Welcome to Divrei Chizuk!
Learn to say Thank You To Hashem
 

Lichvod Klal Yisrael here are beautiful shiurim I heard/read it teaches how we just have to thank Hashem and trust in Him for everything and not c'v complain. The first one on gratitude is by Rabbi Sholom Arush (of Breslevisrael.co) and the to be a dreamer also appeared on the same site but was by Rabbi Pincus Winston of thirtysix.org.I would also like to thank the people who shared this with me it should be a big zechus for them and all of Klal Yisrael Amen!!!

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#1 Gratitude:

Whenever we express our gratitude - especially with song and joy–we work miracles and invoke phenomenal Divine compassion. The entire task of a Jew is to give thanks, for the Hebrew word for Jew, Yehudi, means “one who gives thanks.” If you thank Hashem for everything, you won’t have to run after rebbes and Kabbalists to ask for blessings because you’ll be blessed in every single way. On the other hand, if a person persists in crying and complaining, no blessing will help him.

One young woman told me that she began writing down the miracles and the big blessings that Hashem does for her in a little notebook that she keeps in her purse. Ever since, she’s always happy because she’s always thanking Hashem. Her life has turned into paradise on earth.

Another young man in our Yeshiva was sued for money that he never owed. The company that was suing him had an entire staff of lawyers who had all kinds of circumstantial evidence against him. The young man went up in the hills north of Jerusalem, and thanked Hashem for two hours, telling Hashem how much he appreciates the wake-up call and making a firm resolution to appreciate Hashem’s many favors and to strengthen his prayer and his gratitude. Within 48 hours, he received a letter from the lawyer apologizing for the mistake and misunderstanding. Who knows how many thousands of dollars in legal fees and hours of court battles would have been required for him to prove his innocence. Who says the court wouldn’t have ruled against him? We have all kinds of stories like this, about how personal-prayer sessions of gratitude – literally thanking Hashem for their troubles - saved people from severe and harsh judgments.

Hashem has given me the privilege to see with my own eyes how people in Israel and abroad have made comebacks from even terminal illnesses when the doctors had already given up all hope. How! They simply took my advice and started to thank Hashem for the terminal disease! They thank Hashem for the fact that there’s no one left to depend on but Him! There are dozens of people that we know about who were smart enough to do so. Many people have written us that the doctors gave them a few weeks or months to live, and they’re still with us a year or two later. Some people have seen malignant growths disappear altogether.

Emuna teaches us that there’s no such thing as bad in the world. If a person thinks that there’s a concept of bad in the world, it’s simply because he hasn’t yet learned a book by the name of The Garden of Emuna. No two people have the same mission in the world; therefore, everything Hashem does is for the very best, to guide each individual along his or her unique path and ultimate soul correction.

Are you having a tough time in life? Maybe it’s because Hashem wants you to make a right turn instead of a left. Do you have a so-called friend that’s giving you a hard time? Maybe Hashem wants you to associate with other people. Have you lost your job? Maybe Hashem wants you to learn to appreciate what you have, and maybe Hashem has a better job in store for you? So without losing your job, you may have stagnated for years in the same place. We all have to open our eyes and observe how every single thing that happens to us in life is for our ultimate benefit. Once we start thanking Hashem, all stern judgments are totally mitigated, what the Zohar calls “sweetened at the source.”

Our expressions of gratitude to Hashem have the unequivocal power to convert harsh judgments into total compassion and loving-kindness.

How can Rebbe Nachman say that there’s no bad in the world at all? Simple – since Hashem does everything for the best, then everything Hashem does is good, and we should thank Him for it! From the standpoint of emuna, complaining that something is bad is the worst form of heresy. No wonder crying and complaining cause calamity.

A person’s notion of bad is when his desires are different than Hashem’s desires for him. As such, a person that encounters difficulties when he’s not doing what Hashem wants him to do is liable to think of a situation as bad. Let’s see a few examples: suppose you dream of landing a certain soulmate, but he or she rejects you. Now you become depressed and broken-hearted because you didn’t get your way. Instead of crying and complaining, you should be thanking Hashem, because that person was not your soul-mate! He or she would have made a terrible partner for you in marriage. Let’s take another example: you’re devastated because you weren’t accepted into medical school. Maybe your soul correction is to be a teacher? Maybe Hashem wants you to be a spiritual leader, a doctor of souls instead of a doctor of bodies? So stop crying and thank Hashem – everything He’s doing is for your very best!

People think that thanking Hashem for everything – for the good and the seemingly opposite – is some kind of Breslever nonsense. Sorry – it’s an absolute obligation mentiond in the Gemara and codified in Jewish law (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:3).

Any person that makes expressions of gratitude a daily part of his or her life – for everything Hashem does, the good and the seemingly otherwise – will see tremendous miracles and solutions to problems that he never dreamed could be solved.

So, what can we do to rectify the terrible trait of ingratitude, crying, and complaining? Two things:

First, we should devote half of our daily hitbodedut – 30 minutes a day – to asking Hashem to help us overcome the terrible trait of ingratitude, until we really feel the change within us and we start thanking Hashem for every single blessing in life, the good and the seemingly opposite.

Second, our sages say that whoever lacks gratitude to his fellow man will certainly lack gratitude to Hashem. Therefore, we should make a special effort to say thank you to anyone that does a favor for us, especially to our parents and our spouses. By the way, if you have a problem with marital strife, you can solve it in a minute: just buy a little pocket notebook and jot down all the favors that your spouse does for you every single day. 99% of shalom-bayit problems stem from ingratitude.

Rebbe Natan said that nothing will help us until we learn to say “Thank you” to Hashem. If you lack something, whether it be a soulmate, a job, or children of your own, thank Hashem for an hour a day for your deficiency and you’ll see major miracles.

Rebbe Nachman says that when humility spreads in the world, Moshiach will come. Gratitude is in effect humility, when a person expects nothing and appreciates everything Hashem gives him. On the other hand, ingratitude goes hand-in-hand with arrogance, when a person has a sense of entitlement and thinks he the whole world owes him; he’s then upset with Hashem when he doesn’t get what he wants. So, the more people thank Hashem, the sooner Moshiach will come!

The more a person internalizes the principles of emuna, the more he or she will realize that everything is for the best.

I urge everybody to walk around with a little notebook in their pocket, to pay attention to life’s miracles – both big and small – write them down, and thank Hashem for them every day during your personal prayer session. This little notepad will save your life. When you begin thanking Hashem for everything, then Hashem will give you many more reasons to thank Him. Not only will you see miracles, but solutions and salvations to the terrible problems and predicaments that you never dreamed of successfully overcoming.

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#2. To Be a Dreamer, Part 1

 

 

They said to one another, “The dreamer is coming. Let’s kill him and throw him into one of the pits. We will say a wild animal has eaten him; then we will see what will become of his dreams.” (Bereishit 37:19-20)

 

Heaven said this: They say that they will kill him, but the posuk finishes by saying, “We will see what will become of his dreams” — We will see whose comes true, yours or Mine! For, it is impossible that they should say, “We will see what will become of his dreams”, since as soon as they would kill him his dreams would become annulled. (Rashi)

 

It is amazing how we can take things for granted. Some of the most important insights of life can stare us right in the face, and we will look at them, read them, understand them, even tell others about them, and yet not fully comprehend the full extent of their crucial meaning. We can listen to what they have to say and never hear what they are trying to tell us.

