Community Rabbi Corner, Nov. 30, 2018

Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic
Congregation Ahavath Zion
Maplewood, NJ
Parashat Vayeshev

Two Levels Of Hatzlacha
In reference to Yossef’s stay (in this week’s Sidra) both in Potiphar’s house as a slave, and subsequently his stay in prison, the Torah relates that in both instances he was exceedingly successful in all his undertakings. However, there is a notable difference between the two texts. Regarding his success in Potiphar’s house it states that G-d made successful whatever came “in his hand,” while this mention of “his hand” is missing in the description of his success in jail.
The reason for this difference is that “success” (hatzlacha) is really a form of mazal, luck. There comes a point when upon seeing how constantly successful an individual is, everyone looks at his success as miraculously beyond the norm of nature. This is demonstrable by the continuous, ongoing success that this individual has in undertakings that come to “his hand.” It is obvious from the quantitative dimension of his success. He has “golden hands” (any connection to Golda Och?), so that whatever he touches “turns into gold.” In this type of success, his hands and what he undertakes with them, are blessed with inordinate success. It is clear that such success has a divine source and that the vessel through which this success flows is the person’s hands and actions.
A higher form of success is that which is so qualitatively wondrous that, from the very onset, the human mind has to recognize the divine origin, the Hand of Hashem, of such success, and needs no strings of repeat successes to demonstrate that it is so. Even one single instance of such success is already readily seen for what it is − wondrous, blessed success of divine origin. It is as if the individual and his actions are inconsequential with the mazal just coming his way.
When Yossef was Potiphar’s slave, he was not thoroughly batel (nullified to his master). True, the Gemara does say that “the hand of a slave is like the hand of his master” and “whatever a slave acquires belongs to his master,” indicating thereby the intense element of bitul (nullification) that a slave has towards his master. However, this very terminology indicates the other side of the coin, i.e. that the slave is not totally nullified. On the contrary, he still has “a hand,” except that it is subjugated to the master. When the verse states that Potiphar saw that he was blessed with success and that G-d was with him in all that he undertook, it was, says Rashi, on account of Yossef constantly mentioning the name of G-d at every turn. Here he was still a metziut (an existential, non-nullified entity) and his speech (constantly saying Baruch Hashem) as well as his hands, were fitting, measured vessels for the measured flow of the G-dly blessing of hatzlacha.
In contrast, a prisoner has no “hands,” does not accomplish anything, and at most performs only forced labor. In a sense, he has lost his whole “metziut” – existential self − and it’s as if he does not exist altogether. In the case of Yossef, the state of imprisonment elicited within him a spiritual state of utmost bitul to G-d. Hence, the higher form of success can only come if he person is so totally nullified to G-d that the flow of success merely flows unto, rather than through him, without recourse to his hands, actions and words of his mouth. This was the kind of success with which Yossef was blessed during his prison stay,

Perhaps what the world and some of its financial woes need today is not so much some bailouts being worked out in Argentina this weekend as much as coming to terms with the Divine Guiding Hand, becoming nullified to His Will − and then experiencing worldwide success.