What Will The Future Bring?
(Dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Yossi H. z”l)
I was writing a sermon on the Mishnaic dictum: “Who is wise? He who can see ahead.” I wanted to focus on the idea of being a Boteiach – someone who trusts in God’s commitment to His creations. A wonderful story from my years in yeshiva in Miami popped into my head: My friend Yossi H. had graduated college and his parents, both Holocaust survivors who had lost their first spouses and their children in Auschwitz, came to celebrate their only son’s great future as an accountant.
Yossi told his parents that he had decided not to pursue a career as an accountant and to become a rebbi in Yeshiva. His parents were devastated. “How will you live? How will you feed your family? You don’t know what it is like to have nothing, but we do. You will never have money.”
We could all hear his mother’s anguished cries as he insisted that he had Bitachon – trust in God – and that God would take care of him. “Did Bitachon save my children from Mengele? Did their Bitachon save my first husband from the gas chambers?”
Yossi wouldn’t budge. He was openly weeping as he tried to convince his parents that he was making the proper choice.
Finally, they gave in, and they offered to take Yossi shopping for food, snacks and cigarettes at the local supermarket. They invited me to come along, I believed to make amends for all the times that their son beat me up when we were both in Day School in Toronto.
Yossi filled a cart with food and his mother insisted that he fill a second cart, which he, a champion nosher, and devoted son, readily did.
Father, Mother, Yossi, and yours truly, unloaded the two carts onto the cashier’s table. The total was over $110! (A lot of money in those days.) His parents heard the total and started to leave without paying. “Ma, where are you going? How am I supposed to pay?” Yossi was desperate. Yossi had opened some of the boxes of cookies and bags of chips in order to make sure they were kosher and fresh.
“Oh,” she said, “no problem. Just tell her that you have Bitachon!” and she left.
My eyes were closed as I remembered the story ten years later, and the phone rang. Yossi, who had become a yeshiva rebbi, had just died. He had a heart attack from all the stress of trying to survive.
I flew from St. Louis to Miami to pay a shiva call to his widow, and told her the story, which, it turned out, she knew. (According to her inaccurate version, I was the one who had opened the boxes of cookies.) “You know,” she said, “I have no doubt that if he knew at that moment that this would happen, he would have made the same decision.” He probably would have.
How many of us can say with certainty that we would have made the same decisions had we known the future?
Joseph and his brothers had just experienced the power of God’s Hand guiding them even when they had been convinced that they were making all the decisions. The brothers sold Joseph into slavery to make sure that his dreams of royalty would never actualize, only to see that they had prepared the way for him to become viceroy of Egypt and all his dreams to become true. They had acted on principle only to find that all their efforts were to ensure the future of Israel in Egypt, an idea that they never fully accepted.
“Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his necks.” (Genesis 45:14) The Midrash comments that Joseph and Benjamin wept over the destruction of the sanctuaries that would be built in their respective territories in Israel.
Joseph and Benjamin appreciated God’s Guiding Hand, and understood that no matter how scary the future may be, God would do as He did in this story, and guide us through history. There would be suffering, but it would always lead to redemption.
They cried anguished tears over the pain of the future with tears of joy and confidence in a future shaped and guided by the Almighty. They saw the possibilities – ha-nolad – of the future, even its most horrible moments, and trusted that God would guide them in their decisions, just as He guided the brothers.
No matter how far we may see into the future, we must always be aware that it reaches beyond us, guided by God, Who wants us to take responsibility and make decisions, trusting in His Guidance.
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