 

It is true that Yosef came from an illustrious family, but viceroy of Egypt within 12 short years? One day he is 17 years old and disrespected by most of his brothers, certainly not a leader even in his own family, and a decade later he is commanding the largest and most influential country in the world in his time! It was quite a transformation.

 

Was Yosef’s situation unique, is he just a hero-figure from the past, or is he meant to be a source of great inspiration for all of us regarding our own potential to succeed? Is there another message behind his story besides the usual ones of judging others favorably, and avoiding the biases of jealousy and hatred?

 

“Well, had God gone not been part of his picture he never would have survived let alone see the fulfillment of his amazing dreams!” one might argue.

 

There is no question that, without God, survival and success are impossible. However, the bigger question here is, why was God so involved in Yosef’s life, and not as much in the lives of his brothers? Why did his life tend towards success …

 

His brothers said to him, “Do you want to reign over us? Do you want to rule over us?” (Bereishit 37:8)

 

Yosef was the ruler over the land … Yosef’s brothers came and bowed down to him, their faces to the ground …” (Bereishit 42:6-9)

 

… while theirs slid toward disaster: Shimon and Levi in Shechem, the sale of Yosef, Yehudah and Tamar, etc.

 

Why was success particularly “attracted” to Yosef:

 

God was with Yosef, and he became a successful man; and he remained in the house of his Egyptian master. His master perceived that God was with him, and whatever he did God made succeed in his hand. (Bereishit 39:2-3)

 

Pharaoh said to his servants, “Is there a person like this, who has the spirit of God in him?” Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, “Since God has made all of this known to you, there can be no one as understanding and as wise as you. (Bereishit 41:38-39)

 

The daughters of Egypt used to climb up to gaze at his beauty … many daughters climbed, each of them to any place from which she could best obtain a glimpse of him. (Rashi, Bereishit 49:22)

 

Raised above the eye: the Evil Eye will have no effect on him. (Ibid.)

 

The answer is simple: he dared to dream.

 

Unfortunately, his brothers did not.

 

This is why just after their father departed this world they lied to Yosef to save their lives, giving Yosef reason to cry:

 

After he buried his father, Yosef returned to Egypt, he, his brothers, and all those who had gone up with him to bury his father. Yosef’s brothers, because their father had died said, “Maybe Yosef will hate us and repay us for all the evil that we did to him.” They ordered [someone] to say to Yosef, “Your father commanded us before his death to say to Yosef, ‘Please forgive the crime of your brothers and their guilt, though they have done evil to you’. Please forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.” Yosef wept when they spoke to him … (Bereishit 50:15-17)

 

Why did Yosef cry? He knew that they were lying because he knew that Ya’akov never would have suspected him of lifting a finger against his brothers. Did they offend him? If yes, wouldn’t anger have been a more appropriate response than tears?

 

Unless, of course, he wasn’t crying for himself, but for them. Yosef cried, not just for his immediate family but for all their descendants who would become enslaved in Egypt — and who knows how many other exiles after that — because of the very mentality his brothers exhibited in fashioning their lie. He cried because, in spite of all they had gone through together and all that Yosef’s life taught them, they still had not understood the message.

 

While Yosef dreamed, his brothers focused on nightmares, such as Yosef becoming the leader of the Jewish people one day, and literally brought them about.

 

Making a last-ditch effort to save the day, Yosef added:

 

Yosef said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in place of God? You decided to do evil to me, but God decided it should be for the good …” (Bereishit 50:19-20)

     

In other words, weren’t you amazed at how the universe rearranged itself to protect me and help me to succeed? In spite of your plans to eliminate me, nothing worked. You threw me into a pit with snakes and scorpions, and nothing bit me. You sold me to Arabs who normally sell kerosene, but the ones that bought me sold pleasant-smelling spices. They sold me to the chief-butcher who made me second-in-command over his house.

 

Think about it: Even the entire episode with Potiphar’s wife was only a stepping stone to get to where I am today. That landed me in jail, and there I was put in charge in order to meet the wine steward, whose dreams I interpreted as a way to earn the right to one day interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Incidentally, Pharaoh was only made to dream so that I could leave jail and rise to the position of second-in-command over the entire Egypt! A Jewish slave, viceroy over Egypt!

 

If you are asking yourself why that was the case, the answer is:

 

Though Yosef recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him. Yosef remembered his dreams … (Bereishit 42:8-9)

 

Yosef Hatzaddik never forgot his dreams, and he waited, anticipating how they might be fulfilled in the future. Every step along the way, whether it was positive or negative, had the potential, from Yosef’s perspective, to bring him to the fulfillment of his dreams of leadership and royalty. From a very early age he began to act the part:

 

Yosef was a shepherd with his brothers by the flock, but he was a youth with the children of Bilhah and Zilpah… (Bereishit 37:2)

 

His actions were youthful: he fixed his hair and touched up his eyes to appear handsome. (Rashi)

 

Something, apparently, that Yosef associated with being a ruler:

 

As soon as he saw that he was ruler he began to eat and drink and curl his hair.[i] (Rashi, Bereishit 39:6)

 

We see that from the beginning Yosef was living out his dreams, even though they had yet to materialize. From a young age, Yosef began to play the part of the leader of the family and eventually became not only the leader of his family, but of the entire world around him. Whether or not he deemed himself worthy of his goals, he pursued them, believed in them, and trusted that God would grant them to him. He was a believer in the following midrash:

 

One who trusts in God will be surrounded by kindness (Tehillim 32:10): Even an evil person who trusts in God will be surrounded by kindness. (Midrash Tehillim 32:10)

 

And, if it is true for a rasha — evil person — it must be true for a tzaddik, which Yosef was.

 

Knowing this, we can answer an age-old question regarding Yosef, but in a new way, one that makes a lot of sense given other principles of Torah. We are told, that Yosef spent an additional two years in prison because he had placed his trust in the wine steward to speak up on his behalf and free him from his situation. However, had not Yosef merely made a minimal effort to free himself from an unfortunate situation? Did Yosef doubt for a moment that it was God Who would eventually free him?

 

As a result, Rashi explains:

 

Because Yosef placed his trust in him that he should remember him he was destined to remain in prison for two [extra] years. Thus it says, “Happy is the man who makes God his trust and does not turn to the arrogant” (TehillimRashi, Bereishit 40:23) 40:5); he does not trust in the Egyptians who are called “arrogant”. (

 

From Rashi it does not seem that the problem was trusting in a human to be the instrument of Divine Providence; we do it all the time and call it “hishtadalut” — effort. The problem, according to Rashi, was in relying on the wrong type of person, which, unfortunately, we have also done throughout history. Right or wrong, we do it every day, in some way or another, forcing some to say that for someone on Yosef’s level of trust in God it was wrong, but, perhaps, not for the rest of us.

 

However, the answer to the question lies in another part of Yosef’s statement, one that seems far more uncharacteristic of the Yosef we have come to know and admire. This is the full extent of his statement:

 

“Please remember me when it goes well for you; do a kindness for me by mentioning me to Pharaoh and bring me out of this house. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and I did nothing for them to have put me into the pit.”Bereishit 40:14-16) (

 

In the entire story about Yosef, nothing sounds more out of place than the words, “and I did nothing for them to have put me into the pit.” What did Yosef mean with these words? What was he trying to say? That there is a lack of justice in Creation? That evil people can do bad to good people without God’s agreement? That everything he had gone through was for no specific reason, and therefore he was justified in complaining?

