January 1, 2021 12:48 am at 12:48 am #1934385abukspanParticipant
Vayechi 2 — Counting Our Blessings:
בן פרת יוסף בן פרת עלי עין בנות צעדה עלי שור: וימררהו ורבו וישטמהו בעלי חצים: ותשב באיתן קשתו ויפזו זרעי ידיו מידי אביר יעקב משם רעה אבן ישראל
A charming son is Yosef, a son charming to the eye; girls stepped up to gaze. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; archers despised him. But his bow was strongly established, and his arms were gilded from the hands of the Mighty One of Yaakov; from there he sustained the rock of Israel (Bereishis 49:22–24).
Rashi explains the words “Banos tza’adah alei shur,” to mean that the girls of Egypt would step up on the wall to gaze upon his beauty; each one strode to a place from which she could catch a glimpse of him. In the next pasuk, Rashi says that the words “Vayemararuhu varobu” refer to the shevatim who heaped bitterness upon Yosef and became his antagonists. In the third pasuk of Yosef’s blessing, Rashi tells us that “Vayafozu zero’ei yadav” is referring to the placing of the signet ring on Yosef’s hand. The word even, stone, later on in the pasuk in the phrase “even Yisrael,” is an expression of royalty.
Why did Yaakov mention that Yosef was exceedingly good-looking, with all the Egyptian girls clamoring to see him, and also that his brothers had been jealous of him and were his antagonists? How does this fit into the nature of a berachah? It seems to be dredging up old history, which may only inflame the brothers’ wrath; alternatively, it is discussing the issue of attracting the opposite gender, which would seem to have no place in our Torah society and certainly doesn’t belong in a blessing.
Two sefarim explain how each of the first two pesukim quoted (22 and 23) can be considered blessings.
Pasuk 22, which illustrates the handsome and captivating appearance of Yosef and how sought after he was, speaks to the incomparable temptation that he faced and managed to overcome.
The Gemara (Yoma 35b) writes that on the day of judgment, the poor, the wealthy, and the wicked (those who gave into temptation) will all argue for leniency for not having given time to Torah study. Their claim for clemency will be rebuffed due to the examples set by Hillel, Rabbi Elazar ben Charsum, and Yosef. The Gemara details how these three people were the ultimate examples of the poor, the wealthy, and the tempted, and they still dedicated their time to Torah, and in the case of Yosef, also overcame daily temptation.
To the wicked person they would say, “Why have you not occupied yourself with the Torah?” If he said, “I was beautiful and upset by passion,” they would say to him, “Were you more beautiful than Yosef?” It was told of Yosef that every day the wife of Potiphar endeavored to entice him with words. The garments she put on for him in the morning, she did not wear in the evening; those she had put on in the evening, she did not wear in the morning. She said to him, “Yield to me!” He said, “No.” She said, “I shall have you imprisoned.” He said, “Hashem releases the bound.” She said, “I shall bend your proud stature.” He replied, “Hashem raises those who are bowed down.” She said, “I shall blind your eyes.” He replied, “Hashem opens the eyes of the blind.” She offered him a thousand talents of silver to make him yield to her, to lie with her, to be near her, but he would not listen to her — not to lie with her in This World, and not to be with her in the World to Come.
Thus, the example of Hillel condemns the poor, the example of Rabbi Elazar ben Charsum condemns the rich, and Yosef condemns the wicked.
The Chida points out a hint to the three people who will be used to rebuff our excuses. It says in Mishlei (19:21), “Rabbos machshavos be’leiv ish v’atzas Hashem hi sakum — Many designs are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of Hashem, only it will prevail.” According to the Chida, within the heart of man there are many plans to excuse himself from judgment. But the counsel of Hashem, היא תקום. What prevails is היא, which is an acronym for הלל, יוסף, אלעזר, the three people who obligate those people with such plans. That prevails, not the plans of man.
