The Weekly Sedra – Parshas Vayeishev

The Rebbe says:

1. In this week’s Torah portion the Torah tells us that Yoseph Hatzadik (Joseph the righteous one) was a man who was “Yefas To’ar V’Yefas Mar’eh – handsome of form and handsome of appearance” and he would curl his hair . The Torah continues and tells us that this caused the wife of his master Potiphar to cast her eyes upon him and want to lie with him , and this eventually landed him in jail . However, even while he was in jail Hashem was with him and he was successful in whatever he did .

In short, there are two parts to this story; 1) Yoseph Hatzadik was “Yefas To’ar V’Yefas Mar’eh – handsome of form and handsome of appearance”, and 2) the issue of Potiphar’s wife.

Obviously, since the Torah is an everlasting guide for our lives, and every singe story has a lesson for us to learn from, there are lessons to be learned from each part of the above mentioned narrative.

2. The Rebbe begins analyzing Yoseph Hatzadik and what we can learn from him:

The Torah says that Yoseph Hatzadik’s mother Rochel called him “Yoseph” because “Yoseph Li Ben Acher – May Hashem add on for me another son” . The Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson ) learns from this verse that the service of Yoseph Hatzadik was to turn people who were on the level of “Acher – another (distant)” into a “Ben – a son (close)”. In simple words, Yoseph Hatzadik made Balei Teshuvahs (people who return to be practicing Jews).

Yoseph Hatzadik had the strength to make Balei Teshuvah because he was “Yefas To’ar V’Yefas Mar’eh – handsome of form and handsome of appearance”, which Chassidus explains to mean that Yoseph Hatzadik was perfect in his own observance of the Mitzvos Asay (commandments which we are commanded to do) and the Mitzvos Lo Saseh (things which we are commanded not to do).

The lesson we can learn from this is like the Talmud says, “Do not correct others until you correct yourself” ; if we want to affect other people in a good way we must be high-quality people ourselves. This surely does not mean that we have to wait until we have perfected our every character trait and only then begin trying to help out other Jew’s come closer to their Father in heaven, this only means that we cannot forget about ourselves when we are involved with helping out others and we must keep to a strict regiment of fixing up all our shortcomings slowly but surely.

If someone fails to do this, he will not be the only one missing out; the person he is trying to affect will feel his shortcomings and will not be able accept anything from him thereby missing the opportunity to come closer to his Father in heaven. Therefore we have to focus special energy into becoming “Yefas To’ar V’Yefas Mar’eh – handsome of form and handsome of appearance” according to the way Chassidus explains it (beautiful in his fulfillment of all commandments) so that we can affect other Jews to return to their Father in heaven.

3. The Rebbe now discusses what lesson we can learn from the story about Potiphar’s wife:

Our Sages tell us that Potiphar’s wife wanted to be with Yoseph for the sake of Heaven; she saw that children were supposed to come out of her and Yoseph, she just didn’t know that it was going to be from the union of her daughter and Yoseph (who later became Yoseph’s wife).

We see from this that there can be things which may be the greatest things internally which are however awful bottom line; to be with Yoseph would have been horrible because she was a married woman, however she had the best intentions.

This accords with what the Alter Rebbe (the founder of Chabad Chassidus, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi) explains in Tanya about a Jew who is immersed in his prayers and a non-Jew comes and disturbs him (not necessarily intentionally, he could just be vacuuming the room you are praying in, for example); the Alter Rebbe explains that this should not weaken his Davening (prayer), it should force him to call upon deeper strength to have deeper concentration.

Seemingly this does not make sense; if this is all happening so that the Jew should have more concentration during his prayers, why does it have to come about through a non-Jew bothering his prayers?

The explanation follows that the non-Jew’s source is in Holiness (because every single thing must originally come from Holiness, the source of all life) and it wants to add Holiness in the world, the only thing is that this has to come about through the non-Jew as he in this physical world, a non Holy existence, therefore it comes out in a bad way.

The lesson for us to learn is clear: When we are faced with challenges and obstacles in the way of our service to Hashem, we can handle this in two ways, either we can label it as a true obstacle which totally conceals G-dliness and fight it with all our might, or we can recognize it for what it truly is- a distant outcome of it’s true source in G-dliness, and firmly decide that we will not be bothered by this, which will cause this obstacle to relent and become a part of your mission.

Translated and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume one, second Sicha.

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