 

Whatever Yosef had meant by the addition of these words, it was a violation of the very principle by which he had lived his life until that time, and would live by for the rest of his life until the day he would die. Perhaps the two extra years he spent in prison served their purpose, to ingrain in Yosef the type of mentality that leads to success, not failure — to redemption as opposed to exile. Hence his words to his brothers later on:

 

Yosef said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in place of God? You decided to do evil to me, but God decided it should be for the good …” (Bereishit 50:19-20)

 

The Talmud teaches that everything God does He does for the good (Brochot 60b). Negative events happen in this world, and there is much that happens around us and to us that can easily bring us down; there is a role for sadness in this world just as there is for happiness. However, Dovid HaMelech taught:

 

Serve God with joy! (Tehillim 100:2)

 

He did not stipulate, “Except when this happens, or when this happens, etc.”

 

If anyone had reason to be sad or depressed, it was Yosef HaTzaddik, in view of what he underwent throughout his life. The hatred and jealousy he suffered from within his own family would be enough to make anyone run away from home. The trials and tribulations he experienced along his road to success would be enough to make just about anyone else give up on the idea of making it.

 

Yet, when we recall Yosef, we don’t identify him with the bad things that happened in his life, just the good things. We talk about them, but almost in a positive light, as if to say, “Isn’t it amazing how adversity turned into opportunity for Yosef HaTzaddik, and how he stayed positive the entire way through?”

 

People who want to be happy really have no choice. People who want to be successful, materially or spiritually, have no option. For, there is an operating principle in life, a very strict one, and if it is not obeyed the worst of the worst can happen, God forbid:

 

All [these curses] are because you did not serve God, your God out of joy and with gladness of heart while you possessed good things. Therefore, you will instead become servants of your en­emies, whom God will send against you. [You will suffer from] famine, thirst, nakedness, and a lack of everything. He will put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until He has eliminated you. (Devarim 28:47-48)

 

And, that seminal and crucial operating principle of life emerges from an equally short and cryptic posuk:

 

God is your shadow on your right. (Tehillim 121:5)

 

Oh really? God is our shadow? That sounds radically different from the way most people live their lives, believing instead that it is the other way around, that we live in God’s shadow. Isn’t that why we seem to have so little control over our lives?

 

Indeed, we want to be happy, but it is Heaven Who holds out on us and denies us what we think we need to be happy. We want to be successful, but it is God Who doesn’t give us wealth. We try to raise perfect children, but outside circumstances, which are Divinely-controlled, work against us!

 

Who operates in whose shadow?

 

To say that Yosef is the key to success is an understatement, especially in this millennium. For, the sixth millennium is governed by the sefirah called “Yesod”, which according to Kabbalah is said to correspond to Yosef. The energy of this 1000-year period is based in that which drove Yosef HaTzaddik; if we harness it, we can achieve success as he did.

 

This is why our generation is witnessing the availability of success like never before. Technology alone makes it possible to accomplish in a year what it used to take an entire life to achieve in the past. Furthermore, YesodMoshiach Ben Yosef. That power has to be available in this millennium as well, as it was in Yosef’s lifetime, if we follow in his footsteps. is the basis of redemption as well, which is destined to be initiated by a descendant of Yosef,

 

To this end, there is a remarkable sefer that has existed for some time, though not learned as thoroughly as it ought to be. It is called “Nefesh HaChaim”, written by Rabbi Chaim Volozhin (1749-1821). Rav Chaim was the main disciple of the Vilna Gaon and the founder of the Volozhin Yeshivah in 1802, the most important and most influential Jewish institution in Lithuania. In Nefesh HaChaim, Rav Chaim’s philosophy is expounded where he emphasizes the power of Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvot to bring a Jew close to God.

 

That is not all Rav Chaim emphasizes. Rather, Rav Chaim reveals how incredibly powerful and empowered man is, having a soul that is comprised of all the upper worlds, and how, because of our lofty soul, we have more to do with the direction of Creation than we think:

 

King David said, “God is your shadow on your right side.” (Tehillim 121:5). Just like a shadow moves in the direction of the thing that casts it, so too does God cause the worlds to “shadow” the actions of man. The Midrash“Go and tell the Jewish people that My name is, ‘I will be what I will be’.” What does “I will be what I will be” mean? It means that, just as you are with Me, that is how I will be with you. This is what David meant when he said that “God is your shadow”, for just like with a shadow if you laugh, it laughs; if you cry, it cries; if you present an angry or happy countenance, it will do likewise. Thus, too, is God your shadow: as you are with Him, that is the way He will respond to you. (Nefesh HaChaim, Ch. 7) explicitly states: God said to Moshe,

 

What an amazing concept. This is not the way the average person looks at the world or God in it. Rather, they see it as the other way around, that we are God’s shadow so-to-speak, meaning that He decides what has to happen, and we respond to that. We can be in a great mood, but if He is angry, then watch out; our outlook takes backseat to His.

 

However, the Nefesh HaChaim is saying just the opposite. He is saying that all the power, all the good or the “bad” that we see coming from God, originates with us. He is responding to us. We think that we are not smiling because He stopped smiling first when in fact it is us who stops smiling first, and only then does God change His “mood” towards us.

 

This point shows up, albeit in a subtle manner, in the following account in the Torah, when Avraham is bargaining with God over the destruction of S’dom. Avraham was able to bargain God down from fifty righteous people to ten, at which point Avraham thought that he had gone far enough. “Less than ten people could not save the world in Noach’s time,” Avraham thought to himself, “so how can less than ten save the city of S’dom from imminent destruction?

 

Was he right? We’ll never know because Avraham never asked. However, what is amazing is the sequence of events that took place at the conclusion of the bargaining session. Did God say, “That’s as low as I’m going” like any merchant who has hit bottom dollar? No. Instead, Avraham just stopped bargaining and walked away, and only then did God leave, as Rashi says:

 

As soon as the counsel for the defense had nothing more to say the judge left as well. (Rashi, Bereishit 18:33)

 

This seems to imply that God had been waiting for Avraham to make the next move, almost implying that asking for less righteous people to justify saving S’dom might have worked. However, once the counsel for the defense ended his plea bargaining, the judge seemed to say, “Well, if he’s done, then I am as well.”

 

So, S’dom was destroyed, and seemingly rightly so (nothing is by accident), but that is not the point. The point is that God had waited for Avraham to make the next move, and only after Avraham had decided in which direction He wanted to go, God “shadowed” him and went the same way.

 

Part of the misconception we seem to have is that this world is about reward and punishment. That is simply not true. The Talmud states specifically in no uncertain terms that reward for good behavior comes in the World-to-Come (Kiddushin 39b). Gihennom, the place one may have to go for not having rectified himself while alive, also comes after history has come to a close.

 

If this world was about reward and punishment, would bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people? Where would the justice be in that? Though it is true: results can seem like reward for good behavior and problems can have a punishing effect, but they are not reward or punishment. They are, as the Torah points out, effects of causes that we ourselves create.

 

If you laugh at it, it laughs at you; if you cry to it, it cries to you; if you present an angry or happy countenance, it will present to you likewise. Thus too is God “your shadow” — as you are with Him, that is the way He will respond to you.

 

This is not talking about reward and punishment. It is talking about cause-and-effect, and thus the Midrash teaches:

 

One who trusts in God will be surrounded by kindness (Tehillim 32:10): Even an evil person who trusts in God will be surrounded by kindness. (Midrash Tehillim 32:10)

 

The important thing to remember is that, whatever material success you achieve in this world, you’ll have to account for it on Yom HaDin — the Day of Judgment. To the rasha they will say:

 

“We gave you the million dollars you wanted passionately and the sports car as well. What did you do with them in the end?”

