Famine stalked the land. The sons of Jacob had traveled in desperation to Egypt in a quest to buy food. There, their long lost brother Joseph, masquerading as an Egyptian nobleman, staged an elaborate charade, accused the brothers of spying, threatened their lives and liberty, took one brother hostage and sent the others home to Canaan to locate proofs of their bona fides.

They returned to their father's home chastened and in a much worried mood. The second most powerful man in the world had accused them falsely, treated them harshly, and imprisoned their sibling. Even worse, they had no choice but to return.

A man of faith might rely on G‑d, but he also believes that G‑d helps those who help themselvesJoseph had made it very clear that any chance they had to be allowed to purchase further stocks of food was predicated on their speedy return, accompanied, this time, by their youngest brother, Benjamin.

Jacob was understandably displeased. At his advanced age who needs the tzoris? Would he be able to cope with the threatened loss of yet another son?

Like Jewish parents throughout history he prepared to respond to the threat. He huddled with his sons to discuss strategy, prepared an expensive bribe, and only then offered to pray on his sons' behalf.

Help Yourself

Believers are often accused of forsaking all personal initiative in their passive acceptance of the vicissitudes of fate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Prayer, as a weapon, is available only to those who simultaneously engage themselves in overcoming all natural impediments. Only a fool sits back with folded hands while all hell breaks loose around him. A man of faith might rely on G‑d, but he also believes that G‑d helps those who help themselves.

The Maccabees, at the time of the Chanukah campaign, were convinced of the capacity of G‑d to save, and entrusted their fate into His hands. Simultaneously, however, they armed themselves for conflict, initiated guerilla tactics and created a military channel for G‑d's miraculous deliverance.

Jacob too trusted in G‑d. He was prepared to pray to G‑d to ensure his sons' safe homecoming but knew that his initial responsibility was to do all within his power to arrange the circumstances of G‑d's deliverance.

To sit and wait for the wheels of inertia to grind one down is laziness, not loyalty to G‑d. Conversely, only a believer can truly dedicate himself to the task at hand, convinced of the inevitability of his efforts; as part of the Divine plan.