Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash
Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash INN:TM

Dedicated in memory of Yaakov Aharonov z"l

Dvar Torah by Barak Stern, former Shaliach in Perth (2020-2021), currently studying Law and Governance in IDC Hertezlia

In our parsha begins the fascinating story of Joseph and his brothers. One of the first psukim (verses) describing the character of Joseph is the following pasuk: "At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper (A boy, Na'ar, in the Hebrew verse) to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father".

Many commentators have discussed the question of why Joseph is referred to here as a "boy," and what the connection is between being a boy and making bad reports abot his brothers. Some understood the term "boy" as a form of critiscim, others interpreted it as praise. Rashi in his commentary describes the character of Yosef and his way of life: "He used to do a boy's deeds; fix his hair, make it look good in his eyes, so that he would look beautiful."

From the beginning reading of the psukim of the parasha we are exposed to a boy who has deep dreams but is a bit disconnected from his surroundings, even to the point that he slanders his brothers. After he dreams a dream he tells his brothers and the obvious happens - they envy and hate him. He then dreams another dream in which his brothers bow down to him, and by sharing that dream as well he only deepens the hatred they feel towards him. From the psukim, we find a young man who may be a very deep person, but he also grossly misunderstands his social standing among his brothers.

Then, Joseph arrives to Egypt and suddenly a new charcter is revealed. Joseph ascends to greatness, is entrusted with the house of Potiphar. Later he will quickly becomes the manager of his prison, and later yet he will be nominated to the viceroy of Egypt. He manages the economy of Egypt, and everything just works out exactly as he wants, as it is written in the pasuk "And when his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD lent success to everything he undertook."

Is this Joseph the immature dreamer we met at the beginning of the parasha? When did he turn into a talented leader with the highest managerial ability? Where is Joseph's turning point?

Rabbi Nehemiah Wilhelm, a Chabad shaliach in Bangkok, says that a few years ago he was approached by an elderly Jew who got involved with the law in a particular matter and was sentenced to a year in a Thai prison, so he told him: And yet I want to tell you something that will surprise you - if I could send everyone I love, to sit in jail for a year, believe me we would have a more perfect world ... I myself came out of there a different person".

There is no doubt that the turning point is when Joseph's brothers catch him and throw him into the pit. His experience in the pit allows Yosef to break out and put into practice his dreams and the abilities he has.

It was probably the hardest moment in his life, but most likely also the moment that changed his life for the better.

Sometimes we only see the difficulty of the present, but we need to remind ourselves that everything is part of a long divine process, and that G-d, in the end, does things in our favor. If so, then wherever we are and whatever difficulty we face can potentially be a turning point for us to grow and even reach greatness.

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