 

To the under-confident tzaddik, they may also have an incriminating question:

 

“You wanted to do so much good in the world, and for that we will reward you. But, we also wanted to give you the million dollars you asked for, but you didn’t believe that it was possible, so it wasn’t. Where was your trust in God? The confidence to succeed you could have learned from that rasha down the street!”

 

However, the Sitra Achra makes it easy for the rasha, or even just a non-believing person to have confidence in his own success, and easy for the self-effacing tzaddik to believe in his own shortcomings. His job is to challenge a person, and he does it by taking advantage of the weakness of each.

 

Misplaced beliefs

 

The weak point of a secular person is that he believes in himself, and not in God. The shortcoming of the tzaddik may be that he believes in God, but not in himself, precisely the problem that the Spies exhibited when they rejected Eretz Yisroel:

 

They returned from spying the land at the end of forty days. They ap­peared before Moshe and Aharon, and the entire congregation of the Children of Israel, in the desert of Paran (Kadesh) with word [of their journey]. [They] showed the entire community the fruit of the land, and related the following, “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it certainly flows with milk and honey; this is the fruit from it. However, the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are large and fortified … We are not able to fight the people; they are stronger than us!” (Bamidbar 13:25-28, 31)

 

They said this with respect to Heaven … (Sotah 35a)

 

Can this be? Could they have said this? The same people who witnessed God perform the Ten Plagues and destroy the mighty Egyptian army by the sea, not to mention defeating Amalek and providing bread from Heaven? Could they really have thought that the Canaanites were stronger than God?

 

Rather, it is as the Nefesh HaChaim explains:

 

In the Holy Zohar it also says in many places that “the sins of men cause imperfections above”; it speaks of the opposite as well. This is the meaning of the verse, “Give strength to God!” (Tehillim 68:35). And in the Zohar, at the beginning of Parashat Bo, it says, “It happened one day that they came … to present themselves before God” (Iyov 1:6): When they want to prosecute the actions of Israel they lay their charges against God, because when Israel acts improperly they weaken the strength of God; when they act correctly they give strength and power to God. With respect to this it is written, “Give strength to God!” Through what? Through proper conduct. (Nefesh HaChaim, Ch. 3)

 

Thus, the Spies were not saying that the people of Canaan were stronger than God, since they understood full well that God creates, sustains, and maintains everything, including the Canaanites. Any strength that the Canaanim had originated from God.

 

However, they argued, God has set up the world in such a way that He acts as if His strength depends upon our deeds. The strength He exhibits reflects the strength of belief that we exhibit, and regarding that the posuk testifies:

 

“All the people that we saw there were of great stature. We saw giants, sons of Anak, who come from giants. If in our eyes we were like grasshoppers, then certainly we were the same in their eyes!” (Bamidbar 13:32-33)

 

However, not everyone at that time had the same attitude. Kaleiv and Yehoshua took a different approach to the situation, a can-do approach:

 

Yehoshua the son of Nun, and Kaleiv the son of Yefuneh, two of those who spied the land … spoke to the entire congregation of the Children of Israel and said, “The land which we spied is an excellent land! If God desires it, He can bring us into the land and give it to us …” (Bamidbar 14:6-8)

 

And, consequently, He did — to them, and the Tribe of Levi, and all the women who did not fall prey to the Spies’ lack of self-confidence. It took forty years to eliminate those who supported the Spies in their claim and belief. However, Yehoshua, Kaleiv, the Tribe of Levi, and all the women entered the land, just as God had promised. They believed in Him, so He believed in them.

 

Thus, you have the whole secret of exile and redemption, how the Sitra Achra takes advantage of our emotional vulnerabilities and how we overcome him and exile by breaking out of our phase of negativity. We do it by daring to dream, by passionately desiring the objects of our hearts and visualizing a life of success.

 

You can even feel the emotional shift take place right inside of you when a burst of inspiration convinces us that what we previously thought was beyond us is actually within our reach. And then, once we succeed, we marvel at how God rearranged the universe to make our dream come true, and we wonder why we ever doubted God in the first place.

 

The Yosefs of history never do. And, if they happen to lose themselves momentarily and falter a bit in their trust in God, they quickly wake up to the backwards thinking while there is still time, and right the wrong, so that Heaven can give to them what it yearns to give: all good.

 

May it be Your will God, and God of our fathers … that You give to us … life that is filled with the requests of our hearts for good. (Birchat HaChodesh)

 

A Jew, above all else should trust in God. Completely. Trust is the ultimate measure of the depth of a relationship with anyone, and the extent to which you are prepared to trust someone is the extent to which you are one with that person, or with God for that matter. And, since a Jew should have as close a relationship with God as he or she possibly can, then he or she is meant to trust in God completely.

 

However, there are levels of trust, and Judaism makes a distinction between someone who trusts in God and someone who is a “Ba’al Bitachon” — literally, an “Owner of Trust in God”. It is the difference between someone who believes in the concept of trust in God and does on occasion, and someone whose entire life reflects his complete trust in his Creator, even when the situation seems hopeless.

 

For the former, trust in God amounts to:

 

“Sometimes good results happen, sometimes they don’t. But I trust that no matter happens, all that God does He does for the good.”

 

In other words, there is a built-in margin of error, just in case we don’t get what we asked for. It is our fear of disappointment that reigns in our ability to fully trust in God, making, as we shall see, disappointment a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

However, for the Ba’al Bitachon the good just always seems to happen as long as he wants it to, like in the case of Yosef HaTzaddik, and after him, Chanina Ben Dosa.

 

Chanina Ben Dosa was a miracle-worker in the full sense of the term. It seems that whatever he wanted he could get, and often at a moment’s notice. He was impervious to the basic dangers of life that plague most of us. Indeed, he was more dangerous to a poisonous snake than the snake was to him (Brochot 33a).[i]

 

Rebi Chanina was the perfect example of the saying, “The righteous will and God fulfills”. If he wanted it to stop raining it stopped raining. If he wanted the rain to begin again, the rain fell on his command, immediately:

 

While traveling he was caught in a shower and prayed “Master of the Universe, the whole world is pleased while Chanina alone is annoyed.” The rain immediately ceased. Arriving home, he changed his prayer: “Master of the Universe, shall all the world be grieved while Chanina enjoys his comfort?” As a result, showers descended. (Ta’anit 24b)

 

Commenting on this account, the Talmud laments:

 

Against Ben Dosa’s prayers, those of the Kohen Gadol himself are of no avail. (Ibid.)

 

And then, of course, there was Choni HaMagel — Choni the “Circle-Drawer” — also mentioned in the Talmud:

 

It once happened that [during a drought] they petitioned Choni HaMagel, “Pray for rain to fall.”

 

Choni told them, “Go, bring your Passover ovens indoors so that the should not dissolve.” (Ta’anit 19a)

 

“You want rain?” Choni asked them. “Why didn’t you say so? Go home and prepare for it, because here it comes.” The only question is, wasn’t Choni already aware of the fact that there was a drought? If yes, then why did he not pray for rain before the people came and implored him? Or, was their preparation for rain an integral part of the plan to bring the rain?

 

Choni prayed, but no rain fell. What did he do? He drew a circle and stood in the middle of it and said to God,

 

“Master of the Universe! Your children turned to me because I am like a member of your household. I swear by your great Name that I am not moving from here until You have compassion on Your children!” (Ibid.)

