The Daily Portion, Vayeishev
When our children think of us, what do they see?

What happens to what we teach them, once we are not here. Joseph gives the answer.

Sivan Rahav-Meir ,

Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir
Eyal ben Ayish

Part I: Lasting educational messages

Every parent knows this challenging truth: We will not always be beside our children to give them a hand. We will not always be there to say "permitted" or "forbidden."

True education lies not in scolding "nu-nu-nu" but in our influence over our children throughout the years. Ultimately, we need to let go, to trust and allow them to progress on their own.

In this week's Torah portion, we see the incredible fortitude Yosef (Joseph) learned from his parents. In the meeting with Potiphar's wife, Yosef had many excuses to justify sin – his brothers threw him into a pit, he was living in Egyptian society, and who knew if he would ever return home.

So why does Yosef choose correctly? The answer of our sages is enormously powerful: *"At that moment, the image of his father Ya'akov appeared to him."* And in another place, our sages added: "And he also saw the image of Rachel his mother."

In a moment of crisis and doubt, Yosef is reminded of his father and mother, of their values, their home, of the moral compass that they represent. Education is tested not when parents are there but when they are not, yet their children see their image, are reminded of their character, and act accordingly.

Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains this under the heading of "Personal Example." He writes as follows: "Aggressive parents cannot succeed in teaching patience, angry parents cannot teach moderation, vulgar parents are incapable of teaching manners, and deceitful parents cannot teach wholesomeness and honesty. All the speeches in the world do not make an impression on children as much as the living example that they see in their parents and teachers."

Part II: Our outlook on life is another thing we give our children

Time Magazine published an end-of-the-year cover with a red X over the number 2020 and the following message printed underneath: "2020: THE WORST YEAR EVER".

This is of course a wild exaggeration. Only four times in the past has the magazine put an X on its cover: when Hitler died, when Saddam Hussein died, and when the terrorists Al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were killed. Just for comparison, more than 60 million people were killed in World War II. Yet Time Magazine did not put an X over any of those years, but marked Hitler's death with an X. In the past, the world still knew who the enemy was and how to struggle against him. Today, unfortunately, part of the media has lost the capacity to recognize an enemy and by failing to do so, lowers our spirits.

The perspective in this week's Torah portion is completely different. Yosef (Joseph) appears as a major historical figure on the world stage despite his difficult past. He has plenty of reasons and excuses to be bitter and disappointed and angry. As we wrote, he is transformed from a beloved son to a hated brother who is thrown into a pit, sold to a passing caravan, taken to Egypt, and sent to prison. But Yosef finds meaning and significance in each of these events, reaches out to help others all along the way, and does not put an X over anything that happens to him.

At the end of his journey, when he reunites with his brothers, he addresses them with his positive message: *"For it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you."* In the face of every hardship and challenge, Yosef always remembered that G-d had sent him on a special mission – to increase goodness and preserve life.

This perspective will allow us to put an X over Time Magazine's X and see 2020 as not only about loss, but also about compassionate caring that helps to preserve life.

• Translation by Yehoshua Siskin