Mussar on Mussar by Jesse Friedman


This week’s Parsha teaches us an important lesson about what it takes to be a Jewish leader.  The Parsha begins with the story of Yosef and his brothers.  The Torah records how he uses his dream to rebuke his brothers.  As a result, his brothers become angry with him.  Still, Yosef is firm in his attempt to provide Chizuk.  He later tells his second dream to his brothers.  Once again, his brothers get angry.  However, their resentment is rationalized in this case because Yosef’s dream suggests that he is greater than his parents.  Because of Kibbud Av VaEim, the brothers get mad at Yosef.  In reality, Yosef erred in his attempt to influence his brothers.

What exactly is the purpose of this story and the brothers’ fulfillment of Kibbud Av?  Perhaps we learn from here how to deal with a familiar situation.  Yosef is a typical righteous Jew, trying to inspire those around him.  He tries once and people get mad at him.  He then tries again, but this time he is not careful with his choice of words, so he ends up in trouble.  Pirkei Avot warns that a Talmid Chacham must be careful with what he says; even if he says nothing wrong, he must make sure that his words cannot be improperly interpreted. 

When Yosef is let out of prison and is the viceroy of Egypt, his great leadership skills allow him to run the Egyptian economy for years.  Where did he get these skills?  To find an answer, we must analyze the differences in his actions between when he was young and when he was in power.  Doing so reveals a very significant difference.  While still with his brothers, he goes out to share the words of the Nevuah he receives from Hashem, but when he is the viceroy, he keeps the Torah to himself except when he is asked for it.

The Vilna Gaon gave a Mashal to show when people should reach out to others.  The person who will teach others is like a big jug of water surrounded by little cups.  If he wants to fill all the cups at the same time, he must make sure that the pitcher is topped off.  Only when one is filled up with Torah can he try to share his words of Torah with everyone else.  Yosef first had to be an absolute Tzaddik before sharing his wisdom with others.  He reached this level only later in his life.  Therefore, he was only a successful leader when he was older.

People frequently try to inspire others, but one must be careful to see how full of Torah his pitcher of Torah really is before he tries to affect others.  We must learn from Yosef the proper time and circumstances for giving advice to benefit others. 

Keeping the Miracles in Sight by Zev Kahane

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