Vayigash: What Am I Doing Here?

My apologies for the lack of dvrei Torah over the past two weeks, it’s been rather hectic.


Chanukah was very enjoyable.  As the kids get older, we are able to focus more on enjoying them, rather than breaking up fights and complaints about everything.  As per Winner Tradition, every night of Chanukah consists of a different "program" that we do.  One night, the kids put together their own, and the other nights, my wife does.  Most of them are the same games and activities that we do every year, and even though they are not for older kids, necessarily, they still enjoy it, since it’s “tradition. " Plus, we took our once-a-year “Out Shabbos” to friends in Yerushaliyim, where we stick 13 children into two rooms in a small apartment and see what happens.  This year was very successful, thankfully, even though none of them slept.  We did get a nice compliment when my oldest son said to me afterwards, “I really enjoyed going to Yerushaliyim, but at the same time, I was sad that we missed two nights of Chanukah at home. " I guess we’re doing something right.


Okay… more important things now.


One of the main reasons that the Ultra-Orthodox community tries it’s best to keep their children out of the army is due to "culture shock" that they will suffer when they transition from a Torah-based society to an anti-Torah, or at best, secular-"neutral" -based society.  Even within the more religious units, while the units themselves do not obviously contain anti-Torah soldiers, the overall army “society" is secular.  To be honest, this is not simply an Ultra-Orthodox position.  Many heads of yeshivos in the National Religious community have complained how many of their students have suffered spiritually while in the army with, unfortunately, a good number leaving the religious world.  That is one reason, I believe, that many of their yeshivos also prefer to push off serving until they are older.  This is the power of the environment one is in.


Can you imagine now, Yosef, who grew up in the house of Yaakov, and knew his grandfather Yitzchok, must have felt being brought down to Egypt?  The same Egypt which was steeped in immorality and impurity?  Can you imagine how a 21-year-old man from Bnei Brak would react by being forced to move to California, without any spiritual or emotional support?  There is no way he would survive!  Look at what happened to many Jews when they originally came to America… their families no longer exist.


What was the greatness in Yosef that allowed him to survive against all odds?


One of the sons-in-law of Rav Chaim Kanievsky came this week and asked the kollel the same question, and he gave a one-word answer: Emunah (faith).


Many ba'alei tshuvah might ask, “Why was I put on earth in such a situation that makes it difficult for me to be religious?”  Many not-so-bright people might ask, “Why was I not given more intelligence?”  People from abusive homes might ask, “Why was I put into such a family?”


I assume Yosef, at one point, asked, “Why did Hashem rip me away from my family and stick me HERE?”  But what Yosef did is something that most people do not do.  He answered his own question with, “Hashem has a reason."


Even though he completely lacked spiritual, physical, and emotional support from those who loved him, he continued on in his life holding on to the idea that “Hashem has a plan."


In the end, after so many years, he was able to see what that plan was and his role in it.


We, on the other hand, might or might not be so" lucky" to see the “end plan," at least in this world.  However, when a person finds himself in a situation that he has no control over, and is limiting him in certain ways, he needs to find the inner-strength to say, “Hashem put me here for a reason.  Perhaps, I don’t know what that reason is now, but I need to know I’m here for a reason."


With this simple thought of emunah, one can overcome some of the most difficult situations.


Have a great Shabbos!