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  • Никто не забыт и ничто не забыто

    Шмуэль Катанов

    В истории с Ёсефом и братьями, имеется случай который немного непонятен, давайте разберём его поподробнее. 

    Как вы уже знаете между Ёсефом и старшими братьями были очень натянутые отношения, он один против всех. Некоторые комментаторы говорят что это была просто зависть, а некоторые говорят ненависть, в любом случае надо копнуть поглубже.

    "И Ёсеф пошел за братьями и нашел их в Дотане" говорит Мидраш Танхума, Парашат Ваешев 13:6. Ёсеф шел в сторону своих братьев по повелению отца. Увидев его из далека, они сказали друг другу что идёт человек видящий сны и начали задумывать как от него избавиться. Один из братьев посоветовал его убить и этим решить проблему. Старший брат Рувен сказал "Зачем убивать свою кровь, ведь он наш брат, просто давайте бросим его в пустую яму." В Трактате Шаббат 22А говорится: "Яма была пуста от воды, но была полна змеями и скорпионами". Идея понравилась всем, только Рувен задумал прийти попозже когда никого не будет и вызволить Ёсефа.

    Когда Ёсеф подошел к братьям, они сняли с него, его красивый и разноцветный халат и бросили его в яму. Затем они сели поесть. Во время трапезы они увидели мимо проходящий караван, и опять один из братьев предлагает продать своего братишку караванщикам, чтоб увезли его далеко в чужие земли, Брешит (37:27). Сказано, сделано. И сколько бы Ёсеф их не просил и не умолял, они не услышали его мольбы и не изменили своего решения. Так караван скрылся с глаз с Ёсефом вместе.

    Когда братья ушли с этого места, туда возвратился Рувен, который ужаснулся когда увидел что яма пуста и Ёсефа нет внутри. Он разорвал свои одежды и начал плакать, но увы было уже поздно. Раши (Брешит Раба 84:19)

    Возникает вот такой вопрос - где был Рувен? Давши им идею бросить Ёсефа в яму, почему он покинул братьев и не остался охранять Ёсефа, чтоб ничего с ним не случилось? В Мидраше Танхума, Ваешев 13:9 говорится: "Если бы Рувен знал что Вс-вышний напишит о его намерении спасти Ёсефа, он бы поднял Ёсефа на свои плечи и понёс бы его к отцу".

    Один из ответов который дал Раши в Берешит Рабба 84:19, говорится что Рувен делал Тешува - раскаяние, за инцидент который произошел когда умерла Рахель. Он передвинул кровать Яакова, своего отца, с одной палатки в другую. Мидраш говорит что этот инцидент произошел 10 лет назад. Почему он раскаивается сейчас спустя 10 лет после того как это случилось?

    Когда умерла праматерь Рахель, Рувен подумал и сказал что не подобает кровати отца быть у служанки Рахель - кровать должна быть у законной жены Яакова - Лея, его матери. Так исходя из своих соображений и не спрашивая отца, он подвинул кровать сам. Он пренебрёг словом, решением, мнением и властью отца. В результате этого он и его потомки были трижды наказаны - они потеряли первородство, священо служение в Храме и корону царя.

    И вот теперь 10 лет спустя, Рувен смотрит на Ёсефа и своих братьев и спрашивает себя - почему братья относятся к Ёсефу так пренебрежительно? Допустим он их клеветал - но комментаторы говорят, что всё что он сказал отцу было всё то что он видел - и передал всё по юношеской глупости и по молодости. Может он повёл себя не так как они ожидали от него - но он является их младшим братом, в тот момент ему было 17 лет, и был очень молод чтоб не сделать ошибки и не ошибиться.

    Братья должны были усомниться в его мотивах и действиях, а не принимать всё за чистую монету или ожидать во всём от него подвоха. И даже если Ёсеф ведёт себя не правильно, скажите отцу, дайте папе решить проблему между братьями со своим младшим сыном. Отец может его поругать, дать ему урок как вести себя с братьями и в будущем в таких ситуациях. Отец бы смог его надоумить и не допустить ситуации выйти из под контроля. Он сделал бы так чтоб и братья и Ёсеф были бы друзьями и между ними не было бы никаких чувств неприязни друг другу.

    Но происходило всё совсем иначе, братья шли по стопам Рувена совершая те же ошибки, а он был свидетелем последствий своих действий. Братья относились так к Ёсефу думая что им это сойдёт с рук, также как Рувен когда то подвинул кровати не думая о последствиях своих решений и действий.

