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Vayigash: How You Get There Counts

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

“Yosef said… ‘I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?’ His brothers were so startled, they could not respond” (Bereishis 45:3).

Chazal say: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: “Woe is to us from the Day of Judgment, and woe is to us from the Day of Rebuke. Yosef was the smallest of the shvatim, and the brothers couldn’t answer him because they were afraid of him. When Hashem will come and give each person mussar according to his actions, how much more so.”

However, Yosef didn’t give them mussar at all! He only said, “I am Yosef.” From here we learn the essence of mussar. Mussar is not harsh words of reprimand. Rather, it’s the position of proving to a person that he made a mistake.

When Yosef said, “I am Yosef,” he was telling them: “I am your younger brother Yosef, who you sold as a slave; here I am as a ruler over all of Mitzrayim. You thought to nullify my dreams by selling me. Yet, the selling itself brought my dreams to fruition.” And this proved their error.

This was a valid rebuke, and therefore, they were afraid. The depth of their mistake is the fact that the mistake was not just in their reasoning when they sold him. Rather, through this mistake, all their actions for many days were also corrupt; and now that was revealed. There is no embarrassment and trembling greater than this. (Sichos Mussar, Rav Yerucham Levovitz)

I decided to plan a birthday party for my mother. It started a train of good will that traveled swiftly. My mother worries about everyone and gives of herself to all; for once, we will make her happy.

I spoke to my sisters and we agreed on a day, a present, and a menu. Now there were two cars in the train and we were picking up speed. However, my sister-in-law ground the train to a halt. She decided to bring all her kids along to do something cute. Why does she have to bring her kids everywhere? It’s not our problem that they don’t get along with a babysitter! I poured out my heart to my sister.

My younger sister-in-law didn’t mind coming to make my mother happy, but disagreed when it came to buying her such an expensive present. I got angry. I asked to speak with my brother. “Mommy gave you so much,” I admonished him, “it’s not possible to give her back something?” My brother responded that things are a bit tight right now, but if it’s so important, they’ll find the money.

As for my third sister-in-law, I just quietly asked her if she could pick up some cookies from the store. Her baby has an ear infection and she’s falling off her feet. I told her to do what she could. But I would be preparing for my mother far more than just a few cookies from the store …

The awaited day finally arrived. I had made my whole family stressed from this event, but I left the house laden with trays, pans, and even good wishes.

Then I realized that my train was not traveling to my final destination. My mother did not feel well that evening, and we had to hurry and finish early. There was a bitter taste to the cakes and cookies. The taste of a mistake.

Truthfully, many actions that a person does aren’t correct, but he thinks that he’s doing them for a purpose, and as far as he knows, his noble cause excuses his actions. But woe is to him when he realizes that his efforts didn’t bring the expectations that he was hoping for. And what remains are just the actions — that even he admits weren’t fitting, or pleasant. And he’s standing there full of embarrassment and shame.

And it’s forbidden for us to say that all is excused, even on spiritual matters. Therefore, we have to say that it is not our actions that create the result. A person works with his hands. And the result is from Heaven. The actions themselves have to be appropriate, and then the desired result will come out from them. (ibid.)

A person will never promise you that you’ll be successful in reaching all your goals. The key to success is held only by Hashem. And there is no way to get there without His will.

When you are brought up to Shamayim, no one will ask you why you didn’t achieve results. But they will ask you why you chose to attempt results in an unpleasant direction, when you could have chosen another.

Choose for yourself the way that is good and desirable in the eyes of Hashem. Only then will you reach the end of your travels with your heart clean and pure.

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