Success is defined by the strength of our character; not by the size of our salary. It is determined by what I am doing today, at this very moment; not by what I will become, sometime in the unknown future. And it is about living life's journeys fully and unreservedly; not about reaching destinations, however lofty they may be.Rabbi Allouche
Do you consider yourself successful?
Well, to be fair, let us first define the word “successful” based on Judaism’s revolutionary perspective.
Joseph, whom we read about in this week’s portion, is the first person described as “successful.” In the words of the Torah: “G-d was with Joseph, and he became a successful man” (Genesis 39:2).
Yet surprisingly, the Torah does not deem him as a “successful man” when he reaches the peak of his career as he becomes the viceroy of Egypt. Joseph is not even described as “successful” when he became known as the world’s best dream-interpreter. Rather, he was coined “successful” as he labored as a slave in the house of Potiphar. Then again, the Torah calls him “successful” as an inmate in an Egyptian dungeon.
The reason is poignant: Success is defined by the strength of our character; not by the size of our salary. It is determined by what I am doing today, at this very moment; not by what I will become, sometime in the unknown future. And it is about living life’s journeys fully and unreservedly; not about reaching destinations, however lofty they may be.
In our day and age, people are often called “successful” because they are listed on the Forbes World Billionaires’ list, or on the New York Times’ Bestseller list. These “successful” individuals may have cheated on their spouses, they may have become estranged from their children, and they may have turned as lonely as wolves because they never had the time to invest in friendships. But they have done so well in their career, that people say, “I wish we were as ‘successful’ as they.”
Don’t get me wrong. It is important to do well in our jobs and develop the careers that suit us, to the best of our abilities. But it is even more important to do well in life, by living with honesty and integrity, meaning and purpose, and dedication and devotion to deeds of goodness and kindness and bettering our world each and every day. Such as caring for a friend in a time of need; or treating our parents and elders with respect; or loving our spouse with an understanding heart; or contributing to our community not just with money, but with time and effort too; or investing in our Jewishness by taking upon ourselves more and more Mitzvahs, and by engaging ourselves in more and more minyans and Torah study.
Just as with Joseph, G-d, will then “be with you” as you too become truly “successful.”