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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Good Intentions

By Rabbi Sender Haber

It is interesting to note that Reuvein is given credit by the Torah for saving Yosef. He really didn’t do much. He got Yosef thrown into a pit so that he could come back and save him but when he came back to save him Yosef, Yosef had been sold. According to the Gemara that the pit had snakes and scorpions Reuvein’s heroics are even less understandable.

I think the significance of Reuvein’s role may lie in a comment that Yosef made to his brothers. After Yaacov died, they were petrified that he would take revenge, but Yosef pointed out that everything had actually worked out pretty well for him.

“You thought to do something bad to me but Hashem was thinking good”.

The entire sin of the brothers was in thought. G-d’s plan is G-d’s plan and in the end everything worked out well, but the thoughts of hatred that the brothers felt whenever they saw him were inexcusable. Only Reuvein rose above those thoughts of hatred and tried to save Yosef.

This is such an important lesson for us. We all try to do things. Some work and some don’t. That’s forgivable.  It is unforgivable to think bad thoughts. We need to be the Reuvein who’s first thought is “How can I help this person? How can I rescue this person? How can I make this situation better?”

So much is out of our hands but there is no excuse for hateful thoughts.

I was once at the deathbed of a very elderly person. As is the case in many families, this person did not get along with one of his brothers. That brother called while I was in the room and asked to talk to the dying individual. I was on the edge of my seat. What was there to say to a person who you had fought for decades? I watched with awe as the dying man took the phone and said passionately and simply: “Yankel, I wish only the best for you and you and your family”. And it was true.

We fight, we bicker, we don’t talk. Sometimes we don’t even stay in touch, but deep down where it counts we need to wish only the best for one another. The greatest complaint that Yosef had against the brothers was that in their thoughts they intended to harm him. Reuvein thoughts were about saving Yosef and he gets all the credit.

As we enter the book of Shemos we move from the story of a family to the story a nation. In order to survive as a nation we need to be thinking about others. Moshe went out to see the welfare of his brothers. The midwives risked their lives to save the babies. And G-d said “I also heard the cries of the Jewish people”. When we listened to the cries of our brothers and sisters G-d began to listen to them as well.

We become a nation by thinking only the best about one another.

(Sources: Kaliver Rebbe Shlit”a of Jerusalem and Chasam Sofer. Some details in story have been altered)

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