Parshat Vayeishev 5782: Yosef and Mrs. Potiphar’s Attempts at Seduction

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayeishev is being sponsored by Moshe and Lauren Pitzele and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in in honor of their son Yosef Shalom’s ninth birthday on 25 Kislev, the first night of Chanukah.. To the Pitzele family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayeishev 5782: Yosef and Mrs. Potiphar’s Attempts at Seduction

by Moshe Burt

We open our Parshat HaShavua Vayeishev by laying the foundation for Yosef’s episode with Mrs.. Potiphar by way of thoughts from Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, the Sochaczever Rebbe, as well as his citings from the Maggid of Koznitz and the Zohar HaKadosh, in his sefer, “Shem Mishmuel,” as rendered to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski (pages 64-65):

An average person [is] one who is subject to the vicissitudes of life. The great Mggid of Koznitz explains the… two distinct stages of spiritual development. Firstly, one has to get up the mountain, as it were, to be with Hashem. This in itself is hard enough, but to remain with Hashem, maintaining one’s level of development on a long-term basis, is greater still. …Man is a creature of change. Obviously, we change physically… But we even change emotionally and spiritually — our moods differ from day to day; our level of concentration alters, among other factors. This means that it is very hard to remain spiritually constant over an extended period. We are, by nature changing on a daily basis.

But the great Tzaddik, the pinnacle of humanity, a person whose every move, word and thought are subject to the dictates of his highly developed soul can overcome these natural tendencies and remain in “His holy place.” The Zohar HaKadosh indicates that when a person performs all of his actions with every ounce of his strength, it is a manifestation of his soul. This means that if one is able (as in the case of a Tzaddik) to muster one’s entire enthusiasm for a Mitzvah and perform it with all of one’s strength, one’s soul is awakened, allowing it to connect directly with that action.

This is a crucial ramification. The soul is eternal, emanating from the higher worlds, and hence unchanging.

Yosef was the paradigm of this concept. In fact, in mystical thought, someone who achieves the level of Yosef is called “Chai,” truly alive. …This means that Yosef lived his life on the cutting edge of spirituality, not only reaching the mountain of Hashem, but able to remain in His holy place as well.

So it was that Yosef remained in Hashem’s holy place while in the house of Potiphar in Mitzrayim, despite the constant advances and attempts at seduction made by the wife of Pontiphar. Torah relates:

“Now Yosef was handsome of form and… of appearance. And it was after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Yosef and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused; he said to his master’s wife, ‘Look — my master does not know anything that is with me in the house, and all that he has placed in my custody. …He has denied me nothing but you, since you are his wife; how then can I perpetuate this great evil; I will have sinned against Hashem.’ And so it was — just as she coaxed Yosef day after day, so he would not listen to her to lie beside her, to be with her.” Sefer Breish’t, Perek 39, posukim 6 – 11 as rendered to English in the Saperstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s commentary, pages 436-438)

Six years ago Rabbi Aba Wagensberg made a video D’var Torah discussing Yosef’s rejection of Potiphar’s wife’s advances. Rabbi Wagensberg speaks of the word “Vayimaw’ein” = “he refused.” [1] Rabbi Wagensberg explained that Yosef refused Pontiphar’s wife in no uncertain terms which is emphasized in the elongated reading [the term known as a shalshelos; the cantillation above “Vayimaw’ein.” ] of word “Vayimaw’ein.”

Rabbi Wagensberg notes that some commentators consider Yosef as a fourth Patriarch by virtue of his teaching us about inner strength.

Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer, “Lilmod U’lamed” writes that no matter what Mrs. Potiphar threatened Yosef with, he adamantly refused and stated that Hashem would save him from whatever she threatened. Rabbi Katz then writes (page 50):

One time when he [Yosef] seemed to weaken, the vision of Yaakov, his father, came to him and this inspired him to resist all temptations.

Like Yosef, we must resist all evil influences and impulses. When we sense that we are losing our self-control, we should bear in mind the story of Yosef. Just as Yosef was rescued from temptation by retaining the image of Yaakov, so too, should we keep the image of someone important in mind during trying moments. In this way, our defenses against immorality will remain high. (Rabbi Katz citing Tractate Yoma 35b)

This vort speaks about the immorality of seduction and the virtue of its rejection. But there are multitudes of seductions and evil influences beyond that of the opposite gender. Among these seductions and evil influences are those that place the nation of Israel in grave danger if weak leaders succumb to them. A lesson that Israel’s governmental political leaders fail to learn, again, again and again..

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

[Rabbi Wagensberg used the term “Vayivaw’ein” in the video, an inadvertent misprounciation for those who clicked on the link and listened to his vort.]
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.