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Vertluch: Parshas Vayeishev

In this weeks parsha we find an incident in which Yosef is nearly transgresses an aveira with the wife of Potifar. The woman tried every day to try and convince Yosef to commit an aveira and nearly got him. Rashi quotes the gemara in Sota (36B) that explains where Yosef got the strength to overcome this test. The gemarah says that he merited the appearance of his father’s image before him saying: ‘Yosef! Your brothers’ names are destined to be inscribed upon the stones of the Kohen Gadol’s Choshen and yours is to be among them. Do you want your name to be erased ‘? This Chazal seems most difficult to understand in light of the following

The gemara (Yoma 35b) relates that on the ultimate Yom Hadin, Yosef Ha’tzaddik will be the root cause behind the indictment of the wicked, Yosef Michayev es Horishoim. When questioned by the Beis Din shel ma’ala as to why they didn’t learn Torah the rasha will reply, “It is not my fault! Because of my beautiful and handsome features, I could not withstand the worldly temptations presented by the Yetzer Hora”. The heavenly court will respond; “Were you more handsome than Yosef, who amid a den of evil was able to subdue and eventually triumph over his Yetzer Harah?”

It would seem then that to indict the rasha for his failure to measure up to Yosef Ha’tzaddik, is unjust. Can he not easily contest, that had he received the same timely aid of the image of his fathers’ encouragement, that he too would have been able to overcome the Yetzer Hara?

Perhaps we can answer this with the beautiful words of Rabeinu Yonah. Rabeinu Yonah begins his sefer Sha’arei Avodah in the following manner: “We as the Am Hanivchar must begin by appreciating the inherent value of our lineage. We must understand and recognize our virtues and the virtues of our ancestors, their greatness, and their esteem in the eyes of our Creator. By securing these views in our hearts, and ingraining them deeply into our very essence, we can overcome the luring and enticing temptations that constantly bid to pry us from our path in life. By fully comprehending our elite status, and the extent of the revered esteem in which our ancestors are perceived in our eyes and in the eyes of the One Above, the thought of rebelling against our Master’s will, becomes unfathomable”.

With the words of Rabeinu Yona’s, the previously mentioned Chazal can perhaps be understood. One may suggest that the assistance Yosef received of his fathers’ image appearing stemmed from his understanding of the lofty legacy he carried. Yosef lived his entire life trying to live up to his fathers and grandfathers expectations. He understood his responsibility to live up to his great families’ name. Wherever he went and whatever he did he always carried that pride of being the son of Yaakov. This resulted in the appearance of his father’s image at a most crucial time. Had the rasha appreciated and cherished his heritage as Yosef did, had he but focused on his sacred history and the sacrifices of our forefathers, then he too would have merited the assistance needed to succeed in the battle against Yetzer Hara.

We too are able and required to create that image in our minds. We have to remember where we come from and what we represent.


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