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Parshas Vayeishev

A Blessed Business

And HASHEM was with Yosef and he was a successful man and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. And his master saw that HASHEM was with him and all that he did HASHEM made his hand succeed. (Breishis 39:2-3)

The Midrash Tanchuma is troubled by an obvious difficulty in the verse. “Did the wicked Potifar see that The Holy One blessed is He was with him? Rather what he saw was that the Name of Heaven never moved from the mouth of Yosef. When he entered to do his service he was whispering and saying, “Master of the World in You do I trust, You are my Father, let me find grace and kindliness in Your eyes and in the eyes of all those who see me, in the eyes of Potifar my master. Potifar would ask him, “What are you whispering? Maybe this is some kind of spell you are casting upon me?!” He answered, “No, I am praying that I should find grace in your eyes!” Therefore it is written, “And he saw that HASHEM was with him”.

What was Yosef’s secret for success? Was it all good looks and hard work? Obviously not! His formula for success actually requires very little exertion in addition to the regular efforts. What was his secret?

I heard a story recently about a woman that was about to undergo critical surgery. The risk of the delicate procedure she was entering into might result in her never being able to speak again. As the nurses were “prepping” her and they were about to administer the anesthesia she began to agitate. She insisted upon meeting with the surgeon. The surgeon is usually the last one to walk into the operating theatre after the stage is set. They tried multiple approaches to dissuade her but she persisted, and so the surgeon himself was forced to make an appearance. Everyone involved was fascinated to hear what she was going to say. She told the surgeon with perfect sincerity, “If, for whatever reason, the surgery is not successful, I want you to know that I will not have any complaint against you. It will have been G-d’s will, and I am ready to accept the outcome.” The surgeon nodded in deep appreciation of her forgiving attitude and was about to exit the room when the woman indicated that she had something more to say. She concluded her remarks. “If the operation is successful and the results are positive, neither will you have been deserving of the credit. The great praise goes to G-d!”

Zalman Margulies obm. was an extraordinarily successful businessman in England. At a banquet for principals, partners, and employees in honor of a successful season, he stood up and dramatically declared, “We have only One to thank for our great fortune this year.” Many sitting on the dais began to shift in their seats anticipating that they might suddenly be singled out for honor. Pointing to the Heavens he announced, “We have only to thank The Ribono Shel Olam, G-d Almighty for our bounty!” We have to suspect that it might very well be that that was the cause of his great success and it was not just a rhetorical device or an afterthought.

Yosef’s plan for success was that he included The Almighty in every detail of his life. Rashi says, “The Name of Heaven was fluent in his mouth.” Don’t think it was superior results that attracted Potifar’s attention. Only later it states that he was successful. Sure he acted diligently. There’s no virtue in indolence. He honored his efforts in the greatest way by praying continuously and resisting the temptation to take for himself credit for beneficial results. That made obvious the secret, which is no secret, for a blessed business.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and

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