Stories of Faith by Isaac Shulman


In Parashat VaYeishev, the Torah presents the story of Yosef being sold to Egypt into slavery, and his eventual rise to power as the second-in-command in Egypt. Yosef is continuously tested along his journey, but his response is always the same.

When Yosef works in Potifar’s house, his success leads him to become the head of his master’s affairs. Quite strangely, the Torah says that the servants of the house recognize that Hashem is with Yosef and is enabling him to succeed. How could these polytheistic worshippers possibly see Hashem’s Hand in Yosef’s accomplishments?

Rashi explains that while in Potifar’s house, Yosef would refer to the name of Hashem frequently during conversation. While that may explain why the servants knew that Hashem granted Yosef success, it also raises the question of why Yosef is mentioning Hashem’s name so much? He was just sold by his own brothers to be a slave in a foreign land—how could he still mention Hashem’s Name so regularly after experiencing such troubles? We see, therefore, that Yosef had a deep belief in Hashem, and even when his life seemed troublesome, he put his complete trust and belief in Hashem.

Not only does Yosef refer to Hashem regularly in conversation, but he also puts his belief into action. When, on a daily basis, Potifar’s wife attempts to seduce him to sleep with her, Yosef would constant refuse, proclaiming it to be a sin to Hashem. Once again, Yosef demonstrates this awesome dependency on Hashem, that even when he is in battle with his Yeitzer Hara, he believes in Hashem and uses that belief to conquer his desires.

But Yosef accomplishments do not stop there. When, in the end of the Parasha, he is sent to jail, he rises to the post of watchman of the jail, and even manages to interpret the dreams of the butler and the baker. However, he does not credit himself with the interpretations, rather says that Hashem is in control of explaining dreams: “HaLo LeiLokim Pitronim” (40:8). Yosef then interprets their dreams correctly, but the Torah never mentions Hashem telling Yosef what the dreams meant! Yosef once again completely believes in Hashem and even when he is in jail without Hashem’s help, he credits Hashem with everything good that he can do.

This belief in Hashem is what causes us to refer to Yosef as “Yosef HaTzaddik.” It is an extremely important message that Yosef and the Torah try to convey to us in this Parasha and elsewhere. Repeatedly in the torah, Hashem says that we must believe in Him. Twice in the Torah we hear, at the opening of the Aseret HaDibrot (the Ten Commandments), “Anochi Hashem Elokecha.” Elsewhere, Hashem asks nothing but “LiYirah Et Hashem Elokecha” (Devarim 10:12). It is easy to recognize Hashem in the good things in one’s life, but, like Yosef, a person must also recognize Hashem’s hand in his misfortunes.

It is fitting, therefore, that we read the story of Yosef coinciding with, or directly proceeding the celebration of Chanukah. What is the essence of the celebration of Chanukah? The reason for the holiday is that the Chashmonaim were victorious over the Syrian-Greeks who were trying to convert the Jews. The Chashmoanim realized that they must have complete faith in Hashem, and despite their minority of people as compared to the massive Syrian-Greek army, they fully believed that they could win the war. Additionally, when they returned to the Beit HaMikdash, they found but a single container of oil, yet they believed that Hashem would help them and they lit it. They put their belief in Hashem even when it seemed that all was lost, and Hashem allowed them to win.

Just like the Chasmonaim took the message of Yosef and the Torah to heart, we must completely believe in Hashem. Although we continue to face many worries on both an individual level and as a nation, we must throw ourselves behind Hashem and completely trust in Him. Only in that way, can we hope to succeed as Yosef and the Chashonaim did.

Why is Chanukah called Chanukah? by Yonah Rossman

Scents of Appreciation by Yoni Levine