    Позвольте спросить:

    Как быстро мы приходим к поспешным выводам основываясь на наших страхах и тревогах, не думая о последствиях которые могут произойти с людьми которые вовлечены в спор? А как насчёт людей которых мы ввели в заблуждение, и у них многое в жизни обернулось не так как им хотелось? Как насчёт репутаций людей разрушенных нами, и какие у них сейчас последствия? Может мы отнеслись кому то не правильно, выглядя при этом очень или немного религиозными, и тот человек отвернулся от религии? А как насчёт.. здесь вы можете сами продолжить этот список.

    Нам надо думать о последствиях прежде чем мы что то сделаем или скажем. Потому что мы никогда не знаем что мы потеряем от неправильно сказаного слова или не правильного сделанного дела.

    Каждый Ём Кипур когда мы заканчиваем Шемоне Эсре после Шахарита и прежде чем начать Хазара, в Сефардских сидурах есть одна песня: "Хашем Шамати Шимахо Ёрети Хашем". Эта песня заканчивается куплетом: "Хашем, сифрей хаим уметим лефанеха нифтахим" -- "Г-сподь книги Живых и Мёртвых перед Тобой открыты..." (Хаббакук 3:2)

    Я понимаю почему Г-сподь открывает книгу Живых, как сказано в Трактате Рош Хашана 16б - "Рав Круспедай сказал от имени Раби Ёханана: Три книги открывают на Рош Хашана перед Г-сподом - одну для грешников, другую для праведных и третью для людей которые стоят между - чьи хорошие и плохие дела находятся в балансе. Праведники записаны сразу в книгу жизни; злодеи в книгу смерти; а те что между, их судьба решится на Ём Кипур и если они сделают хороших дел то перевесят весы в хорошую сторону."

    Кроме написания живых людей в Книгу Смерти, Г-сподь также судит людей которые умерли очень давно. Зачем судить мёртвых, ведь они уже давно не с нами и всё уже позабыто.

    В книге II Диврей Хаямим 33:12 (13-18), есть рассказ про царя Менаше, который поставил идолов по всему Израилю чтоб все поклонялись им тем самым отклонив сердца евреев от Г-спода. Однажды царь Менаше попадает в плен и его оставляют умирать, с привязаным руками вверх над открытым огнём. Он взывает ко всем богам которые ему известны, и не услышав от них ответа и не получив желаемого результата, он начинает говорить с Г-сподом и просит Его прийти к нему на помощь. Происходит чудо и он оказывается в Израиле и вне опасности.

    И вот теперь он меняет свою жизнь радикально - он убирает все идолы из Храма и со всего Израиля и издаёт приказ что все должны поклонятся одному Г-споду. Начинает учить Тору, законы и делает Тешуву. Проходит время и пришел его час уйти из этого мира. Вопрос возникает в Талмуде Санхедрин 102б, куда идёт царь Менаше в Ган Эдэн или Гехином? И отвечают мудрецы, что царь Менаше пробыл в Гехиноме очень долгое время, пока эффект его действий не умер с последним человеком. Он почистил Храм, но люди привыкшие к служению идолам продолжали это делать в тайне. Это было поколение его возраста, их дети и внуки.  И ждал он пока все не сделали тешуву или не покинули этот мир. И только тогда он был допущен в Ган Эдэн, когда эффект его действий закончил существовать в мире.

    Нет разницы сколько времени прошло с любого инцидента который произошел с человеком - по отношению к другим людям. Если последствия его дел после многих лет всё ещё имеют какой то эффект на людей которые были связаны с ним в тот момент, или даже поколения спустя - он несёт за это ответственность, и нет разницы если он ещё в этом мире или уже в том. Просто если человек ещё живой то он счастливчик, потому что он может приложить все усилия, изменить и исправить все те самые ситуации которые произошли. Уйдя из этого мира, человек или уже душа непосильна сделать чего либо и уже это забота следующего поколения и душа она полностью зависима от всех тех родственников которые остались здесь в этом мире, и может быть они исправят всё то что он не успел сделать будучи живым.

    Говорит нам Раби Нахман из Брэслава в своей Книге: Ликутей Мохаран: "Суды Небесные Происходят Каждый Час". Кого судит Г-сподь? Все те поколения которые должны исправить всё то что не успел или в чём провинился их предшественник. Мы встречаем людей, бываем в ситуациях, не зная и не понимая почему Г-сподь нас в них поставил, но только пройдя через ситуацию и познав людей и "перетерясь" с ними, мы исправляем то что кто-то до нас не смог или не успел сделать, и оно выпало на нашу долю, потому что мы в ответе за это и должны это сделать. Пройдя мы помогаем ушедшим и освобождаем их, себя и будущие поколения от этого греха, а не пройдя мы усиливаем страдания ушедшим, себе и будущим поколениям.