Rav Aryeh Leib Baron, in Mesamchei Lev, explains that this was the blessing to Yosef. Yaakov, his father, was putting words to the legacy that Yosef would bequeath his children. Just as we say that the ayin hara, the evil eye, has no power over the sons of Yosef (Sotah 36b, Bava Metzia 84a), perhaps we can say that they can draw on the koach of Yosef to overpower their inclinations under extreme circumstances. As hard as it was, he was able to resist. His children can draw on his ability to face temptation and overcome. Awareness of this latent gift is truly a worthwhile blessing.
Pasuk 23, which speaks of the bitterness with which his brothers fought with him, teaches us the hidden blessing that apparent misfortune brings, and the value of not kicking aside what seems to be ill fate.
Rav Moshe Mordechai Karp, in Vayavinu BaMikra, says that the pasuk that describes his brothers’ mistreatment is connected to — and the very reason for — the conclusion of the next verse, which describes Yosef’s eventual rise to royalty. According to Rav Karp, the word mi’sham, from there, refers back to pasuk 23. From there — from the trouble his brothers gave and his acceptance of what seemed to be his fate — he was worthy of becoming even Yisrael, the ruler over Yisrael.
This is the lesson that Yaakov wanted to impart. One should not reject suffering or persecution, because it is through this that one attains greatness in Olam HaZeh, and certainly in Olam HaBa. Learning the truth of this lesson is the greatest of blessings.
So far, we’ve explained these two blessings individually. Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Mir in Brooklyn, has been quoted as giving another interpretation, which touches on an issue that all of us must be aware of. By bringing these two blessings together — Yosef’s attractiveness and the attention he was given (pasuk 22), and his brothers’ bitter quarrel with him (pasuk 23) — Yaakov was giving the greatest testament to Yosef`s moral strength, while placing upon us the gravest of responsibilities: the task of giving our children and students a feeling of being loved and accepted.
Everyone craves and needs acceptance and feelings of appreciation. If we don’t find approval at home or among our co-religionists, our need for acceptance may take us to unwholesome venues with detrimental values. Stories of an otherwise good kid getting caught up with a bad element are legion. Simply being excluded by the in-crowd can lead a person to find acceptance and meet his emotional needs in inappropriate ways.
Yosef was courted by the girls of Egypt. They were literally climbing the walls to get a look at him. He was loved and accepted, admired and appreciated. No rock star ever received the same adulation as Yosef. They welcomed him with open arms and hands, even throwing their jewelry his way.
At the other extreme, we have his rejection at the hands of his very own flesh and blood, who mocked him and his dreams. They harbored feelings of hate and jealousy and acted upon those feelings.
This, now, is the greatness of Yosef and the message his father wanted to impart.
He was handsome and idolized; his brothers were at war with him. Typical response: “They hate me? I’ll make new friends! I’m not accepted? I’ll escape the pain of rejection by finding people who appreciate me.”
But that was not Yosef. Although all alone, he still kept the trust of his father.
We need to help our children avoid these pitfalls, by giving them our acceptance, our approval, and our unconditional love.January 1, 2021 11:25 am at 11:25 am #1934465Reb EliezerParticipant
We ask Hashem, don’t bring me to temptation and to shame. We are not Yosef. If You bring me to temptation, You will bring me to shame as I will not be able to pass the test.January 1, 2021 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm #1934483Reb EliezerParticipant
The Chasan Sofer explains the expression as eishes Potifar encouraged Yosef day by day, he did not listen to her. This is a reflection of the yetzer hara, bad inclination, who nudges a person constantly to sin by encourages him with all kinds of justifications, whereas the yetzer tov, good inclination, does not need to nudge as he has good merchandise which speaks for itself. Yosef thought that she had honorable intentions, but then she does not need to talk so much. Maybe, Yaakov Avinu taught Yosef to watch out for this and don’t follow the advice which comes from the yetzer hara which Yosef remembered when the father’s face appeared in front of him.
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