Kenneth Cohen

Relying Too Much On Man

There is a great deal of criticism, connected with Yosef and the butler. According to many opinions, he was forced to stay in jail for two extra years, for putting his faith in man, rather than in Hashem.

If we think objectively, it doesn’t seem so bad that Yosef asks the butler to put in a good word for him, when he gets his old job back. It would seem like the obvious thing to do. He was wrongly accused of a crime that he did not commit.

Nevertheless, we say that it is greatly recommended that we put our faith in G-d, rather than trust in man. It would appear that there are two ways that Yosef could have intended, when he spoke to the butler.

He could have become desperate and felt that the butler was his only hope. He could have pleaded with him in desperation, which would have been wrong.

But he could also have seen the butler as his השתדלות, his going through the motions, so as to open up an avenue for Hashem to send him his salvation.

This is an important fine line as to how we view the world. We are not to sit back and rely on miracles. We must do our part, and G-d will do His. Man needs to be seen as the vehicle carrying out G-d’s will in this world.

Our brave soldiers are fighting fearlessly in protecting our people and our land. Victory is at hand, because there is a strong realization that Hashem is fighting our battles with us. Without Him, we cannot succeed.

Perhaps this was the argument against Yosef. Asking for help from the butler was fine, as long as he realized that he may be used as part of the Divine plan. He was not the one saving Yosef. It was Hashem saving him by way of the butler. This is a major difference in the demands made of us, to serve G-d faithfully.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at