 

Is that any way for flesh-and-blood to talk to Heaven? Perhaps — if you are asking for a lightning bolt to come down and hit you, God forbid. It certainly doesn’t sound like the proper way to increase one’s merit before God in order to have Him perform a life-saving miracle.

 

Nevertheless:

 

Rain began to drizzle.

 

Choni said, “That’s not what I asked for! I asked for rains to fill the cisterns, trenches and reservoirs!” (Ibid.)

 

Wait a moment. Who’s in charge here? A big miracle just happened, albeit in a small amount. Why is Choni unfazed? Why is Heaven not offended by his harsh response?

 

As a result, rain started coming down in torrents.

 

So Choni added, “That’s not what I asked for either. I asked for good rains, of blessing and generosity.” (Ibid.)

 

Now the question becomes, didn’t Heaven already know what Choni was praying for? It almost seems as if God was playing with Choni, engaging him in a little Talmudic give-and-take. Or, was there, is there, a deeper message being conveyed?

 

A proper rain began to fall, and it continued to fall until it forced the Jews out of Jerusalem up onto the Temple Mount because of the flooding caused by the rains. So they told Choni, “Just as you prayed that the rains should fall, pray now that they should stop.”

 

He told them,

 

“Go and see if the ‘Stone of Claims’ has dissolved yet.” (Ibid.)

 

Once again, Choni HaMagel had saved the day. Rains of Blessing had fallen and the drought had come to an end. As a result, the people were able to return to their homes and tend to their crops and livelihood, probably in awe of Choni and his Heavenly connection. Everyone, that is, except for the Gadol HaDor — the leader of the generation:

 

Shimon Ben Shetach sent a message to Choni,

 

“If it were not for the fact that you are Choni I would have issued a decree of excommunication against you!” (Ibid.)

 

After all, imagine what would happen if everyone approached Heaven the same way, with the same demanding tone? The result would not be rain of blessing, but rain of destruction, God forbid. Unless, of course, he becomes a Choni in his own right:

 

“But what can I do against you? You are like one unburdens himself before God and yet He still fulfills your wish, like a child who unburdens himself before his father and yet his father fulfills his wish!” (Ibid.)

 

The punch line is the actual verse that Shimon Ben Shetach uses to describe Choni:

 

Let your father and mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice. (Mishlei 23:25)

 

It doesn’t sound very derogatory, does it? Actually, it sounds like a compliment, as if Shimon Ben Shetach is saying to Choni, “You make your Father-in-Heaven happy.” Indeed, judging by Heaven’s response to Choni’s charade, it seems as if God was quite pleased with Choni HaMagel, letting him call the shots from start to finish.

 

Powerful people, Chanina Ben Dosa and Choni HaMagel. Servants of God for sure, but powerful people nonetheless. Obviously, the Source of their power was God Himself, for nothing happens in Creation if God does not will it (Chullin 7b). However, the source of their connection to God, which allowed them to have such spiritual influence and confidence in their actions was their bitachon; they were Ba’alei Bitachon.

 

Rebi Chanina and Choni didn’t just have trust in God, they mastered it. If you met them you would say to yourself, “Wow, those are two really confident and up-beat people who believe anything is possible, and I guess that is why it seems to be for them. They have mastered the art of being positive, and their positivity has drawn to them more positivity from Heaven.”

 

However, they would stop you and say, “Well, it’s not exactly like that…”, as the following story portrays. When, on one Erev Shabbat, Chanina Ben Dosa’s daughter filled the lamp with vinegar instead of oil and kindled it, and then told her father of her mistake with concern, he told her:

 

“He Who told oil to burn can tell vinegar to burn as well.” (Ta'anit 25a)

 

He was right: not only did the vinegar burn as if it was oil, it continued to burn throughout the entire next day until Motzei Shabbat. Talk about overkill — or the extent to which God is prepared to go for those whose belief in Him is absolute, as the next story proves as well.

 

There was a drought. The Jews went up to Jerusalem for the Sholosh Regolim,[i] but they had no water to drink. Nakdimon Ben Gurion, a wealthy man, saw this and went to the Roman governor who owned water cisterns and said to him,

 

“Lend me twelve of your water cisterns so that I can give them to the pilgrims. I will return all the twelve cisterns of water and if I cannot, I will give you twelve large silver bars.” (Ta’anit 19a)

 

The silver was worth much more than the water, so the two agreed to a date by which Nakdimon would have to replenish the cisterns or pay the debt. However, the date arrived and yet no rains had fallen, so the governor sent a messenger to Nakdimon requesting payment.

 

“The day is not yet over,” replied Nakdimon. “I still have time.” (Ibid.)

 

True, but it was already Pesach, and the rains hadn’t fallen during the rainy season, so what made Nakdimon believe that they would fall then, during the non-rainy season?

 

He sent a messenger again in the afternoon and received the same reply. The sun was leaning westward when he sent a third reminder, this time demanding, “Send me my money!”

 

“It’s not dark yet,” said Nakdimon.

 

The governor mocked him, saying, “No rain has fallen all year long and now you expect some to fall?” and he entered the public bathhouse in a joyous mood, confident that he would soon be receiving his money. At the same time, Nakdimon went to the Bait HaMikdash. (Ibid.)

 

Nakdimon remained confident, strong in his faith in God. Even though no rain had fallen since he had made the deal with the governor, he was not discouraged. Throughout the entire day he continued to trust that God would yet save him and fill the cisterns with water.

 

One crucial rule about being a Ba’al Bitachon: never, ever give up on God. Redemption can always come “in the wink of an eye”, or at the very last second, or even after what we think is the very last second. If any story makes this point, it is this one.

Thus, at the same time that the governor entered the bathhouse in high spirits, Nakdimon Ben Gurion entered the Bait HaMikdosh, stood in prayer, and said,

 

“Master of the World, it is known and revealed before You that I did not make this effort for my own honor, nor for the honor of my father’s house, but only for Your honor, so that there should be water for the Olei Regel.” (Ibid.)

 

This, of course, is a very important element of the entire story. As the Midrash teaches, miracles can happen for anyone. However, when they do happen for you, you want to know that they have occurred without cost, either in this world or the next one. To ensure that, you have to be L’Shem Shamayim — requesting the miracle for some higher purpose, even if you will benefit from it as well.

 

Nakdimon’s prayer was answered immediately, as the skies darkened and filled with clouds and rain poured down. It came down heavily, filling all of the Roman’s cisterns to overflowing. It even washed down all of the caked mud that had been accumulated by the cisterns in the dry years and left them clean — even though it was Pesach, when rain does not usually fall in Eretz Yisroel. Relief.

 

The tables turned, as soon as the governor entered the bathhouse he noticed the raindrops on the window and rushed outside quickly, even before bathing. He quickly found Nakdimon in order to tell him that he had not fulfilled his part of the bargain since the sun had already set on the agreed upon day and it was, therefore, too late. Miracle or no miracle, a deal was a deal.

 

However, when they met, Nakdimon spoke first:

 

“Pay me for the extra water! I gave you back more than I took; the cisterns were not filled to the top and now they are. You owe me now. I also did you another favor, because when a cistern overflows from strong, gushing rain, it flushes the bad water out and keeps the good water in. Not only was the sediment at the bottom flushed out, but the caked mud on the sides was also cleaned away. In addition, the force of the water actually increased the size of the cisterns so that now they can hold more water than before! This would not have happened with a regular, mild rainfall. It happened because of the strong, miraculous downpour. This is a supernatural rain, and it came because of my prayers”, said Nakdimon told the Roman governor. “The surplus water certainly belongs to me and you must pay me for it.” (Ibid.)

