Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks

(Torah Portion Vayigash) Not Alone!

“A person is influenced by the environment that surrounds him.” This adage applies both when one is surrounded with good energy and when he is in a bad atmosphere.

When we focus on the challenging experiences Yosef encountered while he was alone in the decadent, selfish and immoral Egyptian surroundings, we wonder what kept him righteous and prevented him from becoming influenced by them.

Yosef, Yaacov’s son from his beloved wife Rachel, was the apple of his father’s eye. Additionally, Yaacov had an intuition that Yosef would encounter challenges comparable to those that he himself experienced. Therefore, he spent extra time with Yosef, providing him with the tools necessary to cope. This education and special attention paid off and remained with Yosef.

The Torah relates a dramatic incident where Yosef, on the verge of being seduced by his master’s wife, put a stop to it and ran out.

What gave Yosef the ability to withstand such temptation? Our Sages tell us that he saw an image of his father in one of the windows and it reminded him of his sacred mission.

Yosef, living with his father’s teachings and image, was saved and it continually guided him away from the trap of sin and the egotistic conduct of the Egyptians.

After Yosef fled from his masters’ wife’s set up, she accused him of seducing her. Since Yosef was not punished by death, but rather was imprisoned, we see that her accusations were not believed.

How was Yosef vindicated? One of the fascinating Medrashim tells us that there was an infant in the room where the incident took place and when the authorities came to investigate, the infant began to talk and described how the master’s wife instigated the encounter and how no relationship took place!

Furthermore, his master’s wife brought forth a specimen to support her claim, but the Egyptian priests tested it and concluded that it was bogus.

Yosef eventually became viceroy over Egypt and was the mastermind behind the food stockpile that fed Egypt during an intense famine. The Torah relates that the Egyptian’s eventually sold their property to the government for food and a tax was levied on the people. However, the priests were exempt from the tax and retained their property. The reason for this was because Yosef was ever so grateful and thankful for their honest report that he repaid them by exempting them from taxes.

When Yosef finally revealed himself to his brothers they realized the terrible mistake they made in selling him and accusing him of fabricating dreams of dominion over them. Yosef, the prince of a man, brushed off all the grudges and issues he could have harbored against them by stating, “It was all orchestrated by G-d that I should be in the capacity of sustaining you.”

The Torah relates that when Yaacov came to Egypt to reunite with Yosef, he brought his father in for an audience with Pharoh. Yaacov gave Pharoh a blessing that the Nile should rise and irrigate the land. Thus, with Yaacov’s arrival and blessing, the famine stopped five years earlier than the seven years that had been originally forecast.

Interestingly, Pharoh used Yaacov’s blessing of the Nile rising for his own grandeur. He proclaimed himself a deity, by demonstrating that the waters rose towards him.

The Egyptians were ungrateful towards Yosef’s masterful efforts in preserving Egypt, for they enslaved the Jews – Yosef’s family – for a 210 year period.

Yes, one can very well be influenced by a negative environment which he enters willingly. However, when one finds himself in a negative environment and follows Yosef’s direction of living with the ethical and moral lessons taught to him from our holy Torah, one then has the tools and ability to succeed to elevate himself to a higher standard and thus protect himself from negative and spiritually destructive forces.

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family