Rabbi Mayer Twersky
Rabbi Mayer Twersky

Projecting One's Jewishness

"Vayar adonav ki hashem ito v'chol asher hu oseh Hashem matsliach b'yado - and his [Yoseif's] master saw that Hashem was with him [Yoseif] and that Hashem brought him success in all his endeavors"

How did Yoseif's pagan master know that Hashem was with Yoseif? How did the master know to attribute Yoseif's success to Hashem? While not explicitly posing these questions, Rashi does provide the answer. "Shem shomayim shagur b'piv - the name of Hashem was constantly on Yoseif's lips."

When Yoseif's master would greet him and inquire as to his welfare, Yoseif would inevitably answer "Baruch Hashem". When the master would entrust him to carry out some task, Yoseif would without fail respond, "Im yirtze Hashem" or "B'ezras Hashem". If Yoseif's master would comment on a job satisfactorily completed, Yoseif would credit Hashem with the success. Yoseif Hatzaddik so openly and unequivocally identified himself as a maamin b'Hashem and eved Hashem, that even his pagan master "saw that Hashem was with him…"

Yoseif haTzaddik, through the combination of his integrity and his repeated, unequivocal identification as a maamin b'Hashem generated a kiddush Hashem. Moreover, Yoseif understood that wherever positive potential exists for a kiddush Hashem, negative potential exists for a chilul Hashem. One who openly identifies as a maamin b'Hashem reflects upon Hashem through his behavior. When his behavior is worthy and noble, he reflects credit. When his behavior is unworthy and ignoble, Rachmana litzlan he reflects discredit. And thus Yoseif rejects the temptress, the wife of Potiphar, by saying "v'eich e'eseh ha'ra'ah hagedolah hazos v'chatasi l'Elokim - and how shall I commit this terrible evil and sin to Hashem."

The responsibility of creating a kiddush Hashem and avoiding Rachmana Litzlan a chilul Hashem is not limited to the Yoseif hatzaddiks of the world. Anyone identified with Jewish causes - for that matter, anyone identified as a Jew - bears this responsibility. Whatever other prohibitions are violated by unethical business practices, one who is engaged in such behavior also rachmana litzlan creates a chilul Hashem. Oy l'einayim shekach ro'os; oy l'oznayim shekach shom'os - woe to the eyes who witness this; woe to the ears which hear of this

The practice of shem shomayim shagur b'piv, openly, unambiguously identifying as a maamin b'Hashem, a shomer Torah u'mitzvos not only creates potential for kiddush Hashem. It also serves as a buffer for trials that one inevitably undergoes when working and functioning in a gentile society which does not share our moral code or religious obligations and sensitivities. In the workplace one can try to conceal or camouflage his religious commitment as much as possible. As mush as possible, one can try to just be one of the boys. Make sure no one ever sees him davening mincha or learning during lunch. Pretend one simply is not hungry at a business lunch in the CEO's boardroom, etc.

This approach is diametrically opposed to that of Yoseif hatzaddik. It creates pressure and false expectations. If one is simply one of the boys, then he can not very well absent himself from the crude, lewd banter during a coffee break or at the water cooler. How can one not attend the seasonal end of year parties? Everyone at work is expecting him/her because, after all, he is an employee like all others.

The Yoseif hatzaddik approach undercuts and even pre-empts such pressures. One openly identifies as an observant Jew. Not in a provocative or "in your face" manner, but nevertheless unambiguously. It is clear that this observant Jew, while collegial, helpful, and loyal, is not one of the boys. He will not ever be present for the crude conversations which take place. He is being entirely consistent with his image in excusing himself from the seasonal parties. It is, after all, to be expected because, while collegial and loyal, he clearly follows a different code of conduct and set of values.

Im yirtza Hashem and b'azras Hashem may we be successful in always creating a kiddush Hashem.

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