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Are you a Successful Man?

Friday, 2 October, 2015 - 12:52 pm

Barry announces to his wife Sylvia: “I am going to go away for the weekend to take a course to enhance our marriage.”  His wife asks, “A course on what?” Barry says, “Unconditional Love.” Sylvia is delighted: “Please please go. I can't wait for you to return!”  Barry goes and returns a week later. Sylvia asks, “Nu? So what did you learn?”  Barry says: “If you give me Unconditional Love, I'll give you Unconditional Love!”

In the prayers during the holidays, we ask that G-d grant us success now. In all of the Hebrew Bible, the expression “successful man,” appears only once: Joseph is referred to as “Ish matzliach,” a successful man.

 The commentators trace the word matzliach to a root that means “to rise or to move upward.” Throughout much of his life, Joseph was surrounded by hostility. His own brothers, some of Pharaoh's servants, Mrs. Potiphar, and Potiphar were all scheming to harm him, even to do away with him. But he did not take revenge. Instead, he kept his gaze fixed on a higher goal, following his dream and moving upward. That is the true meaning of success: the capacity to rise up.

It is not about advancing, but ascending. Are we moving in the right direction? What are the ideals we live by, the goals we set, the heights we want to reach?

Back in 1946, there was a young Chabad Rabbi named Zalman in New Haven, Connecticut who started a little Chabad yeshiva. Yeshiva meant picking up the kids from public school and taking them to release time, an hour that the schools had set aside for them to go to religious instruction.

At these classes, the Rabbi Zalman would teach them some Torah and try to persuade them to come to afternoon Hebrew school. It was all very basic, aimed at kids who knew very little about Judaism.

Well, some cantankerous opponents heard that this little program was called a yeshiva, and they were upset by that. For them, a yeshiva was where you sit and learn Talmud, not where little children learn their aleph-bet. “This you call a yeshiva?” they asked, and caused a huge uproar. Finally, one day, an older Rabbi named Reb Leifer who was a wise man and wonderful speaker came to town and prayed in the big shul. So the opponents of the yeshiva brought him their big complaint.

When it was Reb Leifer's time to speak in shul, he said, “Today, gentlemen, I walked on George Street. And I saw a bus. And on the front of the bus it said CHICAGO. I said, thief, scoundrel, liar. You're in New Haven, why do you say Chicago?’ ” He paused, then added, “But the bus is going to Chicago! And there is going to be a yeshiva!”

 The practice that Rabbi Zalman, Reb Leifer, and Joseph, engaged in, of aiming for the higher place we want to go, is the first step in being a successful person. Success is not attained in a day. We start small and build patiently on each individual victory. If we avoid getting bogged down in pettiness or animosity, if we remain steady, and if we take as our goal the desire to reach a G-dly place, then with time, and committed effort, we will get there.




Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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