We are taught that the conditions of extreme poverty on the one hand, and extreme wealth on the other are both very difficult trials. A typical person’s reaction can expectedly be – Hashem, test me with wealth. I should only have such difficulties!
everyone … likes to associate with those who are prosperous… There is a Medrash in this week’s Parsha (Bereishis Rabbah 97:1) that teaches us it is not so simple. Yoseph received special Brachos for abundance from Yaakov Avinu. The brothers commented that Yaakov’s singling out Yoseph for additional Brachos is undoubtedly because everyone, Yaakov included, likes to associate with those who are prosperous, and especially royalty, as Yoseph had become.
To this, Yaakov responded with a Pasuk in Tehillim (34:10)כי אין מחסור ליראיו יראו את ה’ קדושיו The holy ones fear Hashem, for there is no lacking to his pious ones. The Ksav Sofer explains Yaakov’s response as follows: Those who lack nothing and nevertheless fear Hashem, are considered truly pious. The Ksav Sofer elaborates that in a sense, it is not as praiseworthy for a poor person to be focused on serving Hashem and limiting the pleasures of the world, because he does not have so much to draw him away from Hashem. However, one who is endowed with much wealth and position and nevertheless follows the path of Hashem and lives a life of relative simplicity and even abstinence along with mitzvah observance, is worthy of much greater praise.
… Yoseph was already tested … and he remained as great a Tzaddik as ever. The Ksav Sofer elaborates further on the Midrash and explains that Yaakov’s reason for giving the extra Bracha to Yoseph was that Yoseph was already tested with greatness and riches, as the Egyptian viceroy, and he remained as great a Tzaddik as ever. The brothers on the other hand, never went through such a trial, so therefore Yaakov was unsure that they could withstand the lure of the bounty that Yaakov’s Brachos would bring forth for them. Therefore – he gave that extra blessing to Yoseph and not to the brothers.
If Yaakov Avinu was not confident that his great and holy sons could withstand the temptation of wealth, what does that say about us and our children? How can we raise our children in a way that wealth and lots of things &`stuff’ won’t draw them away from serving Hashem properly? Compared to previous generations, we are blessed with so much that we are all subject to this Nisayon. The poorest amongst us has access to conveniences and comforts that were unheard of a few generations ago.
Parents would do well to ask themselves several questions. Am I a good role model in downplaying the centrality of luxury items, material goods and creature comforts and focused more on Torah and Mitzvos? Do I hold back from indulging my child’s every wish and every “but everyone else has it!” because even though I can afford it and it’s easier to just say yes, it’s not good Chinuch? Do I speak about what a kindness Hashem has done for our family that we have the ability to acquire what we need and therefore we are eager to share our bounty with others?
Let Hashem’s blessings draw us closer to Him and our family closer together. If you can answer these questions positively you will more likely be successful in raising children who have self-control, less jealousy, can handle disappointment and have developed grit and a positive attitude about balancing the draw of the material world with the obligation to serve Hashem with sincerity, purity and passion.
Let Hashem’s blessings draw us closer to Him and our family closer together.
Best wishes for a wonderful, gebentched Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann