As our forefather Yaakov (Jacob) prepared to encounter his brother Esav again after 34 years, he did three things: sent presents, readied for war, and prayed. He balanced his prayers and trust in G-d with appropriate “worldly” efforts. He neither trusted in his own efforts, nor expected G-d to protect him with open miracles.

Not everyone knows how to strike this balance correctly. At one end of the spectrum are the people who believe that everything is up to them, who panic when they encounter a challenge or pat themselves on the back when things go well. At the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, is the rabbi of a town seated downstream from a dam that was about to break.

The sheriff found the rabbi sitting calmly on his front porch, studying. “Rabbi!” yelled the sheriff, “it’s a flood, we have to evacuate!”

“Don’t worry,” said the rabbi, “G-d will help me. I don’t need to go.”

Soon the water flooded the town, and firemen in motorboats were picking up the stragglers. One of them noticed the rabbi, and called him to come with them.

“Don’t worry,” said the rabbi, “G-d will help me. I don’t need to go.”

But the waters rose, and rose, and by the time a helicopter was sent to find the last residents, the rabbi was calmly sitting on his roof. Yet once again, the rabbi refused to go.

Once in Heaven, the rabbi demanded an explanation. “I followed Your ways, I learned Your Torah, I did Your will… why didn’t You help me?!”

“What do you mean?” came the response. “I sent a car. I sent a boat. I even sent you a helicopter, but you refused to be helped!”

[Thank you to David Mitnick for reminding us, at the NWCP Dinner, of this joke.]

It is important to learn from Yaakov our forefather, and strike the balance. We must make our efforts — and know that if they succeed, it is only because G-d granted them success.

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