 

However, the Talmud recounts, the story was not over yet. Indeed, a bigger miracle was yet in store, perhaps the reason for the drought in the first place.

 

“I agree that the rain that fell was miraculous, and that your God changed the pattern of the world for your sake. But that does not mean that I owe you money. On the contrary, you still owe me the money … the full amount that we originally agreed upon … The cisterns may have filled with rainwater, and I am truly grateful for that, but the sun has already set. Thus, the water that filled the cisterns is mine, and you have no claim to it. You still owe me the money, because at the end of the day they were empty.” (Ibid.)

 

A deal may be a deal, but a miracle is also a miracle, and bitachon is bitachon. So, unfazed, though the two of them stood there under a dark, overcast sky, Nakdimon turned around and went back to the Bait HaMikdash, put on his tallit, and again prayed to God.

 

“Master of the World, I plead before You. If You deem that I must pay then I will pay, for this is what we agreed upon and I will keep my part of the bargain if I must. However, when I first stated the price I did so in my trust that You would intervene favorably for Your children who come by foot to visit Your House, and do so joyfully out of their love for You … Therefore, I plead with You: Show that there are those who love You in this world. Let everyone see that You are pleased that they make the journey … I know that the rain fell because You love me and Your people, but I beg You, just as You performed a miracle for me the first time, please perform one now as well. This second miracle will be much more prominent and obvious.” (Ibid.)

 

At so it was, just as Nakdimon had said: as Nakdimon prayed, the wind blew and dispersed the clouds, revealing the sun. Thus, everyone was able to see clearly that the rain had fallen in advance of the deadline for repayment. Defeated, the governor nevertheless stated for the record:

 

   

As Nakdimon prayed, the wind blew and dispersed the clouds…

 

“Even though we were unable to see the sun set because of the heavy clouds, according to my calculations it should have set at that time. I cannot explain it, but neither can I argue with the facts for I can see the sun with my own eyes. But, you must admit, had not the sun shone and illuminated the sky in the manner that it does every day before it sets, I would have been able to extract your money from you." (Ibid.)

 

A truly remarkable story. And, it is one that can elicit one of three possible reactions from the reader: disbelief altogether,  or belief, but only that such miracles happen on occasion, and for very special people, such Nakdimon Ben Gurion, or Chanina Ben Dosa, or for Choni HaMagel, but not for the average person.

 

Or, there is one more option …

 

“I remember quitting my job and all of sudden having no real source of income. I remember feeling as if I was facing a wall, having no visible options to save my family from financial hardship. And, I remember feeling so hopeless that I had no choice but to totally abandon myself to Hashgochah Pratit. After all, I recall thinking to myself at the time, how many times has God saved me in the past? How many times did I know in advance how He would do it? How many times did hopeless situations turn into hopeful ones, right before my very eyes? So, I rubbed my hands together with enthusiasm and said with conviction, ‘I can’t wait to see what God will do this time to help me out!’ Well, one thing led to another, and by the time the year was over more money had passed through my hands than had the previous years! It was a great year, and so was the next one …”

 

“I found our dream home quite ‘accidentally’, and once I did, I knew I had to buy it. But I only had $10,000.00 to make the deposit, and was given 30 days to come up with the balance — a mere $240,000.00 U.S.! I remember thinking to myself, Are you crazy? Where will you come up with money like that, and in 30 days yet?! But, another voice said, Trust in God. He can do anything. You’re buying this house so you can move your family to Israel and make as smooth a transition as possible for them. Your intentions are good. God can make it work. Amazingly, not only was the paperwork completed in the two days I had left before flying back to North America, but the builder even took me to his bank, and there, on the spot, arranged an $80,000.00 mortgage for me, reducing the amount I had to raise back home. Nothing in Israel ever worked that fast, or that smoothly, but it did for me then. It was dizzying the speed at which things were moving ahead for me. However, only ‘Phase One’ of this trial of trust and faith had been completed, but it was enough to give me additional confidence to succeed at getting through the rest of the ordeal. To make a long story short, by the closing date all the money was there, without the having to go to a single bank back home. Some money came as gifts, the rest as private loans. But, by the following spring we had made aliyah and had taken full possession of our new home in Eretz Yisroel. There is no way to measure what a great miracle it was …”

 

“My doctor said that I would need to have an operation, and then go for chemotherapy. He said it was already late, and we had to start right away. I came home from the hospital distraught, and my husband and I cried together. However, he refused to do anything without checking with Rav Kanievsky, so he did. He cried to the rav and told him the entire story, after which the ‘Steipler Rav’ told him, ‘Go home and live your lives normally. Don’t go for treatment. The illness is already gone.’ I was nervous at first, but as my husband told me, ‘If the Steipler says the illness is gone, then it is gone.’ At least, that is the way we dealt with it; we felt confident everything would be fine. About a year later when I was expecting, I was at the hospital for a routine check-up on the baby when I happened to see the original doctor who had diagnosed my illness, ‘Where have you been?!’ he said with grave concern. ‘You should have started treatment a year ago! You may have cost yourself your life!’ he told me. ‘I feel just fine’, I told him calmly, but he insisted upon checking how far the ‘illness’ had spread. To his utter shock, there was no trace of the illness anymore …”

 

The world is filled with a lot negativity. There is so much that one could be negative about on a daily basis, on a momentary basis. Wars, death, poverty — it’s all there. If one just focuses on all the world’s problems for even just one moment, he or she can become emotionally overwhelmed and have difficulty ever being positive again.

 

Thank God, the world is filled with much good as well, far more good than bad. And many have at least a few stories, if not many, of miracles that have happened for them at some time or another. Even if a person is going through a difficult time at present, his or her face will light up as he or she recalls a miracle from the past, as if it is occurring right now.

 

This is not yet the perfect life of the Messianic Era, and it would be premature to expect perfection. There is still a need for free-will, so therefore there is still a yetzer hara — an evil inclination. And, as long as the evil inclination exists, people will continue to make life miserable for others, and life itself will throw us curve balls that make life the challenge that it often seems to be. All of it is by Divine design, but it is challenging nevertheless.

 

Stories of miracles abound. Stories of Hashgochah Pratit, of Divine Providence are told all the time. Secular people start by saying, “You want to hear an amazing story?” or they say, “Do you want to hear about an amazing coincidence?” Religious people say the same thing, except that they insert “God” in place of “coincidence”, or in place of “the universe”, and talk about how God answered their prayers, or about how He came through for them as they dreamed He would.

 

“Do you believe in miracles?”

 

Whether the question is asked in earnest or even just superficially, it means the same thing. There’s this thing called “Nature”, and it has rules. There is the law of gravity which keeps us from flying, or the law of action and reaction, to give just a few examples. Nature is physically limiting, and by extension, it can be spiritually limiting as well.

 

However, we have found, that sometimes miracles occur, or at least results that seem uncharacteristic for the natural physical world. Strange things happen sometimes, even if there is an explanation after the fact for why they did. We have created expressions for some of those phenomena, such “mind over matter”, which states that will alone can be enough to create a break from the general laws of everyday natural life.

 

Will has power. Not just the kind of power where it motivates us to go the extra distance we may not feel like going, but the kind of power that sometimes results, in our mind, mysteriously, in circumstances that produce the desired result … against all the odds.