    В результате потеряв первородство, священослужение в Храме и корону царя, Рувен понял серьёзность всей ситуации которая сложилась и последствия которые произошли с Ёсефом. Рувен делал тешуву 10 лет спустя после инцидента с кроватью Яакова - чувствуя своё прямое участие в отношении к Ёсефу и всё что произошло после.

    Шаббат Шалом

     

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  • Why Did The Brothers Hate Joseph?

    by Shmuel Katanov

    In the story of Joseph and the brothers, there's one incident that sticks out and makes this whole story look very puzzling. Let's delve into it and try to understand it.

    As you already know, there are was a tension between Joseph and older brothers, one against the many. Some commentators say it was jealousy, some say simply hatred, but let's look at it in more details.

    "And Joseph went after his brothers, and found them in Dotan" says in Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Vayeshev 13:6 (Gen. 37:17-18). Joseph was coming towards his brothers per his father's request. As he was approaching, the brothers saw him from afar and said to each other, here's the dreamer coming, and they started thinking up plans of how to get rid of him. Some suggested to kill him to solve this problem once and for all. The older brother Reuven suggested to throw him in the pit. He said why kill your own blood, your own brother, when we can accomplish the same by throwing him into the empty pit. In Masechet Shabbat 22A says: "Pit empty from water but full of snakes and scorpions". Everyone liked this idea, only Reuven thought to himself that he will come later to rescue him.

    When Joseph came close to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat - the one his father gave him, the extra one - Rashi (Parashat Bereshit 37:24), and threw him into the pit. As they sat down to eat, they saw a caravan passing by, so out came another brilliant idea to sell their small brother to Arab merchants, to be taken to a distant land (Bereshit 37:27). And so they did. As much as Joseph pleaded with them, they were determined on their plan and have not turned from their way, and slowly the caravan left from their eyesight.

    After when the brothers left the scene, Reuven came over to rescue Joseph, but to his astonishment, Joseph was gone. Reuven tore his clothing in grief, but it was too late - Joseph was nowhere to be found. Rashi (Bereshit Rabbah 84:19).

    Where was Reuven? Wasn't he the one who gave an idea to throw Joseph into the pit?! Why didn't he stay to make sure his suggestion was carried out? Why did he leave the scene? In Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeshev 13:9 (Gen. 37:22:) says: "If Reuven had known that the Holy One would write this verse about him (about his suggestion and his intention of coming back for Joseph later), he would have placed Joseph on his shoulders and brought him unto his father."

    One of the answers Rashi gives in (Bereshit Rabbah 84:19), he says that Reuven was doing a teshuvah, for the incident that took place after the death of Rachel. What he did was that he moved the Jacob's bed from one tent to another. But hold on a second, that incident happened 10 years ago. Why was he doing the teshuvah now after 10 years?

    When Rachel Imeynu died, Reuven thought to himself and said that the right place for the bed to be is in his mother's tent, Leah. Without consulting with his father whether he wants this to be done or not, he has moved the bed by himself. What he did was - he has challenged the authority of his father Jacob - by moving the bed and doing it out of his own thinking, calculations and conclusions. As a result, of this, the punishment which Reuven suffered was threefold -- he lost the birthright, the priesthood and the kingship.

    And now 10 years later Reuven looks at Joseph and his brothers, and asked himself – why are the brothers treat Joseph this way? Okay granted, he may have said lashon hora or slander, he may have behaved differently then you, but he is their small brother and may have been too young to make the right decisions, they should have given him the benefit of the doubt. And if Joseph is doing something wrong, let the brothers go and ask their father Jacob to get involved, so he can let the brothers know how they should behave in this situation. Maybe Jacob will admonish Joseph, or maybe he will let them know how to behave towards Joseph so this issue should not escalate into something out of proportions - as they say: "nip it at the bud" under their father's supervision. Which would make things correct and no one would of get hurt and no ill feelings would of been around.

    But something else was happening, the brothers were following in Reuven's footsteps, he is witnessing the consequences of his own action - he sees how his brothers treat Joseph, thinking they can get away with it, which is a direct result of his action. They are making the same mistake he did 10 years before. Reuven subconsciously has taught them to act out of their own conclusions without consulting with their father or some other authority.

    How about us?

    Do we jump to conclusions and act out on our fears and anxieties, without thinking of the consequences the other party may have? Do we feed someone non-kosher food and he ends up liking it, and maybe later gets a job in non-kosher place and marries a non Jew. Have we introduced someone to try something they should of not and they have liked it and their life is not the same anymore.Have we mistreated someone in a synagogue, at work or someone we may have known while wearing a kippah and looking very or somewhat religious, and that person left the religion with a bad feeling toward the religious people, what will happen to all the generations that will come from him after this?

