A man was driving to a very important meeting in town. He was late and any more delay could cause him the loss of a multibillion dollar deal.
He arrives near the office only to find that all the parking places were taken. Looking towards the heavens, he cries out to G-d:
“Please G-d take pity on me and let me find a parking spot! I know I have not been to synagogue as much as I would love too, but I assure you from now on I will be going every morning. Please just give me a spot!”
Miraculously as he finishes speaking, a car indicates and makes its way out, right before his eyes. He raises his eyes towards the heavens and says, “it’s OK G-d. I have found one!”
Every day we go through experiences; some seem normal, others seem super real, yet do we really believe that it all comes from G-d?
This week, we learn the amazing story of a young boy, Yosef, who is put through trials and tribulations from his youth. Although loved by his father, he has a hard time with his brothers, eventually sold to Egypt and enslaved in a stranger’s house. After being tested with Potiphar’s wife and not committing adultery, he is thrown into prison for his ‘sin’. Yet throughout these tough thirteen years and even later at the age of thirty when he is eventually brought in front of Pharaoh, Yosef never loses faith in G-d.
A famous Gemara (Yoma 35b) relates how our Rabbis taught that after a long life in this world, we will all be challenged by the heavenly tribunal. There will be those that are rich in this world and those that are poor, those that through their blessings have tougher tests and those with easier circumstances.
When the poor, the rich or the wicked shall appear before Divine Judgment, they will be asked, ‘Why didn’t you study Torah while you were alive?’
If the poor responds that he was poor and had to earn a living and therefore had no time to study, the heavenly court will say, ‘Were you poorer than Hillel the Elder?’ Concerning Hillel the Elder, it was said that every day he used to work and earn one Tarpeik [a small sum], half of which he gave away to the guard of the house of learning [for admission] and with the other half he supported himself and his family.
One day, Hillel didn’t earn anything and the guard refused him admission because he didn’t have any money. He climbed up onto the roof and sat upon the skylight so that he might listen to the words of the living G-d from the mouth of Shemaiya and Avtaliyan [the leading Sages of the generation]. This incident occurred on a Friday during the month of Tevet in the winter and snow fell upon him and covered him up.
The next day, on the Shabbat, at dawn Shemayia said to Avtaliyan, ‘Brother, why is it that every day light is visible in the academy at this time, and today it is still dark? Is it such a cloudy day?’ They looked up and saw the figure of a man above the skylight. They went up to the roof, and found Hillel covered by three cubits of snow. After removing the snow, they took him down and cared for him, placed him before a fire, and remarked, ‘Such a man deserves that even Shabbat should be violated for his sake.’
Thus if you say you were too poor and were busy earning a living, Hashem will point to Hillel who was even poorer but climbed on the roof in the snow to learn Torah.
If you claim you were too rich and too busy handling your affairs, Hashem will point to Rebbi Elazar whose father left him one thousand cities on land and one thousand ships at sea. Yet every day he would take up his satchel and travel from town to town and city to city to study Torah.
If you are busy with your physical desires, and say that it was difficult, after all Hashem made you handsome and you had a tough evil inclination, then Hashem will point to Yosef and ask were you more handsome than him?
He was willing to live life as a slave rather than violate G-d’s will.
There will be no excuses in the Olam HaEmet – the True everlasting world.
Upon closer inspection, our Sages tell us that when Yosef was about to sin with Potiphar’s wife, he merited seeing his holy father Yaakov in an image; this helped him keep his cool and run away from the sin.
We may ask, if Yosef was helped with this image, then of course he would not sin. Why was he helped, and when we sin, we don’t seem to have any holy images come to us? And how is it that G-d compares us to Yosef, if he was able to be shown an image of the Holy Yakov, and we are not?
The answer is found in how Yosef conducted his life.
At the height of his youth, he was sold to a strange land. He was shunned by his brothers and engaged for the rest of his youth and adulthood up to the age of thirty as a slave and prisoner.
The Midrash tells us that Potiphar’s wife was constantly imploring him to go with her, yet he would resist. With all her power and beauty, she could not break Yosef’s pure and dedicated heart.
When a person is constantly aware and tries hard to be saved – he will be.
The only reason his father’s image appeared was because he constantly fought off his evil inclination.
Chanah stated (Shmuel I 2:9) “Raglei Chasidav Yishmor,” He guards the ways of the pious. When a person is dedicated to G-d, they will not falter.
Next time you find that parking spot, let out a “Thank G-d!” Show your appreciation and realisation that He constantly runs the world.
As we approach Chanuka – a time of rededication – let us dedicate and commit ourselves to serve G-d and may G-d constantly guard over us. Amen.