 

Against the odds? Against what we expect to see based upon past experience, against what mankind has seen day-in and day-out for thousands of years. Nature is queen in this world, and miracle, only a guest, so-much-so that when even science finally, comes around and is forced to admit to that which it basically set out to disprove, we have difficulty accepting the amendment, or what is, in some cases, outright retraction of previous beliefs.

 

“What is the basis of all physical matter?”

 

“Energy.”

 

“What is energy?”

 

“We don’t know.”

 

“Is it physical?”

 

“No, not at all.”

 

“I see. So, if energy, which is the basis of all that exists in the universe is not physical, then it is, well, spiritual?”

 

“Well, I don’t know if we would call it that …”

 

“You mean there is another term …”

 

“Well, let’s just call it energy for now.”

 

Why? Because, “spiritual” implies something more than just some mysterious force in Creation that can supercede the laws of Nature. It implies a specific Force, God Himself. For thousands of years now Kabbalists have performed great miracles, such “kevitzat haderech” — getting from Point A to Point B without actually physically traveling there, Quantum Mechanics and Theoretical Physics have begun to expose the mechanism that God uses, by design, to defy Nature.

 

For, if the basis of all physical Creation is not physical at all, and it is the way it is as a function of will — God’s will — then why should something as non-physical as human will not be able to dictate what physical reality should be like, or how it should respond to a situation or predicament?

 

Likewise, when God created man, He empowered him to control countless forces and worlds, handing them over to him so that he should be the one to direct them according to his actions, words, and thoughts — for good, or the opposite, God forbid. It is the positive actions, words, and thoughts of man that sustain and give energy to countless forces and holy celestial worlds, increasing their holiness and light, as it says, “I have placed My word in your mouth … to plant heaven and to establish land” (Yeshayahu 51:16). And, as the rabbis teach, “Don’t read banayich — your children — but bonayich — your builders …” (Brochot 64a), because it is they who arrange the upper worlds like a builder does his building, giving them great strength. (Nefesh HaChaim, Ch. 3)

 

Intellectually, we may have little difficulty believing this to be true. However, practically-speaking, we have little difficulty not believing it to be true. We have become accustomed to a world with natural “laws”. We are used to stereotypes that bind our minds and keep us from dreaming of being much greater than we might be, even though Heaven has encouraged us from time-to-time.

  

And, worst of all, we are so afraid of failure and disappointment that we prefer the security of being enslaved in “Mitzrayim” to the freedom of the “desert”, where our only line of defense is belief and trust in God, and our dreams of greatness are the limit. And, the Sitra Achra, being the wily angel that he is, knows this about us, and does everything he can to discourage us, to keep us down, to keep us from seeing past the limitations of the physical world, even as history winds down and more and more things happen to indicate that we are much more than we have become.

 

After all, as the Nefesh HaChaim reminds us, we were made in the “Image of God”, and as the expression goes (Shabbat 31a), “that is Torah; the rest is commentary”. It is also the key to everything good that we dream about having in life, in this world and in the next one.

 

Thus, the Hebrew word for “redemption” — geulah — and that of “man” — adam — equal one another in gematria. For, when a person becomes the fulfillment of all the potential he can express in any given lifetime, he is, by definition, redeemed. Personal redemption, and by extension national redemption, is the result of mentally breaking past the physical limitations of the body.

 

Hence, the first plague inflicted upon the Egyptians was that of blood — Dalet-Mem — the last two letters of the word “adam”, and that which represents the limited, physical component of man. The Aleph of adam, on the other hand, is always an allusion to God, and therefore it represents the supernatural element of man, his soul.

 

The Plague of Blood was a wake-up call to the Jewish people: Where has your Aleph gone? Each subsequent plague and miracle was designed to help revive the Aleph of the Jew, increasing it, so-to-speak, until it was sufficient to transform the Dalet-Mem into Aleph-Dalet-MemAdam — and geulah. Defeating the Egyptians was purely a function of resurrecting the Aleph of the Jewish people, which Egyptian slavery had been designed to suppress.

 

Hence, the word for “Egypt” — Mitzrayim — is comprised of two parts, “meitzer” and “yumm”, the first part meaning “border”, and the second having the gematria of fifty (Sha’arei Leshem, p. 404). Combined they mean “constriction of  fifty”, as in the “Fifty Gates of Understanding”, the knowledge of Torah that allows a Jew to remain aware of and close to God.

 

This indicates that, as physical as the enslavement was in Egypt for 116 years, it was really the product of an intellectual and spiritual oppression. Egyptian slavery was antithetical to this level of God-awareness, intended to wear down the spiritual sensitivity of the Jew.

 

This is why Pharaoh, after Moshe asked for the freedom of the Jewish people, made them produce bricks without materials, a seemingly impossible task. If the goal of the slavery was bricks, then Pharaoh hurt himself as well by taking away their materials to produce them. He should have doubled the material and doubled the quota instead.

 

However, by demanding the same quota of bricks without providing material was like saying to the Jewish people, “If you believe in miracles, do one now, if you can.”

 

Little did Pharaoh know at the time that his answer was forthcoming, and that it would continue to come until even he had to admit to the Reality beyond reality. Exile and redemption, for the Jewish people, has been about the same thing ever since.

 

Will and intention are powerful, powerful enough to turn exile into redemption, and crisis into solution, “no can do” into “can do”.

 

Everyone deals with life’s obstacles differently, but almost all of the approaches can be broken down into two groups: can do, and no can do. Can-Do People can be great to be around. They are upbeat and can give you the feeling that anything is possible. They can make life seem worth living, and they tend to bring the best out in other people. They are simply inspiring.

 

No-Can-Do People usually accomplish the opposite. They are no ray of hope in the darkness of night; indeed, they can be that darkness of night, often making others feel like nothing is possible and that evil lurks in every shadow waiting to pounce at the first moment one lets his guard down. If they make us feel better about ourselves it is only because we may be happy to not be them — though we often can be.

 

Yosef was a Can-Do person. As such, he was a magnet for others seeking to feel alive, yearning to feel whole. This energy that Yosef exuded that was part-and-parcel with his attitude of life has a name: chayn

 

A son of chayn is Yosef … (Rashi, Bereishit 49:22)

 

— a Hebrew word made up of two letters — Chet-Nun — and containing a very powerful message:

 

A good name is more choice than great riches, and beneficent chayn more than silver and gold. (Mishlei 22:1)

 

In Kabbalah, the number eight, corresponding to the letter Chet, and the number fifty, corresponding to the letter Nun, represent the same concept, but on different planes. The number seven represents the idea of the natural, physical world, because that is the amount of days in which God made physical Creation.[i] Therefore, eight — Chet — represents the super-natural, going beyond the physical limitations of Creation.[ii]

 

Fifty is one more than forty-nine, the product of seven times seven.[iii] Therefore, like the number eight it represents rising above the limitations of the physical plane. And, just as the eighth sefirah from the bottom is Binah, one of the levels of Eternity, so too is fifty associated with the sefirah of Binah, as in the Nun Sha’arei Binah — the Fifty Gates of Understanding with which the world was created (Rosh Hashanah 21b).

 

Thus, people who project chayn project eternity. The good feeling that we have in their presence is our own sense of unlimitedness. It is always there. It just gets covered over by the confusion that results from living in a world that emphasizes the physical.[iv] People with chayn make us feel as if we are complete, at least while we are in their presence.

