Mashgiach encourages his students to learn on their 'own time', then they are learning well, but should strive to go higher. On the other hand, if the Rosh Yeshiva warns that they need to be more meticulous with their studies and adhere to the Yeshiva's schedule, then one knows that this is not one of the better yeshivos. And if the Mashgiach has to mention the harmful effects of certain forms of entertainment, a good student realises that he should stay far away from that institution.

The same process of deduction can be applied to give us an insight into the greatness of Yosef. Yosef merely asked the steward to intercede on his behalf and yet the Torah criticises him for this indiscretion. This can only mean that Yosef was a paragon of bitachon.

The Beis HaLevi elaborates on this point. He explains that one must trust that Hashem will provide one's needs and save him from trouble. Nevertheless, one is permitted, and indeed required to make hishtadlus, and effort to provide for one self. This is because not everyone can attain the level of total faith in Hashem, that he will be sustained without any personal effort. Through one's toil one can believe that Hashem will provide. Accordingly, the higher one's level of bitachon, the less hishtadlus required - and permitted. If nonetheless, one exceeds this amount (even though for someone else this would be permitted) it is considered a sin. In the case of Yosef, he did not especially extend himself, for he was already talking to the sar hamashkin, and he only added a few words. Moreover, the chain of events - the jailing of Pharaoh's minister, their dreams and Yosef's ability to interpret them correctly - reveal that it was Divinely orchestrated that the sar hamashkim had a role to play in Yosef's salvation. Nevertheless, Yosef is held accountable for this small effort. For Yosef, even this was too much hishtadlus.

The Torah relates that when Pharaoh sent for Yosef, "they rushed him from jail". The Seforno explains that Yosef was rushed because the salvation of Hashem comes in an instant. Similarly, when it was time to leave Mitzrayim, the Egyptians pressed us to leave. And the final geulah, redemption will also be in haste.

The Midrash interprets the verse "Keitz sam lachoshech" - He sets a limit to the darkness (Iyov 28:3) - as a reference to Yosef: Hashem set a limit as to how long Yosef was to be imprisoned. Once this moment arrived, "Pharaoh dreamt." The Beis HaLevi explains that the Midrash teaches that we should not think Yosef was freed as a result of Pharaoh's dreams. On the contrary, the time for Yosef's redemption arrived - therefore "Pharaoh dreamt", to set into motion Yosef's release. Hashem will alter the lives of ministers and kings to save one of His servants and even decree famine to an entire nation to benefit one of His children.

We are in the midst of a terrible crisis in Eretz Yisrael with no apparent end in sight. On the diplomatic front, there is no partner with whom to negotiate. Yet, the international community condemns any military action by Israel. However, we must not despair "For My Salvation is soon to come and My righteousness to be revealed" (Yeshaya 56:1). One moment Yosef was a prisoner with no hope for freedom, the next, he was viceroy of the most powerful nation of the world. And deliverance can come from the most unexpected corners. Although Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish boys be thrown into the river, Moshe Rabbeinu was raised in Pharaoh's palace by his own daughter. "V'aph al pi sheyismamei'a im kol zeh achacheh lo b'kol yom sheyavo, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come."

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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