Parshas Vayigash - Motivation

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 12/16/15

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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When Yosef finally revealed his true identity to his brothers they were utterly speechless. The Midrash comments on this "woe to us on the day of judgement; woe to us on the day of rebuke. If the brothers could not reply to Yosef's rebuke, how will we possibly answer to Hashem's rebuke on our personal judgement day"? (Bereishis Rabbah 93:10) 

What is the Midrash talking about; what rebuke did Yosef give? Additionally, what relevance could Yosef's rebuke have to the rebuke that we will receive in Heaven?

The Bais HaLevi explains that Yosef was pointing out to his brothers the glaring inconsistencies in their behavior. He was asking them "how could the very same people who sold their father's favorite son, causing him 22 years of inconsolable anguish, come with a sincere plea to take pity on their father"? The brothers had no answer to this rebuke. The Midrash is stating that the Heavenly court will have similar rebuke regarding our own behavior: "how could you have been so driven and capable when it came to making money and at the same time told yourself that you're Jewish responsibilities were too difficult? How could you have lost your temper so easily at home and yet kept legendary calmness in public? How could you say it was too difficult for you to wake up on time for morning prayers if you enthusiastically headed to the airport at 5am when you were on your way to vacation?". When we are reminded of these inconsistencies we too will be speechless. 

Untapped power

What is the Midrash trying to teach us with this message? Is its intention to de-motivate us? Is it to inform everyone that they are doomed to speechless guilt when they go to Heaven? Of course not. On the contrary, these words are intended to be our greatest motivation! They are meant to demonstrate to us that we are much more capable than we allow ourselves to believe ; for if we can do something when it is convenient then we are capable of doing so in other situations as well. This understanding is the key to succeeding in life because when we KNOW that we are capable we BECOME capable. The following historical fact demonstrates this beyond a shadow of a doubt: 

The experts all agreed that human beings were not physically capable of running a four - minute mile. It wasn't just dangerous; it was impossible. We didn’t have the endurance, they claimed, much less the speed. Scientists even conducted studies that proved we could never run that fast—and no one in history ever did. People ran 4:03, 4:06, 4:04, but no one ever broke a four-minute mile. 

Then, on May 6th 1954, Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes, 59 seconds — and everything changed. Suddenly, within months, another runner accomplished the same feat. The next year, dozens of other men did, and the following year, hundreds. Today, to simply qualify as a world-class runner you must break the four - minute mile barrier.

What revolutionary breakthrough was responsible for this inexplicable change in mankind's running ability? There weren’t any startling improvements in running shoes, pavement, or uniforms, and the law of wind resistance wasn’t repealed. Rather, a mental barrier was broken. This was the sole provable reason behind mankind's newfound endurance and speed and it has changed history and continues until this very day.

Living Inspired

In our own lives, we too often sell ourselves on a self-sustaining story—“this is who I am, and this is all I can do.” But what if we are wrong *? It is this question that the Midrash of "woe to us on the day of judgement" is bringing into focus. By pointing out the strong inconsistencies that we sometimes display in life, the Midrash is making a case in point on human capability: you are INCREDIBLY POWERFUL. If you need any proof, simply look at what you actually accomplished every time that you felt the push to do so! The Midrash is saying: take a look at the fact that you can suddenly get so much done when your financial security is at stake, that you can be so well mannered in public and wake up so early for a good vacation - and realize just how capable, driven and powerful you can be. 

The KNOWLEDGE of how capable we are is the secret to living it in practice. May we use this Midrash to serve as a reminder of just how successful we can be and utilize that understanding to shatter each of our personal "four - minute miles". 

Gut Shabbos


* - "How Free Will Works” by Dr. David Lieberman