Torah thought forFriday 13 Tevet 5783 January 6 2023

Parashat Vayechi

A Ma’amar From HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, Head of Halachah Yomit
(Translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Yoseph’s Belief in Hashem’s Oversight of Him, Gave Him The Strength to Forgive His Brothers

It states  in the Parashah, “After he buried his father, Yoseph returned to Egypt along with his brothers and all those who went with him to his father’s burial. Yoseph’s brothers began to realise [the implications] of their father’s death. ‘What if Yoseph is still holding a grudge against us?’ they said. ‘He is likely to pay us back for all the evil we did him.’ They instructed [messengers] to tell Yoseph: ‘Before he died, your father gave us final instructions. He said, ‘This is what you must say to Yoseph: Forgive the spiteful deed and the sin your brothers committed when they did evil to you.’ Now forgive the spiteful deed that [we], the servants of your father’s G-d, have done.’ As the messengers spoke to him, Yoseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves at his feet. ‘Here!’ they said, ‘We are your slaves!’ ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Yoseph said to them. ‘Shall I then take Hashem’s place? You might have meant to do me harm, [but] Hashem made it come out good. [He made] it come out as it actually did, where the life of a great nation has been preserved. Now don’t worry. I will fully provide for you and your children.’ He therefore comforted them and tried to make up” (Bereishit 50:14-21).

Our chachamim explain that when Yoseph and his brothers returned from Yaakov Avinu’s funeral, Yoseph saw the pit, which decades earlier his brothers had thrown him into. He stood and made the berachah “Baruch is He who made a miracle for me in this place!” The brothers saw that Yoseph remembered all too well what they had done to him. That they had cast him into the pit and that after their father’s passing Yoseph refused to break bread with them, rather he sat them separately. Therefore they had a sneaky feeling in their hearts lest Yoseph cause them great harm as they had done to him. Therefore they altered the truth and they told Yoseph as if their father had requested that he forgive them. Moreover, they too begged him to forgive them and they added and said, “Do this for father’s honour whom you so loved!”

Yoseph not only didn’t reply as he should have done, with harsh words for all the travails that happened to him because of what they had done, but on the contrary, he cried, he gave them complete forgiveness and spoke with them words of comfort. He even said that everything that occurred wasn’t their fault directly, because Hashem intended it, in order to enable Yoseph to enter royalty through which he merited to preserve the life of a great nation!

We must consider, from where did Yoseph muster the inner strength for this, that despite all that happened to him, a bitter and harsh life, he continued so much with his belief in Hashem Yitbarach’s oversight, with complete belief, to the extent that he believed that everything that happened to him wasn’t caused by his brothers’ actions but was from Hashem from Heaven?

We may explain this as follows:

When Yaakov heard that Yoseph his son was alive and that he was still studying Torah in Egypt, it states, “The spirit of their father Yaakov was revived. ‘It’s too much!’ said Yisrael. ‘My son Yoseph is still alive!’” (Bereishit 45:27-28). Our chachamim explained, ‘My son Yoseph is still alive!’, “still” (lit. great) Yoseph’s strength is greater than mine! That despite all his tribulations he still remains in his righteousness, more than me!

In the work “Torat Hessed” he quotes an explanation from the work “Matnot Kehunah”. What was Yaakov’s intention when he said that Yoseph stood in his righteousness more than me? All the years that Yaakov was afflicted with hardships, that his dear son disappeared from him, Yaakov considered himself in a situation of Hashem Yitbarach’s “Hester Panim” (lit. Hidden Face) - eluding him. Meaning that for him alone at that time, that Hashem Yitbarach treated him in a state of a “Hidden Face”, like we feel in our exile. This was a missing feature in Yaakov’s eyes. Whereas Yoseph, despite all his troubles, continuously believed that every aspect was literally within Hashem’s oversight, with His “Giluy Panim” (lit. “Revealed Face”) - His oversight of him. Even when he couldn’t fathom why such strange things transpired, he was certain and convinced that everything was for the good, and all was from Hashem!

This belief accompanied Yoseph in all his travails; when he was sold, in Potiphar’s home and afterwards in the dungeon, and so on.

So when the brothers sought Yoseph’s forgiveness, it was easy for him to forgive them for his belief was completely flawless in Hashem. He had no doubt that Hashem’s oversight was continuous and in the end the good will come. Therefore also the evils actions of his brother’s where at the end of the day for his good and the good of the whole world!

This fundamental belief is what so inspired Yaakov Avinu! This is the salient point that was steadfast for Yoseph at the moment that he had to forgive his brothers!

A person who lives with such belief, will not come to jealousy nor hatred and it will be easy for him to forgive for slights against his honour, and to even speak good about his adversaries. We find this with Yoseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menasheh, that everyone is accustomed to bless their sons, “May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menasheh” (Bereishit 48:20), why is this? Because even when Yaakov proceeded to bless one ahead of the other [i.e. Ephraim the younger ahead of Menasheh the elder], there was no jealousy between them. On the contrary, it is explained in the Midrash that Menasheh would financially support Ephraim who continuously studied Torah. Love and brotherhood rested with them despite there being potential grounds for strife and to be jealous of one another. They learnt this from their father Yoseph HaTzaddik, who always accepted with complete belief everything that transpired!

We will relate about Maran HaSabba zt”l, that it was known that throughout his life he endured being hunted by different people, and yet he always forgave. It happened with one rav, who was a chacham and kabbalist, and during Maran zt”l younger days, that rav alienated him and would speak and conspire against him. That rav ran an orphanage in Yerushalayim and when Maran was appointed as the Rishon LeTziyon he was also appointed the patron of this orphanage. That rav was convinced that Maran will now retaliate as he so deserves and will ensure that he is fired from his post. But to his surprise when he submitted applications to the government about his association’s work, Maran signed all the forms and he likewise assisted in many ways to the successful running of the organisation. After some time when Maran was walking in the street, this rav stood before him and said, “Chacham Ovadia, I must ask for your forgiveness for everything that I have done. I now know that everything that you did was for Heaven’s sake!” Maran immediately replied to him, “I forgive you. And you should know that all that time that you engaged against me in strife [instead] I continued to serve Hashem and was immersed in Torah-study! So from here on be careful!”

And so we have witnessed with all the great people who were very willing to forgive those who offended them. This was because they knew that everything that occurred was eventually for the best. They further fathomed that all aspects of this world, the strifes and disputes, are vacuous. For the main purpose of life is complete service of Hashem, to love people and draw them close to the Torah.

Shabbat Shalom!