How to Ensure that Your Work does not Alienate
The Continuing Story of Today's Events
And Joseph could control himself no longer
(Torah portion this week - 45:1)
Joseph said to his brothers: Dont
worry or feel guilty because you sold me. Look, G-d sent me
ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the
G-d sent me ahead of you to insure that you survive
in the land and to sustain you through great deliverance.
It is not you who sent me here, but G-d. He has made me Pharaohs
vizier, director of his entire government and ruler of all
Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt and Canaan
in payment for the food the people were buying. Joseph brought
all the money to Pharaohs treasury (47:14)
I am the Omnipotent G-d of your father.
Do not be afraid to go to Egypt, for it is there that I will
make you into a great nation. I will descend into Egypt with
you, and I will also bring you back and ascend with you (46:3-4)
Israel settled in Egypt, in the Goshen district.
They acquired property there and were fertile, with their
population increasing very rapidly (47:27)
I will take the stick of Joseph
it together with the stick of Judah to form one stick, so
that they are one in my hand
I will make them one nation
in the land
One king will be the king over them all,
and they no longer will be two nations
And David My
servant will be their prince forever (Haftorah this week
- Ezekiel 37:19-22,25)
Finally some good news. In this weeks Torah
portion Joseph and his brothers reconcile.
Macrocosm/microcosm: Just as Jacob reconciles
with his brother Esau after building his family in Charan, Joseph
reconciles with his brothers after building his family in Egypt
and establishing himself there. He spearheads the huge business
of Egypt, selling grain to the famished nations in return for
their money. The great wealth Joseph generates turns Egypt in
a superpower, the most powerful empire of its time.
But with one major distinction: Jacob and Esaus
reconciliation was incomplete and they needed to separate
The Big Confrontation). Joseph and his brothers, on the
other hand, make peace and stay together for the rest of their
lives. Only later, would their rift manifest itself again,
in the split between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Jacob, Joseph and his brothers are now together.
They are planting the seeds that would empower the Jews as they
begin their exile in Egypt and redemption.
In spiritual terms: Jacob concludes the work of
Abraham and Isaac in constructing the building blocks
of existence the structure of Atzilus, the world of unity.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the sefirot of chesed (love), gevurah
(discipline) and tiferet (beauty and compassion) the
three primary pillars that define the vision of life; the vision
of transforming existence into a home for G-dliness,
of integrating matter and spirit as it was in the Garden before
the Tree of Knowledge. The twelve tribes with Joseph
at their head actually carry this vision into the material
world of Mitzrayim (which refers to all the constraints and
boundaries of material existence), the spiritual worlds of biya,
acronym for briyah, yetzirah, asiyah.
However, the real work of refining Egypt begins
in the next generation, with the Egyptian bondage. The children
of Jacob and the tribes would spend 210 years under very harsh
conditions to refine and elevate the 202 Divine sparks embedded
in the first great empire. And this work would in turn imbue
in the people and ultimately in the entire human race the personality
of true freedom and transcendence, the ability to face any material
challenge or adversary. It instilled in future generations the
power to face all the challenges posed by the empires to come,
all of which are rooted in the Egyptian archetype.
The strength and ability to achieve all this work
begins with Joseph and his brothers permeated with the
strength of their forefathers -- paving the way during the first
years following their arrival in Egypt. As G-d tells Jacob:
I am the Omnipotent G-d of your father. Do not be afraid
to go to Egypt, for it is there that I will make you into a
great nation. I will descend into Egypt with you, and I will
also bring you back and ascend with you.
There are therefore many lessons in these weekly
Torah sections that give us both guidance and strength in dealing
with different aspects of our particular crisis today, as the
children of Abraham Ishmael, Esau and Jacob are
pitted against each other.
Let us touch upon one of the lessons we can glean
from Joseph as he began the process of uniting his family -
both scions of Judah and Joseph - which empowers us with the
ability to unite Esau and Jacob, matter and spirit.
One of the most compelling forces haunting us
today is: Uncertainty. Todays prevailing fear and uncertainty
is having a particularly devastating effect on our economy.
The security of this countrys basic business structure,
even with its inevitable ups and downs, is now under question.
We would like to believe that we are undergoing just another
economic downturn albeit a very different type, but still
one that has precedent. But this premise is built on our old
paradigm. And that is a big but: perhaps we are entering a new
paradigm in which old rules dont apply. Perhaps this will
not just be another repeat of old market patterns. Is anyone
willing to bet that this will just pass with no real change?
These and many other plaguing uncertainties cloud
the business climate. And like bad weather, everyone is taking
cover. People everywhere are withdrawing. As we enter this years
holiday season, there is conspicuous lack of enthusiasm, actually
lack of anything optimistic coming from any given sector of
Allow me to submit the following theory: A study
of Joseph in Egypt will give us a powerful forecast for the
future of business in America and the world. I will allow myself
to make a bold prediction: Understanding Joseph will help us
create certainty in these uncertain times.
