Friday, December 21, 2012

It´s Not WHAT You Do, But HOW You Do It

As the exciting story of Yosef in Mitzraim continues to unfold, we're brought to a very emotional scene. Yaakov comes down to visit Yosef after not seeing his precious son for 22 years. The background music begins to play softly, building up to a dramatic climax, where father and son walk toward each other, hearts pounding with excitement. 

Suddenly, the possuk tells us something, which gives us brand new insight to the meaning of the script. It says, VAYEIRAH EILAV... HE APPEARED BEFORE HIM. Whoa! We are blown away with the wording. 

Yosef wasn't going to see his father, but to be seen by him. 

Although Yosef was aching to reunite with his loving father, he was able to put his powerful emotions on hold, in order to be able to do this mitzvah of giving pleasure to his father, without ulterior motives. This is the concept of L'sheim shamayim, acting in the name of G-d, in its truest form.

Doing things L'sheim shamayim, for the sake of God, is a consistent theme throughout the life of Yosef.
After he met his brothers, he made the oddest demand a leader has ever commanded of his people, not including the 16 oz soda ban; he instructed everyone in Egypt to pack up their lives and move to different cities. Simple as that. 

Imagine if President Obama got up and announced that on January 14, 2013, everyone in LA will have to switch places with all the people in NY. How many of us will actually be having our mail forwarded? Would you listen to this senseless command?
But wait. Yosef wasn't finished with his strange new laws. Not yet. Not until each member of the male gender received a bris milah. Forget it, Mr. President- don't even go there.

But you know what? Everyone went along with this. Without a hafgana, no protest, no demonstration, no orange ribbons or bracelets... they got up and obeyed his commands.

So... what was his trick? Why did everyone listen to him?

Because they all knew, without a doubt, that everything he was doing was l'sheim shamayim. 
Because it always was. It was clear to everyone that nothing he did was for his own benefit or need.

When we do things l'sheim shamayim, and with sincerity, people realize the holiness and G-dliness in what we're doing. They sense the altruism of our actions. When we behave without selfishness, and without the need for attention or self gratification, there's a certain siyata dishmaya we receive which makes people admire and respect us for what we've done, and hopefully, a desire to follow our lead. That's why doing things for the right reasons is a guarantee for lifetime success.

I live in a community that is not yet fully in touch with its Jewish identity. Many times I feel uncomfortable, and even out of place, by often looking and behaving differently than many of my neighbors and associates, since G-d's Torah commands me to do so. Incredibly, though, after attending meetings or parties in non kosher homes and being consistent with the laws of kashrut, and being consistent with not dancing at mixed weddings, and being consistent by being different on many different levels, in various occasions, many people have  expressed admiration and respect at my family's sincerity and strict, uncompromisable adherence to what we believe is correct. 
 Actions that are done l'sheim shomayim, for the sake of heaven, can only be viewed positively, and will hopefully make a proper kiddush Hashem.

Wherever Yosef went people commented KI HASHEM IMO...HASHEM IS WITH HIM. It became a pattern, and everyone realized. Why was Hashem always with him? Because he was with Hashem. He was always focused on doing what He, with a capital H wanted. He didn't go out to see Yaakov for his own best interest, he withheld his own emotions in order to fill his whole being with what Hashem wanted.

It's not the actions that count as much as the motivation behind them.
 A musician who plays at weddings and other affairs for parnassah, livelihood, can have two different motivations, followed by two different results. 
 Either he can get up and go to his next wedding to play music, since this is his job, or, he can attend the next wedding with the intentions of being mikayem the mitzvah of being misameach chosson v'kallah, bringing joy to a bride and groom. The job is the same. The hours are the same. The paycheck is the same. But- the motivation is different, and therefore, the reward is different, and, most importantly, the person becomes different.

The difficulty in acting altruistically is the lack public recognition. But that same public actually works in a funny way. They have x-ray vision. They can see right through ulterior motives. We listen to and learn from people who are sincere, but fakers, or insincerity don´t stand a chance.
The irony of it all, is that by chasing after honor, the honor escapes...but by not pursuing honor, it actually follows and accompanies you. It practically stalks you.

Here´s to doing the the right things for the right reasons!

¨To be God's servant, you have to be your own master.¨

Have a great shabbos!