Preparing For The Catastrophe

By Rabbi Nussbaum
December 11, 2020
Kislev 25, 5781
Candlelighting Time 4:17 PM

            The intense interaction between Yosef and his brothers seems quite puzzling if not outright vicious. We are confronted with the twelve sons of Yaakov who are all righteous beyond our perception, yet seemingly involved in an episode that apparently incontrovertibly purports otherwise. However, if we will use the prism of the Midrashim and earlier commentators, we will see the wisdom and iron nerves that were displayed in this narrative.

            The eventual exile of our nation was decreed as per the prophecy that Avrohom received which we discussed in parshas Lech Lecha. However, the process through which the nation would eventually endure that harsh period was not specifically ordained. Furthermore, the tools that we would need to facilitate our survival through that difficult time were also not yet determined. Yosef was the appointed successor of Yaakov as Rashi points out in the beginning of the parsha based upon the Midrashic interpretation that Yosef was to advance his legacy. Yaakov realized this and dressed him in a tunic which presented Yosef with a degree of aristocracy and leadership. He may have erred in this choice as Seforno points out, but nonetheless the veracity of Yosef’s status was irrefutable.  

            S’fas Emes explains that Yosef’s level of righteousness surpassed that of his brothers in the aspect that he abhorred actions that were not based upon the superiority of spirituality. Therefore, Malbim suggests that when his brothers erred, he informed his father not to degrade them, rather that Yaakov should rebuke and instruct them to act appropriately. The dreams which were of prophetic nature, was Yosef’s approach to share with his brothers the profound destiny that they would together experience as a nation. They faltered and misunderstood his intent because they defined the role of the nation’s upcoming exile in different terms. To fathom that we would be able to prevail through exile at the dizzying level of Yosef’s standards was unconceivable to them. S’fas Emes explores that they believed only through a more balanced order could we maintain our connection with Hashem thereby not becoming disheartened and crestfallen through the extreme hardships and misfortunes that we would invariably confront.

            Therefore, the ensuing disagreement was exceedingly far reaching and would impact the future of the nation for all generations. Based upon this consideration, we can clearly appreciate the passion expressed when they deemed Yosef to be a destructive individual. Although we may not grasp their actions with full comprehension, but we do not necessarily possess the perspicacity required to assess the future that was entrusted into the hands of these extraordinary personages that determined the destiny that we are living today. So, although we may perceive their quarrelling as malicious and unwarranted, it is only due to our lack of understanding the essential need to make accurate procedure modifications to assure the continuation of our people throughout the millennia.

            Yosef, of course, proved to be the anchor for our nation and his virtue and morality were born out through the adversities that he himself had to withstand which gave him the certitude to lead us through the Egyptian exile and subsequently through all the exiles that we have endured. Soon we hope and pray that the efforts of all the generations and their struggles will provide us with the wherewithal to great Moshiach in the near future.   


The Chanukah menorah is place ideally outside by the door leading into our homes to ward off the outside influences that they should not penetrate our insular protection offered by observance of the Torah.                        
S’FAS EMES