The Mark of a True Tzaddik — Yosef by Avi Shteingart


Of all the brothers’ blessings, Yosef’s is the warmest in terms of affection.  Yaakov reserves his most commendatory blessing for Yosef, the only one who he refers to as “son” twice.  After his life of adversity and suffering, Yosef finally receives due recognition.

Rav Eli Munk explains Yosef’s distinction in the following way: Yehuda was the undisputed leader and would be the king over all the brothers.  He showed leadership qualities and was accepted by all.  Yosef, however, whose spiritual and physical attributes were actually greater than those of Yehuda, always provoked his brothers’ jealousy and hatred.  Consequently, he could not aspire to the position of monarch, even though he was superior to Yehuda.  It was Yosef, not Yehuda, who bore the title “Tzaddik,” the righteous one.  Yaakov conferred this appellation upon Yosef because of the strength of character that Yosef exhibited in his ability to maintain his purity in Egypt despite many temptations.  Egypt was a perverted land, but Yosef was able to withstand the constant flirtations of Potifar’s wife and remain unaffected by the corrupt and immoral environment in which he lived.

The self-control and endurance displayed by Yosef in his constant battle against the ever-declining elements of Egypt was reaffirmed when Yosef’s brothers arrived at his palace.  His brothers had harassed him and sold him into slavery.  The pain that Yosef experienced during this time of separation from his loving father, Rebbe, and mentor, coupled with the constant travails to which he was subjected, would have driven anyone to revenge.  Nevertheless, as viceroy of Egypt, with unlimited power at his fingertips, Yosef forgave the perpetrators.  The ultimate test of his generosity was passed by renouncing the opportunity to display the hatred the brothers truly deserved.  Instead of turning away from his brothers with a grudge, he showed magnificent compassion by welcoming them into his country.

On his deathbed, Yaakov venerated his son who truly understood the meaning of man’s moral mission more than any of his siblings.  This nobility and exceptional altruism merited the honor of being called a Tzaddik.  These situations defined Yosef’s character as supreme.

We must use the difficult situations that life presents as steps towards becoming a Tzaddik.  (Heard from Rabbi Idstein.)


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