After Joseph was thrown into prison on false charges, he languished there for eleven years. Providentially, Pharaoh became enraged with his chief butler and chief baker and cast them into prison as well. Both of these officers had disturbing dreams. Joseph interpreted the chief butler’s dream encouragingly, foreseeing that he would be returned to his position.

After conveying that interpretation, Joseph asked the butler for a kindness: to recall him favorably to Pharaoh. Our Sages teach that Joseph was punished for making this request and his release was delayed for another two years.

Why was Joseph punished? Because in the chief butler, he sought a mediumthrough which G‑d would send him his salvation. That resolution, however, raises a question: We are taught not to rely on miracles. Therefore, Joseph sought a means within the natural order through which G‑d would help him. Was there anything wrong with that?

For most people, the answer would be “no.” But Joseph was on a different spiritual level than most people. Generally, G‑d relates to mankind according to the pattern of nature. When G‑d relates to a person in such a manner, the person should seek an appropriate medium and create a natural vessel or conduit for the fulfillment of his needs.

There are, however, times when G‑d relates to people in a manner that does not accord with the pattern of nature. When G‑d relates to a person in such a way, a higher level of trust is demanded of him. He is expected to do nothing more than trust G‑d, confident that G‑d will certainly help him by arranging his affairs in an appropriate manner. Joseph was on a level on which G‑d continually related to him on a level that transcends nature. Therefore he should have conducted himself at the loftier level of trust.

These concepts are also relevant to people who are not on such an elevated spiritual level. Even when it is necessary for a person to seek a natural medium or conduit for his livelihood, health, and other material needs, the medium or vessel should hold no importance in its own right in his eyes. He should know that it is no more than a medium and that G‑d alone is the source of the blessings he receives.

Looking to the Horizon

These concepts apply in the microcosm and the macrocosm. When a person encounters obstacles and encumbrances in his observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, he should realize that the elimination of these obstacles is dependent upon him and his conduct. If he has absolute trust in G‑d, that G‑d will help him so that the situation will be good until he is utterly serene without any worry and all, his trust will bear fruit. Needless to say, he must also do whatever he can in a natural way to remove these obstacles, but it is his trust that will shift the flow of the paradigm. He will see the realization of the promise: “Think positively and the outcome will be good.”

Similarly, on a national scale, with regard to the redemption from Egypt, it is said: “In the merit of [their] trust [in G‑d], the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.” So, too, with regard to the redemption from our present exile, our Sages state: “The Jews are worthy of redemption in reward for their hope [of redemption] alone.” The Jewish people’s trust in the promise that “My deliverance is soon to come,” serves as a catalyst to make that promise a tangible reality.