All in a Day's Work
Revenge. Though the Torah warns us against acting on our emotions, it's
hard to control the desire. In fact, a dogma of modern society preaches to
us not to get mad, rather to get even.
But Yoseph discloses his real identity in this week's portion, and despite
a 22-year backdrop filled with excuses for anger, revenge, and retribution,
he stays calm and fulfilled. Surely, we should expect to find harsh words
of criticism if not acts of payback. But we don't. After Yoseph reveals
his identity, and the brothers are shocked, rather than chastising his
brothers, Yoseph appeases them! "Come close to me if you please, and they
came close." And he said, "I am Joseph your brother -- it is me whom you
sold into Egypt. And now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourselves for
having sold me here, for it was to be a provider that G-d sent me ahead of
you“(Genesis 45:4-5). He explains to them that the entire scenario was not
even their doing but part of a Divine plan to contend with the
world-hunger. "Thus Hashem has sent me ahead of you to insure your
survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance. And
now -- it was not you who sent me here, but G-d; He has made me father to
Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler throughout the entire
land of Egypt” (ibid v6-7). What type of man has the capacity not only to
ignore horrible injustice totally, but to revel in it, saying that it was
all meant to be, without the slightest display of bitterness or
animosity? It takes an unique attitude about life.
Joel Mandel and Julius Rosenzweig have a large electrical supply house in
Long Island City, NY. Their vast warehouse occupies over a million cubic
feet of space containing thousands of different electrical components, from
transformers as large as the average-size garage to tiny cathodes that
could dance on the head of a pin.
It was a couple of years ago when some electrical doo-dad, that seemed to
be a vital organ of one of my children's battery-operated what-nots, went
on the blink. With zero electrical know-how, I decided to bring the
component to my friends at Globe Electrical Supply and maybe they could
find me a replacement.
Weaving my way through a labyrinth of shelves, boxes, and drawers, I
climbed some metal steps and made my way to the old office that appeared
out of a 1950s Hollywood set. An old wooden desk was the pedestal for a
dusty computer that probably strained harder than their human principals to
maintain the vast inventory. I showed the part to Joel, who looked at the
tiny part and smiled. He called over one of the workers, "Warren," he
said, "please get the rabbi a…" I couldn't make out the exact name, but it
sounded like flux-capacitator, though I highly doubt that my kid's toy was
dying for lack of a lack of a flux-capacitator!
Like a Tomahawk missile directed toward a predestined mark, Warren took the
injured electrical component, weaved through the myriad rooms, the barrage
of boxes, and an almost unlimited array of electrical paraphernalia.
Homing in on the exact location, Warren scaled a ladder that looked as if
it could have been used to wash the windows of a Manhattan skyscraper, and
about 30 feet off the ground, with amazing agility and precise
guidance, he reached for his target -- a small cardboard box. Its edges
were yellowed with age, but I knew it had not been touched in five
years. He placed his hand into the box and plucked out a component, which
exactly matched my broken one.
As if he had rehearsed this scene from the day he started working, he held
the component between his thumb and forefinger, then smiled, opened the
human vise, letting the piece drop into my palm. "Here's the sucker!"
Stunned at both the accuracy and speed of the retrieval, I reacted as if I
had just seen a minor miracle. "Warren!" I exclaimed, "how'd you do that?"
"Do what?" he asked with a shrug.
"Do what?" I repeated with an air of incredulity. "You just found a
microscopic part hidden like a needle in all the hay in Kansas! And you
knew exactly where it was."
Warren just shrugged. "I didn't do nothin' special. That's my job!"
When a person understands his mission, no portion of its fulfillment merits
undue emotion. In Pirkei Avos, 2:9 Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai tells us, "If
you have learned much Torah, do not pride yourself in it, for this is the
purpose for which you were created." If a person thinks "that's my job"
about his every good deed, if his mission is clearly mapped in front of
him, then all obstacles become insignificant pittances, easily overcome and
able to be ignored because after all, they are in fact all in a day's
In memory of Joseph K. Miller -- Reb Yoseph ben Reb Ahron Shmuel z"l H"yd
14 Teves by his children Mr. & Mrs. Geoffery Miller
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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