web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Yosef’s Immunity And Its Message For Our Times

YU-121313

Share Button

The story is told of an elderly Jewish woman who entered the office of her ophthalmologist and reported frantically that her neighbor had given her a canary, and ever since there was no end to the problems she was having with her eyesight.  The doctor was baffled.  What connection could there possibly be between her neighbor’s canary and the maladies from which his patient was now suffering?  Finally, the mystery was unraveled.  The woman’s  neighbor, she believed, had given her an ayin hara.  The Yiddish expression kein ayin hara (may you be spared from the evil eye) had metamorphosed with her (as in the lingo of many Americans at the time) into “canary.”

The belief in the power of the evil eye and the desire to ward off its deleterious spell are rooted firmly in Jewish historical consciousness.  Indeed, the Talmud is replete with numerous references to the notion of ayin hara and takes its existence for granted. Interestingly, the Talmud also records a tradition that Yosef and his progeny possess a natural immunity to the effects of the evil eye. Two sources in Parshas Vayechi are cited in support.  The first is a phrase contained in the blessing imparted by Yaakov to Yosef’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe: “And may they proliferate like fish within the land” (Bereishis 48:16). Yaakov likens Yosef’s children to fish whose extraordinary rate of procreation is attributed to their being hidden from public display and who are therefore free from the effects of the evil eye. The second is the blessing given to Yosef later in the parsha: “A fruitful son is Yosef, a fruitful son to the eye (alei ayin)” (49:22). The phrase “alei ayin” (to the eye) is taken as “olei ayin, ascending – or transcending – the [spell of] the evil eye.”

What was it about Yosef that earned him this special quality of being immune to ayin hara?  Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains that the risk of ayin hara is exacerbated when one arouses envy in others; hence, it follows that the threat is mitigated by living one’s life in a selfless, altruistic manner. One who does so is obviously less likely to stand out and to trigger the jealousy of others, and consequently, is less prone to ayin hara. If there is a Biblical figure whose very being personifies the quality of altruism, it is Yosef. As a lad, Yosef’s youthful excesses overshadowed his noble character and aroused his brother’s enmity. However, as he matured in years, self-absorption yielded to selfless concern for others to an extraordinary degree. To cite four illustrations:

1. When Yosef is first summoned by Pharaoh, he is hailed as a wizard in the art of interpreting dreams. Yet, Yosef’s humble, self-effacing response is: “It is beyond me; G-d will respond to Pharaoh’s welfare” (Bereishis 41:16).  Yosef eschews recognition by emphatically stating that he lacked expertise in dream interpretation.

2. In Parshas Vayigash, the Torah describes Yosef’s handling of the Egyptian treasury: “And Yosef brought the money into Pharaoh’s palace” (47:14). The Ramban explains that the Torah emphasizes Yosef’s scrupulous execution of his duties in bringing all the monies into Pharaoh’s palace without thought of amassing personal wealth.

3. If we consider the manner in which Yosef related to his brothers, we are struck by the absence of any vindictiveness. Considering how the brothers had treated him, it would have been natural for Yosef to take it personally and relish the opportunity to “get even.” But Yosef evidently did not bear a grudge, as he repeatedly emphasized to the brothers after revealing his identity.  Even his initial harsh display – accusing his brothers of spying – was only a means to inspire repentance and was not prompted by malice. This thought is summed up in a midrashic comment cited by Rashi on the verse “And Yosef recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him” (42:8). The Midrash interprets this verse as symbolically suggesting a contrast between Yosef’s compassionate treatment of his brothers – “And Yosef recognized his brothers” – and their callous conduct toward him – “but they did not recognize him.”

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Elchanan Adler serves as Rosh Yeshiva and holds the Eva, Morris, and Jack K. Rubin Memorial Chair in Rabbinics at the 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.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “Yosef’s Immunity And Its Message For Our Times”

  1. Lisa Kamins says:

    well said. thank you.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Who will he take to the dance?
It’s Prom Time, and Abbas Must Choose a Dance Partner – Israel or Hamas
Latest Judaism Stories
Reiss-041814-King

Amazingly, each and every blade was green and moist as if it was just freshly cut.

PTI-041814

All the commentaries ask why Hashem focuses on the Exodus as opposed to saying, “I am Hashem who created the entire world.”

Leff-041814

Someone who focuses only on the bones of the Torah makes his bones dry and passionless.

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014). As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. On Tuesday, just as we […]

The tendency to rely on human beings rather than G-d has been our curse throughout the centuries.

“Who is wise? One who learns from each person” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

“I’ll try to help as we can,” said Mr. Goodman, “but we already made a special appeal this year. Let me see what other funds we have. I’ll be in touch with you in a day or two.”

Rashi is bothered by the expression Hashem used: “the Jews need only travel.”

Reckoning Time
‘Three Festivals, Even Out Of Order’
(Beizah 19b)

Two husbands were there to instruct us in Texas hold ‘em – and we needed them.

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

A few background principles regarding the prohibitions of chametz mixtures on Pesach may provide some shopping guidance.

According to the Rambam, the k’nas applies to any chametz on Pesach with which one could, in theory, transgress the aveirah – even if no transgression actually occurred.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

More Articles from Rabbi Elchanan Adler
YU-121313

The belief in the power of the evil eye and the desire to ward off its deleterious spell are rooted firmly in Jewish historical consciousness. Indeed, the Talmud is replete with numerous references to the notion of ayin hara and takes its existence for granted.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/yosefs-immunity-and-its-message-for-our-times/2013/12/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: