Joseph, Yosef in Hebrew, was an exalted guest in our succot last week. The Holy Zohar teaches that Yosef earned the esteemed title of Tzaddik because he guarded the Covenant of sexual purity. This is what brought him to kingship over the world.
“Rabbi Shimon said, ‘It was only after Yosef withstood the test of temptation (with Potiphar’s wife) that he was called Tzaddik. Since he guarded the holy Covenant, he was called Tzaddik’” (Zohar, Bereshit 194b).
Day after day, dressed immodestly, the wife of Potiphar would approach the young Hebrew slave and beckon him to her quarters. She would whisper seductive things in his ear. Yosef’s test wasn’t just a onetime thing. She kept after him for months on end, doing everything in her powers to cast her spell over him. On that fateful day when she threw herself at him with all of her charms, she made sure that no one else was in the house.
The only thing standing between Yosef and the forbidden act was his fear of G-d. His father and family were hundreds of miles away, he was in the prime of his strength, she was the most beautiful and seductive woman in Egypt, and still he resisted. The midrash says he saw his father's likeness in the window and that helped him overcome temptation.
In praising Yosef’s achievement, the Zohar emphasizes that guarding the Covenant of holiness in intimate relations as opposed to promiscuity is like observing all of the Torah, “Guarding the Covenant is equal in weight with the whole Torah” (Zohar, Bereshit 197a).
In our time, each of us is tempted every day with the very same test when we sit down at the computer. Thousands of seductive images are just a quick click away. Today, the Internet is Potiphar’s wife.
We who don’t have same exalted the fear of G-d that Yosef had, where will we summon the strength to overcome the temptation? For us, Divine Assistance comes in the form of an anti-p@rn filter. Thank G-d, there are many on the market. Many can be downloaded for free. So grave is the danger of Internet watching that Torah authorities have ruled that Internet surfing without an effective filter is a violation of several Torah commandments, such as:
-“Thou shall not put a stumbling block in front of a blind man.”
-“You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy!”
-“Thou shall not turn astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray.”
-“Therefore shall your camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you.”
-“And you shall guard yourself from every evil thing.”
-“Do not turn astray after their gods!”
-“You shall not walk in the customs of the heathens.”
-“Thou shall not bring an abomination into your home.”
This same strategy is being used by the forces of evil today, via Western permissiveness and immorality which have engulfed the world and entered into Jewish homes everywhere, with the very same goal of defiling the Jewish People, and severing our holy connection to G-d, may the Almighty have mercy.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai teaches that Hashem hates immorality more than any other transgression. Sages of the Kabbalah have long warned that disasters like war, earthquakes, floods, and plagues result from the scourge of wanton disregard of the Covenant of holiness in this most fundamental aspect of life.
And strangely, just as the Internet has spread to every corner of the world, so has Corona. Maybe as we try to rid the earth of Corona, we need to be like Yosef theTzaddik and overcome the temptations of the Internet. In the merit of Yosef, let us all take heed.
Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."