Thursday, December 26, 2013

403 - Vayeishev

Toward the end of the parsha the Torah relates how Yosef was falsely accused of improper behavior and consequently he was thrown into jail. Yet, he found favor in the eyes of the jail warden, and he was accorded preferential treatment. In an exact repetition of what occurred when he was in Potiphar's house, his superior entrusted him with the day to day management, and Yosef took complete charge of the jail and its inmates. The pasuk tells us, "The officer of the jail did not supervise anything for Hashem was with him, and whatever he did Hashem granted him success" (Bereishis 39, 23).

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) emphasizes that we should take note of the simple explanation of this pasuk. It is possible for Hashem to live with a person. No matter where a person finds himself, even if he is surrounded by a wholly secular or even antagonistic environment, he must realize that Hashem is with him. Yosef was in a forlorn dungeon together with a group of gentiles, in the basest, most immoral land, and nevertheless the Torah tells us clearly that, "Hashem was with him." Furthermore, one cannot blame his surroundings for his slacking off in his commitment to Torah and mitzvos, because Hashem can be found everywhere.

Rav Wolbe related that when he was in Sweden, he once present at a speech. In the middle of the speech the speaker mentioned that "the very atmosphere of Sweden is treif." Rav Wolbe felt a strong desire to vehemently protest such a statement, since it implied that Hashem is not to be found in Sweden! We know that, "His glory fills the entire world" and He can be found in the most far flung and desolate places. We simply have to look for Him, but if we make the effort, His presence will be clear beyond a shadow of a doubt.

This can be seen from the subsequent pesukim in the parsha. The Torah relates that shortly after Yosef was thrown into jail, two officers of the king were also imprisoned for their respective offenses. Rashi tells us (ibid. 40, 1) that the accusations leveled at Yosef by Potiphar's wife, generated a lot of negative talk about Yosef. Therefore, Hashem brought about the indictment of the king's officers so that everyone should shift their attention away from Yosef. Rav Wolbe quoting his Rebbe, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz zt"l, said that if we would have the "eyes of the Torah" we would be able to see Hashgacha evident even in the newspaper. Even in our generation, Hashem continues to act in the same manner. When the media starts attacking the religious Jews, Hashem reveals some scandal and the spotlight is thereby shifted from the Jews!

Our surroundings do not always support us in our avodas Hashem. Yet, we can choose whether or not to live with Hashem. He can be found in the ashrams of India, in Manhattan, and even in the North Pole. We simply have to look for Him. Yet, if we do look for Him, we can find Him everywhere, even in the daily headlines!

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