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Sunday, 31 January 2016

What path are you going down?

Daf Yomi Gittin 49

Yosef had been sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt.  Finding himself eventually in the home of a nobleman by the name of Potiphar, Yosef served his master faithfully.  But Yosef was handsome, so beautiful in fact, that the Egyptian women would peer over the fences to catch a glimpse of him.  Potiphar’s wife, too, was taken by Yosef’s beauty and was determined to have him as her own.  Day in, day out, she would attempt to seduce him, but alas, his fear of Heaven was too great.

One day, Yosef comes to the house to do his work and finds the place empty, save for his master’s wife.  Without warning, she corners him and insists that he be with her.   He finds himself unable to resist and almost succumbs to her advances when he suddenly experiences a vision of his father, Yaakov.  His father looks at him and asks, ‘Yosef, do you really want to do this?  Do you realize that one day the High Priest will wear his holy breastplate, replete with a precious stone for each tribe for Israel?  Look at the breastplate!  Do you notice that one stone is missing?  If you commit this act, you will be lost to our people forever!’

And with that, Yosef runs out of the house, leaving Potifar’s wife clutching his jacket.

Rabbi Shimon taught: Why did they say, ‘Compensation for damage caused is assessed from the damager’s finest property?’  Due to the thieves and extortionists.  So that a man will say: Why would I want to steal or extort?  Eventually, the court will enter my property and take my most beautiful field!  And they will rely on the Torah’s verse, ‘He shall pay the finest of his field and the finest of his vineyard.’  Therefore, they said: Compensation for damage caused is assessed from the damager’s finest property.

The reason most people sin is that they don’t consider the consequences.  Listen to these holy thieves!  They stop themselves before committing the crime by thinking about the ultimate ramifications of their actions!  Fearing that their best property will be seized by the court, they hold themselves back from stealing.  A regular criminal doesn’t think, ‘What if I get caught?’  They act merely for the temptation before their eyes.  The Gemara’s message is: if you want to stop yourself from doing the wrong thing, just imagine where going down that path could lead to.

That’s how Yosef stopped himself from sinning.  He didn’t think, ‘What if Potiphar catches me with his wife?’  He thought about the long run.  Ultimately, how would this affect his personal spiritual legacy?  The image of the missing stone made his satisfaction of temporary pleasure impossible to enjoy.

Next time you’re tempted to do the wrong thing, think about the potential consequences that the act might result in tomorrow.  And in a year’s time.  And in a decade’s time.  And for your children.  And grandchildren.  Now, is it really worth it? 

Maybe you’re about to speak some lashon hara to Jim.  It feels exciting now.  But what if Jim repeats it to Bob, who tells Samantha, and it eventually gets back to Jane what you’ve said about her.  Not so exciting anymore, is it?

The good news is it goes both ways.  Think about it now the other way around!  How many times each day are you given the opportunity to do a mitzvah?  Sometimes it might feel like a hassle.  But when you consider the potential positive consequences of your actions down the road, you will run to seize the opportunity!

Maybe you’ve been approached to help with a community project.  And you think to yourself, ‘I’m overloaded at work.  I hardly have any time to myself.  Someone else can do it.’  Stop!  Instead, imagine the possible incredible outcomes that may happen from your actions.  Think about how you can bring your special talents to the project.  Think about how inspired your children will be to model themselves after you and dedicate themselves to community.  The wonderful ramifications are endless!

Every day you reach many crossroads.  When the opportunity to do the right thing or the wrong thing presents itself, don’t just think of the here and now.  Imagine where this act might take you.  May you always choose the right path in life and draw down Heaven’s blessing into your life and the lives of your loved ones!

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