    Think of your actions before you act, and most importantly think of the consequences of your actions.

    Every Yom Kippur when we finish the Shmoneh Esreh of Shacharit and before starting the chazarah, in Sefardi sidurim there's a song, which goes like this: "Hashem Shamati Shim'akha Yareti Hashem." 

    It finishes off the song with these lines: "Hashem, sifrey chaim umetim lefonecha niftachim..." -- translation: "Hashem the Book of Living and the Book of Dead are open before You?" (Habakkuk 3:2)

    I understand why Hashem would open the Book of Living, as it says in the in Masechet Rosh Hashanah 16b: "Rabbi Kruspedai said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Three books are opened on Rosh Hashanah before the Holy One, Blessed be He: One of wholly wicked people, and one of wholly righteous people, and one of middling people whose good and bad deeds are equally balanced. Wholly righteous people are immediately written and sealed for life; wholly wicked people are immediately written and sealed for death; and middling people are left with their judgment suspended from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, their fate remaining undecided. If they merit, through the good deeds and mitzvot that they perform during this period, they are written for life; if they do not so merit, they are written for death."

    Besides writing the new people in the Book of Dead, Hashem judges those people that already passed away long time ago... why? Aren't the dead are gone and everything is forgotten?

    No matter how many years passed from whatever incident you might of had, be it money, slander or something else. If the consequences of your actions, after many years still effect the people involved (see the Book of Chofetz Chaim - a story with a pillow), even generations later – you still get punished no matter where you are and what state you are in - dead or alive. It's just while you alive you still have an ability and a chance to repent and fix whatever the situation you have caused.

    Understanding the magnitude of the situation and the consequences it has caused, Reuven was doing teshuvah 10 years after the incident – feeling his direct involvement on the treatment of Joseph and on all that came out of it.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • I Am Joseph - The Light Born of Life's Challenges

    by Rabbi YY Jacobson 

    In disguise

    There were two beggars sitting side by side on a street in Mexico City. One was dressed like a Christian with a cross in front of him; the other one was a Chassidic Jew with a black coat and a long beard. Many people walked by, looked at both beggars, and then put money into the hat of the one sitting behind the cross. After hours of this pattern, a priest approached the Jewish Chassidic beggar and said: "Don't you understand? This is a Catholic country. People aren't going to give you money if you sit there like a real Jew, especially when you're sitting beside a beggar who has a cross. In fact, they would probably give to him just out of spite."

    The Chassidic beggar listened to the priest and, turning to the other beggar dressed as a Christian, said: "Moshe... look who's trying to teach us marketing."

    A brother’s identity disclosed

    The story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers after decades of bitter separation is, no doubt, one of the most dramatic in the entire Torah. Twenty-two years earlier, when Joseph was seventeen years old, his brothers despising their younger kin, kidnapped him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave to Egyptian merchants. In Egypt he spent twelve years in prison, from where he rose to become viceroy of the country that was the superpower at the time. Now, more then two decades later, the moment was finally ripe for reconciliation.

    "Joseph could not hold in his emotions," the Torah relates in this week's portion[1]. “He dismissed all of his Egyptian assistants from his chamber, thus, no one else was present with Joseph when he revealed himself to his brothers. He began to weep with such loud sobs that the Egyptians outside could hear him. And Joseph said to his brothers: 'I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?' His brothers were so horrified that they could not respond.

    “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘please come close to me’. When they approached him, he said, ‘I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt.

    “’Now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourself for having sold me here, for it was to be a provider that G-d sent me ahead of you …G-d has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance.”

    Analyzing the encounter

    Emotions are not mathematical equations that could or should be subjected to academic scrutiny and analysis (besides, perhaps, in your shrink’s office). Emotions, the texture through which we experience life in all of its majesty and tragedy, profess independent “rules” and a singular language, quite distinct of the calculated and structured ones of science.

    Notwithstanding this, we still feel compelled to tune-into the particular phraseology employed by the Torah in describing this powerfully charged encounter when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.

    Four observations immediately come to mind[2].

    1) After Joseph exposes his identity to his brothers, he asks them to come close to him. Despite the fact that they were alone with him in a private room, Joseph wants them to approach even closer. At this moment we are expecting Joseph to share with his brothers an intimate secret. But that does not seem to come.

    2) After they approach him, Joseph says, “I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt.” But he has already told them a moment earlier that he was Joseph!

