Our Little Entrepreneur
When our son, Josh, was just eight years old, he had an entrepreneurial idea—and it led to amazing things! I’ll share his business venture with you momentarily, but first I would like to discuss Parshat Beshalach, my son’s bar mitzvah parshah.
Beshalach is jam-packed with several famous stories, including the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea. “Hayam ra’ah vayanos. The sea saw and split.” The commentaries ask what the sea saw. The midrash explains “Ra’ah arono shel Yosef yoreid layam,” it saw the coffin of Yosef approaching the sea, which was the catalyst for the miracle. Yosef had expressed his desire to be buried in the land of Israel, and therefore the Jewish people brought his coffin for reburial in Eretz Yisrael.
How could witnessing Yosef’s bones initiate such a deviant course of nature in the sea? Yosef made a decision years prior that changed the trajectory of the Jewish people forever, and specifically in the moment they stood by the raging sea.
Yosef was a handsome 17-year-old boy, a slave to Potiphar, who was a man of high stature in Egypt. He brought financial abundance to Potiphar throughout the duration of his service there. Potiphar’s wife, like many women in Egypt, was attracted to Yosef, and she attempted to seduce him. Yosef, however, made the decision to keep his integrity and flee.
Imagine! A teenager, with raging hormones, capable of leaving such a situation! This was an incredible feat.
The sea saw the bones of Yosef and knew the nature of a 17-year-old boy is to give into temptation. But if Yosef, a mere human, could overcome his nature for the will of Hashem, then it, too, will overcome the course of its nature and split.
Despite Yosef’s impressive accomplishment, it seems a bit incongruous that the Jewish people merited a miracle of this magnitude from a moment’s decision that took place two centuries prior.
Perhaps my son’s “big idea” can serve as a microcosm to answer this question. What did my little entrepreneur think of when he was only eight? He decided that he was going to collect every water bottle in Los Angeles and make massive profit from recycling them.
My husband and I hid our amusement when he shared this idea. Instead, we fostered his venture by allowing him to place a large recycling bin inside our home. We encouraged him to ask permission to bring recycling bins to his school, as well. We agreed to take Josh to the recycling center each month to cash in.
Of course, we capitalized on this opportunity to teach a lesson in finance. Each time he earned money, he divvied up the income into various accounts for charity, spending, and saving. Although it just seemed like a small tutorial, to our surprise, recycling the bottles began to produce more profit than we anticipated. After five years of recycling bottles—and other small businesses, such as running backyard camps, lemonade stands, and walking neighbors’ dogs—he was able to make a significant tzedakah contribution.
With the money he earned, Josh sponsored a bar mitzvah for two orphans in Israel. Everything from tefillin, a new suit, and a small celebration was provided for these boys. Because of a decision made five years prior, now two members of Klal Yisrael are able to don tefillin daily, for the rest of their lives.
If an eight-year old’s decision made five years in the past can have an impact of such magnitude on the physical and spiritual world, how much more so can the decision of Yosef haTzaddik cause a tidal wave’s impact. A mitzvah transcends time, which is why five, 200, or 2000 years later, the effect can be immense.
Josh’s decision provides an example of how our seemingly insignificant actions can have a tremendously positive affect years or even decades later. Biglal avot toshia banim, in the merit of our ancestors we are saved. In Yosef’s merit, the entire Jewish people were allowed a miracle. Just as the holy acts of our ancestors paved a path for us, our actions pave the way for our descendants.
Hashem remembers every mitzvah and utilizes His master plan to determine the perfect moment to redeem that act for merit. The Torah provides another example of this phenomenon. “Hashem remembered Sarah, and she became pregnant.” Rebbetzin Holly Pavlov notes that the word pakad is used for “remember,” rather than the more typical word, zachor.
Pakad usually describes a deposit. This word was chosen because our mitzvot are similar to deposits made in a bank. When a man does a mitzvah, that deed belongs to him. Hashem holds our deposits, ready to return them to us at a later time. In Sarah’s case, it was in the form of a child.
Unlike a typical deposit, we don’t get to decide when we cash in; only Hashem controls when and how. Sarah was 90 years old! Was she not a righteous woman, who must have merited a baby much earlier in life? This term pakad does not indicate a lack of righteousness on Sarah’s part. Rather, it connotes how nothing escapes Hashem’s memory, even if we forget.
Hashem remembered Yosef’s decision, and 200 years later He returned that deposit in the form of one of the greatest miracles of all time.
There is another explanation as to why Yosef’s bones caused Kriyat Yam Suf. Bringing the bones of Yosef was a statement of faith. This act communicated our belief that we would not only be freed from Egypt, but also our confidence in the long-term goal of survival to enter the land of Israel.
Rav Dovber Pinson states that the vessel that receives the blessing is the faith itself. We were standing by the foot of the sea, shaking with fear, trapped between two ominous options. The sea seemed to be a deadly choice, and the Egyptians pursuing behind us was no better fate. Yet, despite fleeing for our lives, we had the courage to bring Yosef’s bones in the hopes of a future burial, signifying our immense faith. Yosef wanted to be buried in Israel, which meant bringing his bones was a statement that we didn’t just think we would survive, we believed Hashem would lead us to our ultimate goal—Israel. This audacious faith was the vessel in which we were saved.
We too can bring the metaphor of Yosef into our everyday lives. When faced with split-the-sea moments, we can have faith that Hashem will bring us towards our goal, no matter how wayward the journey seems. The splitting of the sea and traveling in the desert was circuitous and laced with doubt and trepidation. But the bones of Yosef serve as a symbol of our emunah in the ultimate redemption.
Whether praying for a parnasah, refuah, or children like Sarah Imeinu, think of Yetziat Mitzrayim and the metaphor of Yosef. Remember the end goal and know that just like Yosef’s act saved us once at Kriyat Yam Suf, that act, and our faith, can save us again.
Perhaps it is for this reason that it is our job to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim daily. Hashem remembers our actions, and will pakad, release the deposit, at the right time. Just like we had staunch faith in Him then, that faith can still apply to our everyday lives.
Every small decision and act of faith can lead to something great. Whether regarding a new business venture or more serious salvation, the idea of making positive decisions is ultimately what we want to pass on to our children. On Josh’s bar mitzvah day we said, “Today is the day your decisions start counting, so make them count. We know you will make us proud, because you already have.”
 Tehillim 114:3
 Midrash Shocher Tov 114
 Bereshit 39:6
 Ramban 39:6
 Bereshit 39:11-12
 Bereishit 21:1
 Pavlov, Holly. Mirrors of Our Lives (Feldheim 2000)
 OHR (Tikkun Films 2019)