The Medrash (Medrash Raba 85:1) tells us about Hashem’s reaction to some of the thoughts of our leaders. In this parsha, the Shevatim were thinking about the sale of Yosef (that they did the wrong thing); Yosef was doing teshuva; Reuven was involved with teshuva; Yehuda was involved in finding a wife for himself; and Hashem was involved in creating the light of Mashiach. The Medrash concludes that Hashem’s actions were an outgrowth of Yehuda’s endeavor.
This Medrash is definitely puzzling, as it seems to say that Yehuda was praised for his thoughts – even though he was busy thinking about himself and not doing any introspection; whereas the others were in the wrong place with their thoughts.
It is explained that many times people find themselves in situations in which they are lost. At that point, many times, people fall into despair and are frozen into inaction. Others get so involved with perfecting themselves that they can end up becoming self-centered. This idea that “everything is lost for me” could actually do the opposite and become a catalyst for great things. The Shem M’Shmuel gives an example of this: The tzaddikim who preceded Avraham Avinu were trying to perfect themselves, whereas Avraham was concerned with forming a nation of people dedicated to the service of Hashem. When it seems impossible to succeed, in a sense, it sets the stage for us to lay the groundwork for future successes.
I once heard from my Rosh Yeshiva in America that if one looks at Tehillim he will find that every single human emotion is addressed and directed to the service of Hashem, from the thrill of triumph to the fear of being pursued. When The Jewish people find themselves in various situations, they cradle the Tehillim in their hands and are able to connect to Hashem because of the groundwork that Dovid Hamelech established. The atmosphere of feeling useless and dejected is what caused the shevatim to be paralyzed, while it was the same atmosphere that caused Yehuda
to kindle the fire of the next generation. Yehuda realized that adversity was not a cause to stop his life’s mission to build Klal Yisrael.
As Chanukah approaches and we marvel at the courage of the Maccabees, we wonder to ourselves “From where did those few grab the impetus to fight so many?” I would like to suggest a new twist for an answer: They were aware that even if they did not succeed, they would at least be laying the groundwork for the success of future generations, by showing what is worth fighting for. The miracle that happened was that they themselves were also successful.
Many times in our own lives we find ourselves paralyzed with uncertainties and dejection, feeling forlorn and lost. It is part of our national character that at those trying times in particular, we grab the Tehillim of Dovid Hamelech and latch on to words of hope and prayer, if not for ourselves, then for others. We do this not only as a solace, but to catapult us towards future success.