In his scathing critique of capitalism, Marx brilliantly
describes how the Capitalist system devalues the worker, reducing
him to no more than a commodity, thus leading to mans
inevitable alienation and estrangement from his essential self.
Labor is external to the worker, i.e. does not belong
to his essential being; that he, therefore, does not confirm
himself in his work, but denies himself, feels miserable and
not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy,
but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind. Hence, the worker
feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working,
he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working,
and not at home when he is working. His labor is, therefore,
not voluntary but forced, it is forced labor. It is, therefore,
not the satisfaction of a need but a mere means to satisfy needs
outside itself (Paris Manuscripts, 1844).
Marx asked all the right questions; he just didnt
have the answers, as we retrospectively know today after the
failure of the Socialist and Communist experiments. He highlighted
the flaws of capitalism without ever really providing a viable
Reading this weeks Torah portion I was
thinking how Joseph, the first "Capitalist," would
respond to Marx. Joseph was faced with this very dilemma.
His fathers chose to be shepherds, thus avoiding confrontation
with a corrupt marketplace, allowing them to discover their
true essence while meditating among nature as the docile sheep
grazed in the fields. Joseph, however, was thrust into Egypt,
first becoming an accountant (yes, there you have the first
Jewish accountant) in the house of Potiphar, and then becoming
the viceroy of Egypt, running the entire grain business of
When Josephs brothers and then Jacob reunited
with Joseph the first thing they recognized was that despite
the formidable challenges he faced for 22 years, he had not
in any way compromised his profound spiritual connection. The
first words Joseph utters to his brothers, as he is no longer
able to control his emotions: I am Joseph! Is my father
still alive? I am Joseph your brother! Joseph sends a
sign to his father that he is intact by telling him the topic
in Torah (the laws of the eglah arufah) they were discussing
22 years ago when they were separated!
How did Joseph maintain his spiritual integrity
his connection with his essence even while hard
at work, in a corrupt Egypt at that?
Over all that transpired during these years Joseph
never lost his connection to G-d. As harsh as it was to accept
that his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph never became
bitter and was never broken. He always knew that his arrival
in Egypt and the work he did there was G-ds plan. As he
tells his brothers: G-d sent me ahead of you to insure that
you survive in the land and to sustain you through great deliverance.
It is not you who sent me here, but G-d. He has made me Pharaohs
vizier, director of his entire government and ruler of all Egypt.
As immersed as Joseph was in the massive Egyptian
grain industry, he did not experience alienation or estrangement,
because his work was not something external outside of himself;
he saw it for its true nature: Divine work, as part of his
Divine essence and mission in this world: to save lives, to
insure the survival of his family and ultimately the entire
Jewish nation. Arriving first in Egypt allowed Joseph to prepare
the ground so his family could survive the great famine; it
allowed the Jewish nation to be born fulfilling G-d
promise and vision to Abraham.
Throughout all his work as head of state and ruler
of Egypt, Joseph never let go of the vision; he always held
on to the promise; he was eternally connected to the Divine
process, always recognizing the deeper spiritual meaning of
his work as director of the grain industry the biggest
business of its time.
Joseph had to first be leader before Judah could
become leader, because Joseph had the unique power to integrate
spirit and matter in an imperfect world where materialism
dominates. Joseph begins preparing the ground for a more perfect
world when Judahs faith and bittul could dominate (see
Selling of Joseph).
The message and lesson to us today is clear:
America today is suffering from some of the flaws
of Capitalism that Marx describes. September 11 just amplified
these weaknesses. Joseph can teach us how to get back on course.
The unprecedented prosperity of this nation has
spoiled us. We have built the greatest empire in history, with
the highest standard of living, and the most powerful technology.
Witness the American firepower in Afghanistan, a new type of
war if it can even be called war, fulfilling its goals with
virtually no casualties.
Everything seemed to be going so well. The unheard
of economic boom, the information revolution, the unbelievable
advances in medicine and science, promised to deliver a new
world order. Consumption mass consumption, enabled by
mass industry became the dominating driving force in
our consumer driven economy.
But this great corporation lost its soul somewhere
along the way. American business forgot its true mission statement.
The mission statement of this country was defined
by the Founding Fathers 225 years ago when they established
this great nation. They engraved it on the currency of this
nation: In God We Trust.
By studying different systems and their failures,
by personally experiencing the consequences of being denied
basic human freedoms, by building this countrys pillars
not on their own subjective whims but on eternal values rooted
in the Bible the Founding Fathers understood that the
grand American experiment is only possible with a firm foundation
that absolutely guarantees individual rights.
And they fought the Revolutionary War to defend
this mission stated in the Declaration of Independence: We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and
the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from
the consent of the governed.
A nation built on the principle that All
men are created equal as One nation under God
created the best business climate to allow this nation to flourish.
With its promise of freedom and equal opportunity, the United
States has welcomed people from all over the world and encouraged
them to contribute to the growth of this country.
And flourish it did. The investment of the Founding
Fathers paid off. The synergy of people from all backgrounds
coming together as equals under God created the highest developed
country of all time.
For 225 years our mission statement the
principles of the revolution has never been challenged.
