Sunday, December 20, 2015

504 - Vayeishev

Yosef, a young lad of seventeen, was sold into slavery in Egypt, the most depraved society of the time, and shortly after his arrival he was tested. His master's wife was bent on seducing him to sin with her, and she even began torturing him to this end. Despite her attempts day in and day out, week after week and month after month, Yosef emerged from the lion's den as righteous as he entered. The Torah relates how Yosef was then thrown into a dungeon and ultimately ended up as the viceroy to the king and the second most powerful person in the world.
Chazal tell us (Bereishis Rabba 90:3) that all the greatness that Yosef attained, really originated from Yosef himself. In other words, his behavior generated a parallel reward. Yosef ensured that his mouth would not kiss in sin, and in turn Pharaoh declared "By the word of yourmouth shall all my people be sustained." His body which did not sin was eventually garbed in royal clothes. His neck which did not bend to commit a sin was adorned with a golden necklace and his hand which did not transgress was bejeweled with Pharaoh's ring.
Rav Wolbe comments (Shiurei Chumash) that it is amazing to see how Hashgacha Pratis responds and relates precisely to each and every detail. This idea also apparent earlier in the parsha when Yosef was sold by his brothers to a group of Arab wayfarers. The Torah makes a point of mentioning the merchandise carried by the camels in the Arab caravan: "Their camels, bearing spices, balsam and lotus, were on their way to bring them down to Egypt." Rashi explains that although Arabs generally carry foul smelling cargo, Hashem orchestrated that the caravan which carried Yosef would have good smelling spices so that he not suffer from a foul odor on his way down toMitzrayim. Even the smells we smell are all ordained by Heaven!
The above Chazal gives us much food for thought and things to work on. Firstly, it is clear that every action and nuance has the ability to generate great results. This knowledge brings with it not only great responsibility but also tremendous opportunity. We should never belittle even the smallest positive deeds because they have the ability to bring much blessing in their wake.
The story is told about the wife of the Vilna Gaon who made a pact with a friend that whoever passes away first will come to the other one in a dream and inform them about what awaits her in the World to Come. The friend passed away first and after a few days she appeared to Vilna Gaon's wife in a dream. "I cannot reveal to you what awaits you" she said, "but I can tell you that for even the smallest mitzvah there is great reward. Do you remember how we collected money for tzedakah and you pointed to a woman for whom we were looking? Well, in Heaven you were given much greater reward for the mitzvah than I was, because of the added effort involved in picking up your hand to point for the sake of tzedakah!"
Additionally, Chazal are conveying to us that all that occurs to a person really originates from the person himself. No matter what happens to a person, the first place for him to turn is inward to discover why he was deserving of that which occurred. Every piece of jewelry worn by Yosef can be traced back to his behavior in his master's house. Indeed, the search for the treasure chest of answers should begin in one's own backyard!

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