I remember, more years ago than I care to disclose, traveling to Israel for a summer program of study in a yeshiva (rabbinical school) for the first time. I planned the trip carefully; given that the university I was attending ended its year later than most, there were some logistics to enable me to get the group rate discount on my travel expenses.
When I arrived at Ben-Gurion airport, I met an individual who turned out to be headed to the same school. But instead of signing up for a summer program, he had done little more than confirm that he would be able to study there and purchased a ticket. Unlike me, he had no idea what transportation would meet him at the airport. He simply knew that “G-d would provide.”
Now admittedly, it wasn’t such a dramatic “leap of faith” to determine that he was likely to find transportation. But I, quite new to international travel, found his attitude quite disconcerting.
If we look in this week’s reading, we learn that we are not expected to simply utilize blind faith as a substitute for our best efforts. Yaakov does not simply prepare himself for his fateful meeting with his brother Esav — who had presumably harbored hatred against him during all their years of separation — by praying. On the contrary, he sent gifts to his brother, and prepared for war, which included dividing the camp into two parts in case one was lost. He did not simply trust that “everything would be okay.”
To invest our own energy to ensure the success of an effort, while remaining cognizant that what results will be only in accordance with G-d’s wishes, is part of the challenge of living in this world. We are required to make the necessary efforts to provide for our financial security, while knowing that the amount of money each person will have is determined by G-d. We must seek out the best medical advice, while knowing that doctors ultimately do not determine when a person’s time has come.
To make this more interesting, I will point out a somewhat contradictory passage at the end of next week’s reading. Yosef, in jail, interprets the dream of the wine butler, determines that he will be returned to his post, and requests that the wine butler remember him. The sages say that the reason why the butler thoroughly forgot Yosef was because Yosef went out of his way to ask for help. He should have relied upon G-d.
What, then, is the difference? As I begin my research into this topic, I encourage you to please share your thoughts and what you have read or heard, in the comments!
I do not agree that Joseph should have discouraged the notion that the wine butler remember him. Is it not true that many of our deepest concerns, whether they are finding an apartment or securing a job, often rests with letting as many people as possible know about our interest so that someone out there can link us to a possible happy outcome? People are the conduits whereby many transactions become possible. Somebody knows somebody who has an available position open or a rental that may be perfect. Joseph did the wine butler a service. He knows that the wine butler is not a powerful person in his own right, but perhaps someone on the outside might be interested in knowing that there exists a person who can unravel dreams and thereby recall a soul left in prison. How could this hurt Joseph’s chances?
I have been trying to read and understand more about Kabbalah. I am reform and was never taught, in depth, about Judaism. I understand all that we have is lent to us by G-d and that He has determined all about our life. However, your affirmation of this,
” We are required to make the necessary efforts to provide for our financial security, while knowing that the amount of money each person will have is determined by G-d. We must seek out the best medical advice, while knowing that doctors ultimately do not determine when a person’s time has come.”
seems to be justifying that we should try but that if we do not succeed, no matter, as that (or this) is what G-d has intended for us, so learn to live with it! Then on the other hand, if we try harder but do not succeed, again, learn to live with it as that is what G-d has preordained for our life. This sounds and feels rather depressing. Your thoughts, please.
I’ve been struggling with this question recently, regarding how much effort a person needs to put into, while the result is really not in our control. This is especially difficult to understand in terms of self-growth. We’re required to work on ourselves and perfect ourselves as much as possible, but we also must pray asking G-d to let us succeed. This is troublesome because regarding our own perfection which we are required to pursue, shouldn’t it depend on how much effort we put in ourselves? Furthermore, if everything, including our own growth is determined by G-d and is dependent on how much we ask Him for it, if He decides that it is good for us to get beyond our weaknesses, then what work did we do? What can we consider our own success? Does our success lie in the fact that we prayed for it? I’ve heard some different answers to this question. One of which is that we need to constantly work and put our efforts into improving ourselves, however G-d is ultimately the One Who allows us to succeed. So the effort we put in can still be considered our own accomplishment, after all we do have free will whether or not to work on the issue in the first place. However, the end result, is G-d giving His stamp of approval and allowing our efforts to be successful, maybe out of a desire to hear our prayers? I’m not sure. What do you think?
to me G-d IS the Human Soul, the Ultimate Light within….
these readings are powerful, if projected to our own souls, and for our own learning, we all have two natures, which are at war with one another, Rebbcah had two born in her, already at war in her, one is of the flesh and the other is of the Ruach, one hates and the other loves. The flesh is weak, but the Ruach is willing. we all are faced with these in our own lives, the flesh wishes to be fulfilled, and then the Ruach wishes to teach use that we must be like our Father Abraham, to walk in the Ruach, not after the Flesh, Yaacov knew this, this is why he had to wrestle in the Ruach, before he met Esav his Brother who is like Cain who wishes to kill the Ruach in his Brother, Abel the Shepherd, a Lamb died, so also Abraham knew this in fashion, or type, that a Lamb must die, when requested to offer His Son Yitshak as a Sacrifice, like a young Lamb innocent, their was no hope for sin without blood of a Lamb. Cain refused to offer a Lamb, only the produce of the earth, so he sold his birhtright, like Esav, who also was like a Hunter, loved the earth, sold also his birthright, Cain and Esav did walk after the Flesh and not after the Ruach. Two were born in Adam, one wanted to kill the other, Two were born to Abraham, Ishmael, and Yitshak, one was of the flesh and there other of Ruach, today we see the result of the Ishmaelites in among the Arab world now, who wish to kill the seed of Abraham, through Yishak, Yaacov, which is now Israel. They who walk after the Flesh will die by the Flesh, they who walk after the Ruach will gain life. David Shalom Tove
From the story of the manna ceasing when the children of isreal reached the promised land, I believe Hashem is teaching us that he expects us to help ourselves when we can, that is why he stopped giving them manna when they could farm for themselves. Another example is Deut 17:8-11 where God tells the children that “if they couldn’t decide a matter ” THEN, they should they ask the priest for their decision. So it would seem that God does expect us to do what we can & rely on him for what we can’t.
Where do you read in the Torah about a “separation complex”? As I understand it, Cain’s hatred was focused on G-d accepting Able’s sacrifice and His chastising Cain for his disobedience.
I may be wrong, but that’s what I read in the Torah.