Posts Tagged 'Vayeshev'

Benefit Mindset: Yehudah as a Role Model

We live in extraordinary times. Everyone is facing complex challenges they haven’t faced before. From Covid to climate change, mental health to systemic injustice, what’s clear is that no individual or institution can transform these issues on their own. Our ability to respond – and break through to a world that works for all life – requires something more than everyone’s best personal efforts. Bringing about meaningful change requires us to get past the cult of “me” and build a sense of a “we.” We need to align a diversity of contributions and become partners in the wellbeing of all. And our ability to actualize this possibility requires a profound shift in mindset. We need to cultivate a benefit mindset.

Developed by Ash Buchanan in collaboration with a global community of contributors, benefit mindset is grounded in the understanding that fulfilling our potential is about more than how smart, driven or growth oriented we are. More completely, it is about how well we are able to transform how we come to understand our place in the world, compassionately attend to our individual and collective shadows, and become partners in the wellbeing of all people and all living beings. While a growth mindset has many advantages over a fixed mindset ( see Carol Dweck here), what truly makes us thrive is our capacity to realize our potential in a way that nurtures our uniqueness and serves the wellbeing, not only of humans, but the entire community of life.

A benefit mindset builds on a growth mindset, when we understand that our abilities can be developed – and we also understand we can transform towards a more caring, inclusive and interdependent perspective.

While there is more to explore around a Benefit Mindset, I wanted to share it this week as we read Vayigash, this week’s Torah portion. There we read about Yehudah selflessly stepping forward to save his brother Benjamin. There we read:

Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers.

Genesis 44:33

At this point he has no idea that he is standing in front of his brother Yosef who he and his brothers had sold into slavery.

A few week’s ago Yehudah stepped forward to save his brother from fratricide. While Yehudah did save his brother from death, his words are haunting. There we read:

Then Yehudah said to his brothers, “What is the benefit by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed.

Genesis 37: 26-27

Yehudah’s argument to save his brother is to make a buck. They stand to benefit by selling him. Yehudah and his brothers had lost their moral compass, integrity, and identity. This stands in sharp contrast to what we see here when he has the chance to save brother. It is clear that he has nothing to benefit himself stepping forward. Here he steps into leadership by exemplifying this Benefit Mindset. It is not hard to imagine Yehudah standing before Yosef with an open heart and a grounded sense of his identity. At this moment he knows exactly who he is, who they are, and why he must stand up for Benjamin. Yehudah steps forward as am authentically engaged global citizen. In many ways this Benefit Mindset is reciprocated by Yosef who also steps forward to relieve his hidden identity and save his family.

Yehudah is far from perfect, but that itself makes him an ideal role model for the Jewish people. We took his name as ours- Yehudim. We strive to be Benefit Mindset people.

-See other articles on Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset:

High School Vanity

Years ago my mother, a psychologist for over 50 years, told me that the greatest period of growth for most people is between their Senior Prom and coming home for Thanksgiving during their freshman year in college. Over Thanksgiving I was up at my mother’s house in the Berkshires and I took a look at my senior high school yearbook. Who was I at that moment over a quarter century ago?  In the middle of the period I had a transformational experience as a Junior Counselor at Jewish summer camp. Here amidst a period that could be seen as incredibly turbulent I was responsible for a bunk of a dozen 15 year-old boys.  At the moment of extreme vanity I was given the opportunity to give of myself fully to other people. In this process of giving I could start to imagine the person that I wanted to become.  What a gift?

Image may contain: one or more people

I was thinking about this age this week reading Vayashev, this week’s Torah portion. There at the begining we read:

Now Yakov was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. This, then, is the line of Yakov: At seventeen years of age, Yosef tended the flocks with his brothers, and he, being a lad to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Yosef brought bad reports of them to their father. ( Genesis 37:1-2)

Here we meet Yosef as this age and he is interacting with his brothers. To explain what it meant to be a lad Rashi brings a midrash:

His actions were childish: he dressed his hair, he touched up his eyes so that he should appear good-looking (Genesis Rabbah 84:7).

Giving a bad report on his brothers Yosef is not a person of character. He is vain and self absorbed. He is a young person who is more interested in how he appears to be than who is he is.

Looking at the vanity manifest my yearbook page it is not hard to imagine the self important quotes and overly curated picture that Yosef would have chosen to put on his yearbook. What would Yosef’s life have looked like if instead of looking after the flocks with his older brothers he was given a bunk of children to counsel?


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