Jewish Thought

Reading The Map Correctly – Rabbi Yitzchak Fanger

Did I Get The Job?

A man went into a bar and addressed the barman, saying: “Do you maybe need a security guard for this place?”

The barman answered: “Maybe, but the question is – do you know how to do the job?

The man didn't think twice. He picked up one of the people sitting at the bar by the scruff of his neck, punched him aggressively and threw him out of the bar

“Nu, did I get the job?” he asked proudly. The barman answered: “I don't know. Let's wait until the boss recovers from the beating he got from you…”

A person thinks that he knows and understands everything, but the problem is that he doesn't always read the map right. He doesn't understand the situation properly and as a result, his responses and all of his behavior are inappropriate for the situation and he will get hurt by his own actions.

“Yosef Will Place His Hands On Your Eyes”

Hashem appeared to Yaakov Avinu in a dream and told him “Do not fear descending to Egypt”. He concluded with the words “Yosef will place his hands on your eyes” (Bereishit 46,4).

What is the meaning of “placing hands” on Yaakov's eyes? And how does this connect with the words “Do not fear?

The “Meshech Chochma” answers both questions and explains as follows: “Hashem is telling Yaakov that he shouldn't enquire with his cerebral 'eyes' what kind of perfection could ensue from descending to Egypt, an impure land, and what spiritual advantage could result from this? He should not dwell on this, for it must be for the good. How can he see that he ought not to dwell on this? From the entire story of Yosef. Who could have envisaged that all the years of anguish and misery which Yaakov suffered would be for the sake of Yosef who would be the ruler of Egypt and would spread true ideas amongst them, with the whole country beholden to him? Therefore, “Yosef will place his hands on your eyes”, the whole story of Yosef is proof enough that you should close your mental eyes and not follow your perception of events, but rather believe that everything is for the good”.

(Meshech Chochma- is the famous book of Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen of Dvinsk. Rabbi Meir, known as the Ohr Samech after another famous book he wrote, died in 1926. H was one of the leading Eastern European rabbis before the Holocaust.)

The story of Yosef is a symbol of the idea that we cannot rely on what our eyes see.

Even occurrences which appear to us to have a negative connotation that can have no good results can in time be proven to be the best thing that could have happened to us.

When Yosef was a young boy of 17, he was sold by his brothers as a slave. After numerous travails he arrived in Egypt, which was the worst place in the world from a spiritual perspective. The Egyptians were known for their wayward morals, constant pursuit of physical desires and idol worship.

One could have reached the obvious conclusion that such a boy had no hope of surviving spiritually. Yosef, who had been accustomed to holiness, purity and good attributes in the house of Yaakov Avinu – did he have a chance of maintaining these in the depths of depravity and decadence?!

There was little chance of his surviving even physically. A gentle boy sold into slavery, living among evil, ruthless people and eventually thrown into jail.

Yet none of these sanguine predictions came to pass. The result was the exact opposite of what could have been predicted – Yosef maintained his high spiritual level. Not only was he not negatively influenced by the Egyptians, but in his merit the Egyptians came closer to belief in Hashem. Yosef experienced material success and became the viceroy of Egypt, on whose words all action depended. Moreover he supported his father Yaakov, his brothers and all of their families during the years of famine. Yaakov and his sons merited great honor in Egypt due to Yosef.

This is the deeper meaning of the verse “Do not fear descending to Egypt”, why? Because  “Yosef will place his hands on your eyes” – just look at the sale of Yosef and you will realize that going to Egypt, like all other occurrences and developments, are all for the good. This can serve as a lesson and a paradigm for all the children of Israel over the generations – “Do not fear”, as all that Hashem does is for the good.

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