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“It was not you who sent me here, but Hashem …” (Bereishis 45:8)

Yosef’s brothers had not dealt kindly with him – they were jealous of him, took his clothing and sold him into slavery; they ignored his pleas for mercy which ultimately resulted in having him languish in prison for many years; they deceived their father, Yaakov, and were not concerned that Yosef might no longer be alive. Nevertheless, when Yosef HaTzaddik identified himself to them, he treated them with compassion and graciousness. He reassured them that, despite their grievous conduct, they had merely been the instruments of Hashem in implementing His Divine plan.


Our sages tell us that Yosef had no training in survival techniques and was not equipped to deal with such hardships. Yet he never exhibited animosity towards his brothers. He didn’t question their motives at all. On the contrary, he comforted them that they had been messengers of Hashem.

In his comprehensive discourse on Yosef’s outstanding middah of chesed to his brothers, HaGaon R’ Yechezkel Levenstein, the Mashgiach of Ponovezh, expounds on Yosef’s enduring emunah in Hashem, that empowered him to attain such an exalted level of ahavas chinam – unadulterated love for his brothers. One who lives with emunah, states the Mashgiach, realizes that everything that happens in this world is directed by Divine Providence, as it says (Chulin 7b), “A person injures his finger below only if it is so declared from on high.”

Furthermore, elucidates HaRav Levenstein, the words sinas chinam, are usually understood in the context of one having baseless hatred for his friend because his friend wronged him. In fact, says the Mashgiach, the hatred is baseless because it is not his friend who wronged him at all. It had already been decreed in Heaven that this individual should experience this distress. His friend is merely the messenger who actualizes the decree, and he has his own Heavenly reckoning that has to be set straight.

Our sages point out that at times a person may claim that he has forgiven the other party, but in truth, deep down, he still nurses a grudge. The Ohr HaChaim asserts that Yosef bore no ill will towards his brothers and wholeheartedly forgave them.

News spread throughout the town that someone had reported the family of R’ Yisroel Hager, the great Chassidic Rebbe of Vishnitz (1860-1936), because his son had managed to evade conscription into the Romanian army. There were rumors that a known troublemaker in town had been the informant, and sure enough the son of the Vishnitzer Rebbe was drafted a few days later.

The townspeople were therefore very surprised when the suspected informant showed up a few weeks later to an event hosted by the Vishnitzer Rebbe. All the chassidim stood quietly, waiting to hear the Rebbe reproach this reprehensible individual. To their utter shock, the Rebbe gestured to the individual to come over to his table. He seated him at his side, poured him a cup of wine and treated him with great respect.

After he left, the chassidim questioned the Rebbe. “How could you possibly entertain the likes of such an individual?”

“How do you know he is the informant?” asked the Rebbe.

“Because that’s what people say,” said his chassidim.

“What people say does not make it fact,” contended the Rebbe. “How are we permitted to accept lashon hara? We would need a bais din of three judges and two valid, legitimate witnesses as outlined in the Choshen Mishpat to rule on the matter before such a conclusion could be drawn. But to censure someone on the basis of conjecture is forbidden.”

The Zohar relates a fascinating incident. As R’ Abba was on the road, he observed a person who was miraculously saved from death twice. The individual himself, though, was totally unaware of his miraculous escape from death.

R’ Abba was amazed. He knew that the occurrence of two consecutive miracles was a clear-cut indication that the individual who had been saved had great merit. R’ Abba approached the man and engaged him in conversation and asked him to describe to him all his interactions during the day. Yet, R’ Abba did not hear him recount any particularly praiseworthy behavior that would evoke such miracles.

Then the man noted offhandedly that if someone insulted him during the day, he immediately forgave the person. Not only did he not bear a grudge against him, but he made an extra effort to go out of his way to demonstrate his ahavas yisroel for the person who had disparaged him.

When R’ Abba heard this he said “I have heard enough.” He knew that it was this extraordinary middah (characteristic) of forgiving someone who had wronged him, and even being kind to that person, that had saved this individual’s life.

The Ramak (R’ Moshe ben Yaakov Cordovero, author of Tomer Devorah) comments that there are those who practice various forms of asceticism and fasting in order to gain atonement for their sins. Yet, he states, there is, in fact, no greater form of atonement for one’s sins than not responding to the person who shames him or insults him.

We often see people who are unusually successful in life, and who are beloved by all. Yet it is difficult to grasp the explanation for their achievements. R’ Aharon Taussig suggests that this piece in the holy Zohar provides an answer. Individuals who forgo their honor when they are disrespected or snubbed, and go out of their way to be gracious to the offender, merit great success and blessing.

The Talmud (Yoma 23a) teaches, “Those who are insulted but do not insult others, who hear themselves being shamed but do not respond … about them the pasuk says (Shoftim 5:31): They are as the sun when it goes forth with all its power,” because they conquer their innate temperament.

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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.