    3) Why did Joseph feel compelled to inform them that they sold him too Egyptians, as though they were unaware of what they had done to their little brother some two decades earlier? Why could he not immediately begin his explanation as to why they need not reproach themselves for selling him?

    4) The first time Joseph discloses himself he does not define himself as their brother; yet when he repeats himself again he does mention the sense of brotherhood, “I am Joseph your brother.” Why the difference?

    The unrecognized soul

    The longest unbroken narrative in the entire Torah is from Genesis 37 to 50, and there can be no doubt that its hero is Joseph. The story begins and ends with him. We see him as a child, orphaned by his mother and beloved by his father; as an adolescent dreamer, resented by his brothers; as a slave, then a prisoner, in Egypt; then as the second most powerful figure in the greatest empire of the ancient world. At every stage, the narrative revolves around him and his impact on others. He dominates the last third of the book Genesis, casting his shadow on everybody else. Throughout the entire Bible, there is nobody we come to know as intimately as Joseph. The Torah seems to be infatuated with Joseph and his journeys and struggles more than with any other figure, perhaps even more than with the two pillars of the Jewish faith, Abraham and Moses. What is the mystique behind Joseph? Who is Joseph?

    Joseph’s life embodies the entire drama and paradox of human existence. Joseph on the outside was not the Joseph on the inside; his outer behavior never did justice to his authentic inner grace. Already as a young teen, his brothers could not appreciate the depth and nobility of his character. The Midrash[3] understands The Torah’s description of Joseph at the age of seventeen as a “young boy” to indicate that he devoted much time to fixing his hair, grooming his eyes, and walking at the edge of his legs. Joseph appeared to most people around him as spoiled and pompous.

    Then, when Joseph rose to become the vizier of Egypt, he donned the persona of a charismatic statesman, a handsome, charming and powerful young leader, a skilled diplomat and a savvy politician with great ambition. It was not easy to realize that beneath these qualities lay a soul on fire with moral passion, a kindred spirit for whom the monotheistic legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remained the epicenter of his life; a heart overwhelmed with love toward G-d.

    Joseph’s singular condition – embodying the paradox of the human condition -- is poignantly expressed in one biblical verse[4]: "Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him." Joseph easily identified the holiness within his brothers. After all, they lived most of their lives isolated as spiritual shepherds involved in prayer, meditation and study.

    Yet these very brothers lacked the ability to discern the moral richness etched in the depth of Joseph's heart. Even when Joseph was living with them in Israel, they saw him as an outsider, as a danger to the integrity of the family of Israel. Certainly, when they encountered him in the form of an Egyptian leader, they failed to observe beyond the mask of a savvy politician the heart of a Tzaddik, the soul of a Rebbe.

    The fire in the coal

    This dual identity that characterized Joseph's life played itself out in a most powerful way, when his master's wife attempted to seduce him into intimate relations. On the outside, she thought, it would not be very difficult to entice a young abandoned slave into sacrificing his moral integrity for the sake of attention, romance and fun. But, when push came to shove, when Joseph was presented with the test of tests, he displayed heroic courage as he resisted and fled her home. As a result of that act, he ended up in prison for 12 years.

    The Midrash[5] compares Joseph to the fresh wellspring of water hidden in the depth of the earth, eclipsed by layers of debris, grit and gravel. In a converse metaphor making the identical point, the Kabbalah sees Joseph as the blaze hidden within the coal. On the outside, the coal seems black, dark and cold; but when you expose yourself to its true texture, you sense the heat, the fire and the passion. You get burnt.

    Disclosure

    And then came the moment when Joseph removed his mask.

    The Zohar, the basic Kabbalistic commentary on the Bible, presents a penetrating visualization of what transpired at the moment when Joseph exposed himself to his brothers.

    When Joseph declared, “I am Joseph,” says the Zohar[6], the brothers observed the divine light radiating from his countenance; they witnessed the majestic glow emanating from his heart. Joseph’s words “I am Joseph” were not merely a revelation of who he was, but also of what he was. For the first time in their lives, Joseph allowed his brothers to see what he really was. “I am Joseph!” must also be understood in the sense of “Look at me, and you will discover who Joseph is.”

    When Joseph cried out “I am Joseph,” says the Midrash, “his face became ablaze like a fiery furnace.” The burning flame concealed for thirty-nine years within the coal, emerged in its full dazzling splendor. For the first time in their entire lives, Joseph’s brothers saw the raw and naked Joseph; they came in contact with the greatest holiness in the world emerging from the face of an Egyptian vizier…

    Loss

    “His brothers were so horrified that they could not respond,” relates the Torah. What perturbed the brothers was not so much a sense of fear or personal guilt. What horrified them more than anything else was the sense of loss they felt for themselves and the entire world as a result of his sale into Egypt.

    “If after spending 22 years in a morally depraved society,” they thought to themselves, “one year as a slave, twelve years as a prisoner, nine years as a politician -- Joseph still retained such profound holiness and passion, how much holier might he have been if he spent these 22 years in the bosom of his saintly father Jacob?!”

    “What a loss to history our actions brought about!” the brothers tormented themselves. “If Joseph could have spent all these years in the transcended oasis, in the sacred environment, in the spiritual island of the Patriarch Jacob – how the world might have been enriched with such an atomic glow of holiness in its midst!”

    Contrasting Joseph’s present condition to what might have been his potential, left the brothers with an irreplaceable loss by what they sensed was a missed opportunity of historic proportions.

    The error

    At this moment, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come close to me’.” Joseph wanted them to approach even closer and gaze deeper into the divine light coming forth from his countenance.

    “When they approached him,” relates the Torah, “He said, ‘I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt.” Joseph was not merely repeating what he had told them earlier (“I am Joseph”), nor was he informing them of a fact they were well aware of (“It is me whom you sold into Egypt”), rather, he was responding to their sense of irrevocable loss.

    The words “I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt” in the original Hebrew can also be translated as “I am Joseph your brother – because you sold me into Egypt.” What Joseph was stating was the powerfully moving message that the only reason he reached such tremendous spiritual heights is because he spent the last 22 years in Egypt, not in Jacob’s sacred environment.[7]

    The great catalyst

    The awesome glow that emanated from his presence, Joseph suggested, was not there despite his two decades in lowly Egyptian society, far removed from his father’s celestial paradise; it came precisely as a result of his entanglement with a life alien to the innocent and straightforward path of his brothers. The incredible trials, tribulations and adversity he faced in the spiritual jungle are precisely what unleashed the atomic glow the brothers were presently taking in.

    Had Joseph spent the two decades voyaging with his father down the paved road of psychological and spiritual transparency and lucidity, he would have certainly reached great intellectual and emotional heights. But it was only through his confrontation with a glaring abyss that gave Joseph that singular majesty, passion and power that defied even the rich imagination of his brothers.

    That is why Joseph asked his brothers to come closer to him, so that they can behold from closer up his unique light and appreciate that this was a light that could only emerge from the depth of darkness, from the pit of Egyptian promiscuity.

    [This is also the reason for Joseph mentioning, the second time around, the element of brotherhood. For Joseph was attempting not only to tell them who he was, but to share the reality of their kinship, the fact that he, like them, was deeply connected to his spiritual roots].

    If only…

    Just as the brothers, many of us, too, live our lives thinking “If only…” If only my circumstances would have been different; if only I was born into a different type of family; if only I would have a better personality… The eternal lesson of Joseph is that the individual journey of your life, in all of its ups and downs, is what will ultimately allow you to discover your unique place in this world as a servant of G-d.

    The Forest

    "The sea was much better," the traveler complained. "Whenever I got tired it at least had its currents to push me forward on my journey but you," he looked at the vast desert surrounding him, "you are of no help."

    He went down on his knees, dead tired. When his breaths restored back to normalcy, a while later, he heard the desert's voice.

    "I agree. I am of no help like the sea and thus I often depress people. But do you really think people will remember you for crossing the sea? Never! For the sea doesn't allow you to leave any mark. I, on the contrary, do. Thus, if you cross me, I swear, you will in turn immortalize yourself with the imprints you leave over me!"

    The traveler got the essence and got up to walk on. "It's always about the imprints," his heart echoed[8].




    [1] Genesis 45:1-7.

    [2] The following observations are discussed by many of the biblical commentators, who offer various explanations (See Midrash Rabah, Rashi, Ramban, Klei Yakar Or Hachaim).

    [3] Midrash Rabah Bereishis 84:7. Quoted in Rashi to Genesis 37:2.

    [4] Genesis 42:8.

    [5] Midrash Rabah ibid. 93:3.

    [6] Zohar vol. 1 p. 93b.

    [7] The Sefas Emes movingly interprets the Hebrew phrase used by Joseph “asher mechartem,” that it is similar to the term “asher shebarta,” meaning “yasher koach shesebarta,” thank you for breaking the tablets, and thank you for selling me to Egypt.

    [8] This essay is based on Chassidic writings: See Sefas Emes Parshas Vayigash. See further Sefer Halikkutim under the entry of Yosef; Sefer Letorah U’Lemoadim (by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin) Parshas Vayigash (p. 60-61); Likkutei Sichos vol. 25 pp. 255-257.

     

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  • The Lonely Moment

    by Rabbi YY Jacobson

    Indian Weather Prediction

    It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild.

    Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets, and when he looked at the sky, he couldn't tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect wood to be prepared.

    But also being a practical leader, after several days he had an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"

    "It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared.

    A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Is it going to be a very cold winter?"

    "Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it's definitely going to be a very cold winter." The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find.

    Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?"

    "Absolutely," the man replied. "It's going to be one of the coldest winters ever."

    "How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked. The weatherman replied,

    "The Indians are collecting wood like crazy."

    Joseph's Drama

    This week's portion (Vayeishev) tells the dramatic story of Joseph, an extremely handsome young man, attracting the lustful imagination of his master's wife. She desperately tries to engage him in a relationship, yet he steadfastly refuses her.

    Then came the fateful day, "When he entered the house to do his work and none of the household staff was inside. She grabbed him by his cloak and pleaded 'lie with me.' He ran away from her, leaving his cloak in her hand, and he fled outside [1]."

    Humiliated and furious, she used the cloak as evidence that it was he who attempted to violate her. Her husband, Potiphar, had Joseph imprisoned, where he spent the next 12 years of his life until, through an astonishing turn of events, he was appointed Prime Minister of Egypt.

    What’s the Point?

    Why is this episode recorded in detail in the Torah? The Torah is not a book of history and biography in the literal sense. It emits most of the events of its protagonists, beside those that are essential to convey a specific lessons to the reader. Even when it tells a story, it emits any details not relevant to the theme. (Abraham got involved in a war between nine kings. What exactly caused the five kings to rebel against the four and trigger a world-war? The Torah does not tell us. What did Isaac tell Rebecca when he discovered that Jacob took the blessings? What did Jacob tell Leah when he discovered she deceived him? The Torah does not tell us).

    The objective of these portions is to relate how the Jewish family ended up in Egypt. Thus, we read about Joseph's sale as a slave to Egypt, his prison sentence and his encounter there with the king's ministers. This ultimately leads to his release from prison and designation as viceroy of the country in a critical time of famine, which, in turn, causes his father and entire family to relocate to Egypt, resulting in the Egyptian exile, which would then lead to Exodus and Sinai.

    Why did the Torah find it necessary to relate the story of Joseph's struggle with his master's wife? Why is it important for us to know the detailed episode that caused his imprisonment?

    The Face of Jacob

    The Midrash [2] explains the meaning of the phrase that Joseph "entered the house do to his work and none of the household staff was inside." What type of work did Joseph come to do?

    The Midrash says that the "work" Joseph came to do was to yield to the advances of his master's wife. After all of her unceasing pleas, Joseph at last succumbed. However, as the union between them was about to materialize, the visage of his father, Jacob, suddenly appeared to him. This caused Joseph to reject the powerful urge. He left his garment in her hand and he fled outside.

    What was it about Jacob's visage that inspired Joseph to deny the temptation [3]?

    The Lonely Slave

    Let us reflect more closely on the psychological and physical condition of Joseph during that day when his master's wife almost lured him into a relationship.

    Joseph was a 17-year-old slave in a foreign country. He did not even own his body—his master exercised full control over his life, as was the fate of all ancient and modern slaves. Joseph had not a single friend or relative in the world. His mother died when he was nine years old, and his father thought he was dead. His siblings were the ones who sold him into slavery and robbed him of his youth and liberty. One could only imagine the profound sense of loneliness that must have pervaded the heart of this lad.

    This is the context in which we need to understand Joseph's struggle. A person in such isolation is naturally overtaken by extremely powerful temptations, and is also likely to feel that a single action of his makes little difference in the ultimate scheme of things.

    After all, what was at stake if Joseph succumbed to this woman's demands? Nobody was ever likely to find out what had occurred between the two. Joseph would not need to return home in the evening to face a dedicated spouse or a spiritual father, nor would he have to go back to a family or a community of moral standing. This act would not harm his prospects on getting a good sheduch (marriage partner), nor would it get him thrown out of his yeshiva… He would remain alone after the event, just as he was alone before it. So what's the big deal to engage in a snapshot relationship?

    In addition we must take into consideration the power possessed by this Egyptian noblewoman who was inciting Joseph. She was in the position of being able to turn Joseph's life into a paradise or a living hell. In fact, she did the latter, having him incarcerated for in an Egyptian dungeon on the false charges that he attempted to violate her. If it was up to her, he would have remained there for life.