Indeed, our sustained prosperity has given rise to a profound
complacency. Now, 225 years later, on September 11, this nation
has been issued the greatest challenge it has ever faced. The
attacks put into stark relief the fact that we have taken for
granted many of the freedoms and blessings that were contained
in the vision of our founding fathers. Our newfound vulnerability
and deep feelings of uncertainty expose more than ever the emptiness
of financial security. It makes us realize how alienated we
become when we our jobs and careers become an end in themselves,
divorced from their deeper mission statement: an expression
of our souls.
We are locked in a struggle to renew our contract
with the soul of our nation. In many ways we now are faced with
the formidable task of finishing what our founding fathers began.
One cannot be sure whether the Founding Fathers
saw in Joseph the model businessperson and CEO paragon, but
their extensive knowledge of the Bible definitely could not
ignore Josephs critical contribution to balancing business
and spirituality, Capitalism and compassion, matter and spirit.
Joseph offers us a new business model, a new paradigm
one that integrates our work with our essence. By recognizing
that our careers and businesses are means and vehicles to fulfill
G-ds plan in our lives, we can reclaim the core beliefs
that are the secret of the nations endurance.
But with all that Joseph accomplished, he was
also fully aware of the sad reality to come. When he meets his
younger brother Benjamin, he weeps over the destruction of the
Holy Temple. Additionally, his descendants would split away
from the Kingdom of Judah. Both these fracturing events would
have profound implications in the split between matter and spirit
and between work and the human essence.
Today we are faced with the challenge to finally
and permanently mend the fracture. By reconnecting our material
lives, our businesses with their true spiritual mission statement.
Let us learn from Joseph how this can be achieved.
The United States now stands at perhaps the most
defining moment of its history. We need to fight a war that
goes far beyond the military one. This is not a war against.
It is a war for: For the fundamental beliefs that this nation
was built upon. Our greatest enemy is not Bin Laden, or any
terrorist; it is complacency.
We must balance our economy of consumption with
higher values. Let us learn from Joseph how to reclaim our mission
statement: What are we? Who are we? What is this company called
New paradigms are always difficult. Thats
why they are new.
© Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2001. May be reproduced
in print media with permission of the author. May be forwarded
as e-mail as written, without editing.
You can now order the tape of Rabbi Jacobsons
elaborate class on this topic.
Benefited from this life skills article? Please
help us continue sharing these teachings with others. Make a
donation to The Meaningful Life Centers special September
11 fund, by calling or e-mailing us today. 718-774-6448, email@example.com
Or send your donation to:
The Meaningful Life Center
788 Eastern Parkway Suite 303 Brooklyn, NY 11213
Contributions are 100% tax deductible
This life skills article is one of many services
that we are providing in response to September 11th.
We want you to know that all of us here at The Meaningful Life
Center are working overtime to provide clarity and direction
in these trying times. As people everywhere are undergoing a
new soul search, we are redoubling our dedication to our mission
to help us all appreciate the deeper meaning of our lives and
build security with all the uncertainty brewing around us.
If you or anyone you know has any specific needs or questions,
please call on us. We are committed to doing everything we can
to serve you.
Our ability to bring you more such vital services
is entirely dependent on your financial support. We have established
a special September 11 fund specifically dedicated to address
the unique needs of our times. We urge you to make a donation
to this fund and help us reach as many people as possible with
insight and direction. Some of the programs we have provided
so far include:
- Special classes and workshops, both in New York and
around the country
- A special series of weekly articles addressing the
- Syndicated articles in the national and local press.
- TV and radio commentaries.
- Special life skill tools to deal with fear and uncertainty,
to build security in your life.
- Personal comforting sessions.
- Healing workshops
- Special September 11 section on our website,
We need to join together as never before to nourish the
grass roots awakening that has consumed this nation and
its gravitation to faith and G-d, and transform it into
a permanent spiritual transformation. Our calling today
is to demonstrate leadership and light up the way in which
to forge ahead amidst this tragedy, and these new, challenging
Our sages teach us that by intensifying our charitable
acts we open up new channels of blessings. In this spirit,
may your commitment be a source of blessings in all aspects
of your life.
We look forward to working together with you in this divine
cause. Through our joint effort we can grow through this
process and build a better world a world where
there is no evil and destruction because it is filled
with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the
Phillip, Jason, Neria, Shoshana, Chani, Sarah, Yael, Eli
and of all us at The Meaningful Life Center
Helping You Redefine What Truly Matters
Our hearts, condolences and prayers go out to all the
families directly affected by this calamity, and to all
New Yorkers, Americans and the entire human race against
whom this atrocity was perpetrated.
WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING YOU CAN
DO IN RESPONSE TO SEPTEMBER 11?
Join us in creating a passionate spiritual revolution
for the good. As passions of violence have been released
against humanity, our most powerful response is to counter
with a passionate revolution of purpose.
This is our mission at the Meaningful Life Center.
 Jacob planted cedar trees in Egypt which would be
later used for the Temple (Midrash Tanchuma Terumah 9. Rashi