Selected Sermon/Article
2000-12-30 Mekaytz by RAv Ze'ev Smason
A company in Phoenix, Arizona during the 1970's was shut off from the Mexican market because they refused to give payoffs to Mexican government officials. But the company's ethical behavior in refusing the payoffs impressed some Mexican business people, and a group of influential Mexicans lobbied their government to allow the company to import two dealerships. Today they're doing a booming business -- because people know that they can be trusted.

A study of the most successful leaders in corporate America found three universal characteristics; a high level of energy, a definite plan for personal success and a high level of personal integrity. Indeed, integrity is one of the hottest words in the business world today. Companies want leaders and workers who can be trusted.

Spiritual integrity is a lesson that we can learn from this week's Torah portion. We're well familiar with the dreams of Pharaoh that were convincingly interpreted by Yosef. Upon the conclusion of his presentation, Yosef said (Gen 41:33) "And now let Pharoah look for a discerning and wise man" -- and Pharoah immediately appointed Yosef to the position of his second-in-command, practically handing him the reins of leadership to the most powerful country in the world. Why was Pharoah so quick to appoint Yosef? Why didn't Pharoah consider searching for someone who might better qualify for the position? We might think that for such an important job, Pharoah might have first searched for a great and capable leader. Afterwards, he could have offered Yosef the position by default, if no better candidate appeared.

I'd like to suggest the following answer: Yosef was proficient in 70 languages. Pharoah assumed that Yosef's exposure to secular knowledge through the study of various languages would not only educate him intellectually, but would also have destroyed him spiritually. Yosef, however, maintained his spiritual integrity. Consequently, Pharoah believed that he would never find someone else like Yosef -- an accomplished intellectual who still maintained his 'ruach Elokim', his lofty spiritual stature that was so clearly evident to Pharoah. Yosef was, therefore, the only person who truly qualified for this most important position.

Integrity is a quality so important in leadership at all levels -- and so lacking, on occasion, in those given the task of guiding our people. This past May,( 5/2000) Prime Minister Barak spoke at a memorial ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem and said: "Only one who does not understand the depth of the total soul-connection between the Jewish nation and Jerusalem, and only one who is totally estranged from the legacy of Jewish history, and from the Jewish vision and life-song, and to the faith and the hope of generations, could even begin to consider an Israeli concession on any part of Jerusalem. Only one who does not understand that Jerusalem is intertwined in the souls of our ancestors for 3,000 years, the focus of our national yearning, the secret of its strength and existence, could demand that we turn our backs on it. It will never come about! For it is a matter of our national existence, and we only have one Jerusalem."

Is Jerusalem truly nonnegotiable to some Israeli politicians? When asked to confirm media reports that he had agreed to hand over all Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to full Palestinian control, including most of the Old City and Judaism's holiest site on earth, the Temple Mount, Barak lost his temper and shouted out that he is "Trying to bring an end to the conflict!" However, he did not deny reports of his offer to divide Jerusalem, and the frantic negotiations and offer of concessions as President Clinton prepares to leave office and new Israeli elections are on the horizon has led many observers to note that Barak is prepared to sell out Israel's vital security interests to satisfy his own personal political ambitions.

Yosef HaTzadik is recorded in our history as a man who stuck to his principles and remained faithful to the God of his fathers while living in Egypt for many years. Personal integrity is so vital to those in positions of leadership; let us pray that the Almighty favor each of us with the insight to act with integrity in our dealings with others, and that He favor us with leaders both here and in Israel who act with integrity, remain faithful to the God of their fathers, and act in the true best interests of Achaynu Beis Yisrael -- our brethren in Israel