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Beit Midrash Bet Midrash Miketz

OIL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Rabbi Stewart WeissKislev 26 5779
20
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Our sedra begins "Miketz sh’natayim yamim….it was at the end of 2 years." What two years exactly are we talking about? Say Chazal: Yosef spent an extra 2 years in prison (for a total of 12 years) because he twice asked the butler to "remember" him to Paro. Since Yosef did not rely on G-d alone, his sentence was extended an additional 24 months.

But since when is it a problem to employ human means & enlist the help of others to achieve worthwhile goals? Does the Gemara not say, "no person can extricate himself from the pit?" So why was Yosef any different?

The answer is that Yosef indeed was different! All along the way, since the moment he was thrown in the pit by his brothers, Yosef had been the recipient of overwhelming Hashgacha P’ratit, close & careful protection by Hashem that saw him through numerous crises that would have felled any normal person. He survived the pit, the years in jail, the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife – only to rise to unparalleled heights. Yosef should have understood he was completely in Hashem’s care, & trusted that he would be safe – without resorting to assistance from mere mortals.

In my first rabbinic position in Ft. Worth, Texas, I met many fascinating individuals. One was an elderly, quiet man, who never seemed to show any anger or anxiety. He told me the following fascinating story:

"My family owned a respectable, productive ranch in west Texas," he said, "where we grew cotton & had a nice herd of steer. One day we were approached by a close neighbor, who had a much larger spread. He told us his family was small & so couldn’t handle so much land. ‘Would we be willing to trade our place for his?’ he asked.

"Daddy thought about it for a long while, & finally decided to make the trade. But while our old ranch continued to thrive, this new place was a disaster! No matter what we planted, nothing would grow. Some of us thought we had been fooled, & should sue, but Daddy said a deal was a deal & we had to have faith that G-d would make it all work out. We did our best, but soon we became poor."

"Daddy died & I became the head of the family. I did all I could to keep the ranch, since that’s what Daddy wanted. But it was hard going; we barely could scrape by. Then, 2 decades later, we finally discovered why nothing would grow. We were sitting on one of the largest oil deposits in all of Texas! Daddy was right after all; his faith did not fail."

We live in a litigious world, always looking to blame, to complain & to take action against anyone we think has harmed us. We don’t like being the "pawns" of society, but all the while, we lose sight of the invisible hand moving the chess pieces. That was the hard lesson Yosef had to learn; the reward for being loyal can be absolutely royal.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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