web analytics
September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Yosef HaTzaddik’s Image: For Him And For Us


YU-122112

Yosef Hatzaddik is not only the central character at the end of Chumash Bereishis. I believe that Yosef is also the character who best serves as a role model for many in today’s world.

Yosef is, of course, the paradigm of a leader in a secular world who remains true to his religious identity. Rav Soloveitchik in his Days of Deliverance (page 165-166) and others, stress that the parshiot of Yosef are always read Chanukah time to accent the fact that one can be a profoundly spiritual individual at the same time that one rises to the highest echelons of society. Yosef Hatzaddik is the viceroy of Egypt, yet his worldly authority in no way diminishes his spiritual quest. This is the same ideal that the Chasmoneans represented. They were great warriors, “but the moment they laid down their swords their interests centered around kedusha.”

It is this model of multi-colored, engaged tzidkus, rather than the monochromatic tzaddik who remains isolated from society and does not engage with or seek to improve the world around him, that motivates so many of the young people with whom I am in contact on a regular basis.

Yosef is also an appropriate model as he defines tzaddik in a unique way. Generally we think of a tzaddik as a singularly focused person, an individual without complexities whose being is about spiritual attainments, and overlooks all slights to his personality. Yosef is not that way. He does not offer his brothers simple and unqualified mechila.

Although the brothers clearly beg mechila from Yosef we do not find explicitly in the Torah that Yosef grants it (See Bereishis 50:17). Moreover, we find Yosef toying with and apparently manipulating his brothers. This does not seem like behavior that we would expect from a tzaddik. (See Rabbi Michael Rosensweig’s article in Mitoch ha-Ohel for analysis of these points). Of course, Yosef had profound reasons for his behavior, but the point remains that when reading about Yosef we do not see a simple, uncomplicated tzaddik. The tzidkus of Yosef is much more complex and textured than we would expect. This point should not be lost on the many individuals who strive to attain spiritual heights despite the complexities and apparent contradictions in their personalities. They should not lose sight of the Yosef model of tzidkus.

Yosef is a role model in yet another way. It is widely accepted that Yosef is termed a tzaddik because of the episode when he is able to withstand the advances of Potifar’s wife. The Gemara in Sotah (36:2) famously depicts this event:

At the moment when Yosef was prepared to sin, the image of his father appeared to him in the window. It called out, “Yosef your brothers’ names will eventually be inscribed on the stones of the ephod, do you want your name to be erased from that list?”

The Gemara is telling us that Yosef was able to withstand the enormous pressure because he saw the image of his father. He was able to look beyond the immediate situation and peer through the window where he saw his father’s image and was able garner the necessary strength to resist.

However, this is only part of the story. Many note that the image of Yaakov Avinu is the image that appears on the Kisei HaKavod, Hashem’s glorious throne. This accents the potential mankind can attain and by focusing on this Yosef was able to avoid sin. However I heard from one of my fellow rabeim, Rabbi Zvi Sobolfosky, a more poignant take on this Gemara. Rabbi Sobolofsky noted that Rashi teaches us at the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev (37:2) that Yosef and Yaakov looked very much alike. Accepting Rashi’s comment, we become aware that the image Yosef saw was not just that of his father, but his own image as well. Yosef saw himself;, h he did not focus on generic man and what he can accomplish, but rather on his own image, his own potential and what he himself could attain. At the most intense moment of passion as he was about to sin, Yosef focused on who he truly was, and was thereby able to restrain himself.

About the Author: Rabbi Ezra Schwartz is rosh yeshiva at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Yosef HaTzaddik’s Image: For Him And For Us”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Sen. Ted Cruz acts senate for unanimous consent to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act. Sept. 18, 2014.
Ds Reject Voting to Strip Citizenship From US Jihadi ISIS Volunteers
Latest Judaism Stories
Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

“he’s my rabbi” the Black painter said with pride, pulling out a photo of the Rebbe from his wallet

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

The Torah notes that even when we are dispersed God will return us to Him.

Rabbi Sacks

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

Our understanding of what is and what is not possible creates imagined ceilings of opportunity for us.

This young, innocent child gave me a powerful, warm surge of energy and strength.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that there are two forms of teshuvah; teshuvah m’ahava and teshuvah m’yirah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

A Role Reversal
‘Return, O Wayward Sons…’
(Chagigah 15a)

When the Kleins returned, however, they were dismayed to see that the renters did a poor job cleaning up after themselves.

In Parshas Re’eh the Torah tells us about the bechira to adhere to the commandments of Hashem and refrain from sin. In Parshas Nitzavim, the Torah tells us that we have the choice to repent after we have sinned.

As Moshe is about to die, why does God tell him about how the Israelites will ruin everything?

Jonah objected to God accepting repentance based on ulterior motives and likely for short duration.

This week’s parsha offers a new covenant; a covenant that speaks to national life unlike any other

All Jews are inherently righteous and that is why we all have a portion in the World to Come.

More Articles from Rabbi Ezra Schwartz
YU-122112

Yosef Hatzaddik is not only the central character at the end of Chumash Bereishis. I believe that Yosef is also the character who best serves as a role model for many in today’s world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/yosef-hatzaddiks-image-for-him-and-for-us/2012/12/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: