Only One God and Two WorldsNovember 25, 2021 - 12:00 am
“No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”— Genesis 39:9
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayeshev, which means “and he lived,” from Genesis 37:1—40:23.
It’s been said that “He who fears One, fears none. But he who fears many, fears any.” Someone who is afraid of men can be intimidated by anyone. But when we fear only God, no man can ever make us afraid.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, a famous and respected rabbi, was fighting for religious freedom in communist Russia. One morning as he prayed in synagogue, three men rushed in and arrested the rabbi for his actions — for the crime of praying to God.
But the rabbi was defiant. He declared that he wouldn’t give up his religious activities. One of the agents pointed a gun at the rabbi’s head and said, “This little toy has made many a man change his mind!” Without thinking twice, the rabbi replied, “That little toy can only intimidate men with many gods and one world. But I have only one God and two worlds, so I am not impressed by your little toy.”
Only One God and Two Worlds
While we are inspired by successful stories of courage and faith like this one, we must realize that we also face moments in our lives when we must choose between what we are being pressured to do by others or by our environment, and the will of God.
In this week’s Torah portion, we see Joseph confronted with a potentially deadly dilemma. The wife of his master Potiphar tried to seduce Joseph day after day. Joseph refused. Joseph was in a classic no-win situation. If he gave in to her wishes, he would be betraying his master and sinning against God, as Joseph himself said.
If he continued to refuse, Joseph knew that this powerful woman would eventually make him suffer for his refusal to sin. As a foreign slave in Egypt, he knew that she could easily have him killed. And yet, Joseph not only refused, but he openly professed his faith in God while doing so.
Every day we are faced with challenges between our faith and popular culture. Like Rabbi Schneersohn and like Joseph before him, we must always remember that there is one God and two worlds, this earthly world, and the heavenly world to come.
Your turn: Pray today for all those who stand courageous in their faith in the face of persecution. Pray that we, too, will stand courageously.