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Integrity

RABBI MOSHE ERLBAUM

IN Sefer Bereishis, the book of Genesis, the Torah describes the fate that befell Yosef. Although loved and appreciated by his father, Yosef is disliked by his brothers. They do not share in his dreams and his vision of the future. Feeling threatened, they sell him into slavery. Yosef is transported to ancient Egypt where, at only seventeen years of age, he must deal with the country’s immorality and depravity. Surprisingly, he is remarkably successful.

His first master, Potifar, takes an immediate liking to the young slave; as the verse states (Genesis 39:4), “Vayimtza Yosef chain be’ainav”—and Yosef found favor in his eyes. Potifar appoints Yosef to be in charge of his entire household. Later, when Yosef is thrown into prison, there, too, the verse states that he found favor in the eyes of the chief warden. Yosef is placed in charge of all the other prisoners. Lastly, the king of Egypt, equally impressed with Yosef, appoints him viceroy over all of the land.

What was it about Yosef that attracted so much favor? Why were these decadent Egyptians so impressed with him? I believe there are two reasons. The first becomes clear when observing Yosef’s behavior in prison. When the chief butler and chief baker have disturbing dreams, Yosef notices, approaches, and asks them why they seem so depressed. Yosef was concerned with other people and cared about them. This love of mankind was noticed and reciprocated by those around him.

I think there is also a deeper reason. Every time the Torah mentions that Yosef found favor in the eyes of those around him, it also states that Hashem, G-d, was with him and that the Egyptians recognized this. It is very difficult to believe that the idolatrous Egyptians recognized that Yosef’s success emanated from G-d. Surely it was Yosef himself who gave them that impression. Yosef explicitly attributed all of his knowledge and success to his G-d. More importantly, it was Yosef’s implicit morality, honesty, integrity, and devotion to the principles of his father’s home that made it obvious to all that Hashem was with him. This gained Yosef the respect and admiration of even the pagan Egyptians.

Nancy shared some of these same special qualities with Yosef Hatzaddik (the righteous). Nancy was always concerned with the welfare and happiness of those around her. As evident from the scores of correspondence sent by her friends, it was this quality that drew them to her and fostered the love and admiration they felt for her. Nancy was not like others who, unfortunately, are obsessed only with themselves. Like Yosef, Nancy would often ask, “Madua peneichem ra’im hayom”—Why do you look so depressed? (Genesis 40:7)

However, Nancy did not excel only in the mitzvahs between man and his fellow man. She made an equally lasting impression through the mitzvahs that related to herself and G-d. No matter where she was, whom she was with, or what she was involved in, Hashem was always with her and she was always with Hashem. In a world lacking morality and ethics, Nancy’s devotion to her Jewish principles gained her the respect and admiration of all who knew her.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:13) states in the name of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa, “Kol sheruach habriyos nocha haimenu, ruach Hamakom nocheh haimenu”—He who is pleasing to his fellow men is also pleasing to G-d. Rabbeinu Yonah explains that one who conducts himself in a pleasant manner, with integrity, causes the Torah to be praised. Through his conduct, the Torah is honored; therefore, G-d is delighted with him. What Mishna better portrays Nancy?

True to her Hebrew name Chana, Nancy found favor and grace with whomever she came in contact. When the original Chana came to the Mishkan to pour out her heart to Hashem, Eli HaKohen failed to grasp the purpose of her visit and actions. In fact, he misread the letters on his priestly breastplate, and thought she was a shikora, a drunk. The true message to Eli was that Chana was a keshaira, a proper and upright woman. About Nancy, as well, we can emphatically and proudly state, “keshaira hee.”

We will all miss her very much.


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Acknowledgments Introduction Testimonies Photo Gallery 1 Reflections from Nancy's Mother