    The Talmud [4] indeed described the techniques the woman used in order to persuade Joseph. "Each and every day," the Talmud says, "the wife of Potiphar would attempt to seduce him with words. Cloth she wore for him in the morning she would not wear for him in the evening. Cloth she wore for him in the evening she would not wear for him in the morning. She said to him, 'Surrender yourself to me.' He answered her 'No.' She threatened him, 'I shall confine you in prison...I shall bend your proud stature...I will blind your eyes,'" but Joseph refused her. She than gave him a huge sum of money, but he did not budge.

    What is more, this story took place before the giving of the Torah, when adultery became forbidden for Jews even at the threat of death. One may argue that in light of the death threats presented to Joseph by his master’s wife, it would have been halachically permissible, perhaps even obligatory, for him to engage in the union [5]!

    What, then, was the secret behind Joseph's moral rectitude? What empowered a lonely and frail slave to reject such an awesome temptation?

    "The visage of his father Jacob"! That is what gave Joseph the extraordinary fortitude to smack his impulse in the face and to emphatically dismiss the noblewoman's lure.

    But why? Jacob was living many miles away, unaware even of the fact that his son was alive. What was the magic that lay in his physiognomy?

    Adam's Moment

    The Talmud presents a tradition that the beauty of Jacob reflected the beauty of Adam, the first human being formed by the Almighty Himself [6]. Therefore, when Joseph saw the visage of Jacob, he was seeing the visage of Adam as well.

    Adam, we know, was instructed by G-d not to eat from the fruit of "the tree of knowledge." His disobeying of this directive altered the course of human and world history forever [7]. Though he did something apparently insignificant, merely eating a single fruit from a single tree, this minuscule act still vibrates through the consciousness of humanity to this very day.

    Why? Because every single human being is part of the knot in which heaven and earth are interlaced. G-d's dream was not to be alone but to have mankind as a partner in the continuous task of healing the world. By whatever we do, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption; we either reduce or enhance the power of evil. Something eternal and Divine is at stake in every decision, every word, every deed performed by every single man, woman or child [8].

    When Joseph saw the visage of (Jacob which reflected the visage of) Adam, he reclaimed an inner unshakable dignity; he remembered that he was a candle of G-d lit on the cosmic way. Seeing the visage of Adam reminded Joseph how a single act, performed at a single moment by a single man, changed history forever.

    This is the reason for the Torah's recording of the Joseph drama. During our lonely moments of misery, when we, too, may feel that nobody cares for us and we are alone in a large indifferent universe, we ought never fall prey to the easy outlet of immoral gratification. We must remember that something very real and absolute is at stake at every moment of our existence and in every act we do.

    You may view your individual actions in the privacy of your bedroom as insignificant. Yet in the biblical imagination, these decisions create history, not unlike the Indian chief’s hesitant predictions which defined the truth for the National Weather Service.

    If you only open your eyes, you will see the visage of your father whispering to you through the silent winds of history that you are not an isolated creature in a titanic world whose behavior is inconsequential. At this very moment, G-d needs you and me to bring redemption to His world. [9]


    [1] Genesis 39:11-12.

    [2] Bereishis Rabah 87:7. Tanchumah 8-9. Zohar Vayechi 222a. This is also the opinions of one of the Talmudic sages, in Talmud Soteh 36b, quoted in Rashi to Genesis ibid.
    [3] The Talmud in Soteh ibid. relates that Jacob warned Joseph that if he consorted with her, his name would not appear with those of his brothers on the breastplate of the High Priest. That is what led Joseph to resist her importunities. But from the Midrash and Zohar cited in previous footnote it appears that it was Jacob's visage per se that inspired Joseph to abstain.
    Even from the wording of the Talmud it seems that it was not only Jacob's warning but also the very appearance of his countenance that caused Joseph to reject his master's wife. Here one must wonder what was the power of Jacob's visage?
    [4] Yuma 36a.
    [5] See Benei Yissachar Maamarei Nissan; Pardas Yosef to Parshas Vayeishev; Sichos Kodeash Yud Tes Kislev 5721.
    [6] Bava Metzia 84a; Bava Basra 58a. Cf. Tanya Igeres Hakodesh chapter 7.
    [7] See Genesis 3:16-24. Talmud Eiruvin 100b. Likkutei Torah of the Arizal Parshas Bereishis. The writings of Kabbalah and Chassidism are actually full with this theme of how Adam and Eve's partaking of the forbidden fruit altered human history for eternity.
    [8] See Sanhedrin 37a. Tanya chapter 41. This, too, is a theme that pervades the teachings of Jewish mysticism.
    [9] This essay is based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, given on the 19th of Kislev, 5721, December 8, 1960. Published in Sichos Kodesh Yud Tes Kislev 5721.

     




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