A Flame of Passion | A Guest Post

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fireA guest post by Rabbi Aaron Fink (my father), Dean of Ateres Bais Yaakov in Monsey NY. Part of a weekly Dvar Torah (Torah “Thought”) series.

Commitment and Pride

The pursuit of success is a human attribute which enables individuals to shteig in ruchniyus and to achieve accomplishments in their inyanei d’alma as well. There is so much to strive for in every aspect of our lives. Yet, we often wonder, “how do we know if we are matzliach?” What is the formula for achieving true hatzlacha – success? Parshas Vayeishev offers a clue as it sheds light on the essence of our Chanukah experience.

The posuk states Vayihi Hashem es Yosef vayihi ish matzliach – Hashem was with Yosef and he was a man of success!. What was his secret. Rashi tells us succinctly, it was that Shem Shamayim shagur b’piv – Hashem name was free flowing from his mouth. Chazal explain this was not only Yosef’s response to poverty and servitude. He did not pray and turn to the Aibeshter only out of desperation, rather, even as he rose to a position of power and trust in Potiphar’s house, he was committed and proud of his Jewishness. Yosef never took Hashem Yisborach out of the picture, neither did Yehuda and his brothers. Yosef recognized, as the Tanchuma points out, haya Hashem imo kshahaya b’ravcha v’hayah imo btzaar. He kept Hashem at his side when times were good and when they weren’t. Yosef knew that if “G-d was his co-pilot” then he (Yosef) was in the wrong seat. It is Hashem Yisborach who is the pilot!

Chazal teach that the posuk “Boruch hagever asher yiftach baHashem” refers to Yosef. That was why he was an ish matzliach! With all of his hishtadlus, intelligence, good looks, leadership and administrative prowess Yosef puts Hashem Yisborach first. He knew, as the special Chanukah Haftorah reminds us, lo b’chayil vlo bkoach ki im bruchi amar Hashem!

But it is not enough to think emunah and bitachon. One must live with mi laHashem eilai as their mantra and model it 24/7. Though both Yosef’s hatzlacha and the victory of the Maccabim started with personal bitachon, it was, nonetheless, climaxed with living those values when it counted. Being closet Jews would not cut it. Not in the fleshpots of Mitzrayim or the caves of the Judean hills. Yosef did not keep his yiddishkeit in the closet. It followed him out of the Beis Medrash and into the work place! There was no double standard for honesty or integrity, sensitivity or decency. So spiritual and extraordinary was his character that the Torah declares vayar adonav ki Hashem ito, – even an idolatrous Mitzri perceived his tzidkus and quickly recognized, appreciated and even rewarded Yosef for being the Tzadik that he was. Yes, Potiphar understood from Yosef’s actions v’chol asher hu oseh Hashem matzliach biyado.

The Maccabim, too, could not only keep their Yiddishkeit in hiding. They declared mi laHashem eilai! Their public devotion to mesorah is the original pisumei nisa – a proud, public display of their Yiddishkeit for all to see. They made sure that klal Yisrael would stand up and even fight for their beliefs. There would be no giving in to the decadence of contemporary society. They were tocho kibaro, ready and willing to be mosser nefesh for what was right not just because it looked good, but because it was Hashem demanded. With that pride, passion and fervor they were zoche to see one tiny flame burn for eight days. Each Yid, young and old can be inspired to live like Yossef Hatzaddik and the Maccabim still today. It just takes commitment and pride inside and out for all to see.