 

This is the basis of such rabbinical teachings as:

 

Who is a wealthy person? One who is content with his portion. (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

 

All is for the good. (Brochot 61a)

 

From the vantage point of the soul, this is completely true. It is the body that feels physical lack, that sees negativity in the world. The only thing that saddens the soul, so-to-speak, is giving up on the possibility to be more than we are, to capitulate to the body’s sense of limitedness. This is what makes life seem so mundane and in need of superficial stimulation and distraction.

 

This is why a very important trait of a Can-Do, chayn-generating person is gratitude. Everyone knows how important it is to be grateful for the blessings we have in life, and yet few people feel gratitude on a daily basis or realize all their blessings. If positivity is the attitude that makes life wonderful and productive, then gratitude is the fuel that keeps it alive and going.

 

In fact, it is remarkable how easily life can go from being negative to positive just by taking note of one’s blessings. It is awesome how inspired a person can become when he realizes how much he already has, as opposed to how much he lacks, or thinks he lacks.

 

“I was feeling down so I went to a class on the Torah approach to happiness. The young rabbi spoke well, and he was quite interesting, but when you’re not into something it is hard to take it seriously. He spoke about what he called ‘The Happiness Game’, which he said was a powerful tool for getting out of sad moods and staying upbeat. ‘All you have to do,’ he said with conviction, ‘is make a continuous list of your blessings that you add to each day, starting with the most obvious things in life, like your eyes, for example, and then your nose, etc. … because for everything you have there are people who don’t, so they count as blessings. And you keep adding to the list every time you can think of something for which to be grateful, even if it seems so obvious to you. There is some kind of psychological thing,’ he explained, ‘about seeing so many blessings on a single page or in a single book. It just lifts you,’ he finished. Personally, I didn’t think his little psychology game had much merit, at least not for me, so after the class I just forgot all about it. But, my situation worsened, and over the weeks I became more desperate for anything to lighten my mood. So, just to say I tried everything, I started playing his ‘Happiness Game’ and to my utter surprise it began to work for me instantly … and it just kept getting better. Even when I wasn’t adding to the list I felt the comfort of my blessings everywhere I went. When bad thoughts came to me to bring me down, remembering my list would lift me up again. I had great pleasure just reviewing the list over a cup of coffee, and it never got boring. There is this magical effect that keeps it alive and real for me, as if my emotions have a soft spot for it or something. After a while, I stopped adding to the list because the list became me. I may have forgotten many of the items, but I always feel as if I have everything to be grateful for, and feel no threat of depression anymore. And, I can always review the list …”

 

This is the other end of the continuum. On one side we have to believe that we’re going to get what we want and succeed at what we are trying to do. We have to be bota’ach — trust — in God and remember that nothing stands in the way of bitachon (Sha’arei Leshem, p. 114). Nothing.

 

“Nothing?”

 

“That’s what it says, nothing.”

 

“But things do?”“Not for people who truly believe, as opposed to only wanting to believe. Like Yosef, or Chanina ben Dosa, or Choni HaMagel who were believers through-and through.”

 

“But they were great people?”

 

“The secret to their greatness was in their understanding of how God runs the world, which, by the way, is no secret, just wisdom.”

 

On the other hand, all that “wanting” can easily lead to a sense of discontent and disappointment if we don’t get what we want just as we think we need it. However, if we have a built-in sense of gratitude that maintains an ongoing sense on contentment, then the fact that our wish list has not yet been fulfilled does not faze us. It just encourages us to enjoy what we presently have while energetically pursuing that which we believe will meaningfully enhance our lives.

 

People who want but who lack a sense of gratitude for their blessings in life, tend to be self-centered and not very pleasant to be around. They certainly do not exude chayn. People who are very grateful for what they have but have little or no desire to expand their bounty tend to be underachievers and lack the ability to inspire others.

 

However, people who have just the right amount of each generate chayn, inspire others, and tend to attract success in just about anything they set out to accomplish. They often earn the respect and admiration of others, especially the people who do not realize the secret of their success, and how it can apply to their own lives as well.

 

It is no coincidence that the miracle-workers mentioned in the previous chapter have names based upon the word “chayn” — Chanina, Choni — or that the Talmud says:

 

If one sees the name Chanina, Chanania or Yochanan [in a dream] miracles will happen for him. (Brochot 57a)

 

Again, the key here is the root of the word, “chayn”. As the Arizal explains in Sha’ar HaGilgulim, when parents name a child they are invested with Ruach HaKodesh — Divine Inspiration — so that they can intuit, at least subconsciously, precisely what their child is meant to be called. This is because a name is a description of the spiritual potential of a person, and the fact the names mentioned above are based on the concept of chayn means that these people were born miracle-workers.

 

Thus, true to their names, they were Can-Do people who were also satisfied with and grateful for their portions in life. They expected little more than what they already had, but when others approached them for help they revealed enthusiasm to get the desired results from God, and on demand. The miracles they performed are legendary.

 

And, as the Arizal points out, Yehoshua bin Nun — literally “the son of fifty” and a descendant of Yosef HaTzaddik — lived until 110, the same age to which Yosef lived, and the gematria of the word “neis” — miracle (Pri Aitz Chaim, Chanukah). This was in order to convey the message that their entire lives were filled with miracles, from the beginning until the end.

 

Indeed, one of the nicest things about Can-Do people is that they don’t blame anyone when they do not get their desired results. Just as “be postive” is an attitude and not just a blood type, “be lame” is also an attitude, one that results in “b-lame”, and nothing snuffs out a sense of chayn faster than someone pinning the blame on another.

 

In the end, doing so certainly isn’t self-serving either, for the one time that Yosef did exactly that it kept him in jail for two extra years:

 

“Please remember me when it goes well for you; do a kindness for me by mentioning me to Pharaoh and bring me out of this house. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and I did nothing for them to have put me into the pit.”Bereishit 40:14-16) (

 

After all, what difference did it make to the wine steward how Yosef ended up in jail? He himself was there because a fly was found in Pharaoh’s cup, a purely innocent mistake. Wasn’t it enough for the wine steward to know that Yosef simply wanted to leave jail, innocent or guilty?

 

Furthermore, as Yosef well knew, nothing happens by accident (Chullin 7b). In other words, there had to have been some Divine reason why Yosef was there in jail, and completely blaming others for his situation seems to have been below his dignity, and it certainly did not leave the wine steward with the correct impression about God’s involvement in the affairs of man.

 

Thus, Yosef’s additional words were superfluous, unwarranted negativity, and perhaps the reason why he spent two extra years in jail. As a punishment? As an effect of the cause he himself created.

 

Likewise, the one time that Ya’akov complained in his life he also paid for it with years of life, losing one year of life for every word of complaint (Midrash Aggadah 47) —

 

Then Yosef brought Ya’akov his father, and presented him to Pharaoh. Ya’akov blessed Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said, “How old are you?” Ya’akov said to Pharaoh, “I’ve wandered for 130 years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life, which has not yet reached the years of my fathers in the days of their sojournings.” (Bereishit 47:8-9)

 

— thirty-three years altogether.

 

Again, this was not just about punishment; it was about the consequence of negativity. The result is automatic, the built-in response of Creation to negative energy that both Yosef and Ya’akov created for themselves.

 

However, when it comes to the stories of the Avot, nothing is as simple as it seems; there is usually more to the story than what first meets the eye. Nevertheless, that which seems to be simple enough to learn from what we do see is a lesson for all, and for all times.