A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayigash

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

Yosef HaTzaddik is portrayed in the Torah as being the provider for his father, his family, his country, and indeed, the entire region around Egypt. During the seven years of famine, all of the neighboring countries had to come to Egypt to purchase food from Yosef’s stores. When his father and brothers came to Egypt, it was Yosef who provided them with all of their needs. Yosef showed a great deal of leadership and strength during this period as he negotiated with the Egyptians and relocated an entire population while managing this enormous distribution program.

One might picture Yosef as a highly disciplined, efficient, driven and very organized person and that is probably correct. Yosef HaTzaddik had been sold into slavery and had risen from rags to riches without anyone giving him a break. He had spurned the advances of Potiphar’s wife and endured imprisonment because of wicked accusations which should have left him very embittered. Yet, we also read about a compassionate and emotional person (Yosef is the Torah personality who is described as crying the most) which he must have been. He treated his brothers with tremendous sensitivity and kindness in spite of all that they had done to him.

It is typical for people who are overachievers to be very demanding of themselves and also of others. It is really rare that someone can be highly disciplined and demanding of one’s self, yet gentle and understanding of other people’s shortcomings and foibles. Yosef HaTzaddik is compared (Devarim 33:17) to the ox which is immensely powerful yet also very patient and gentle. This is because he was this synthesis of calm patience and inner strength.

The truth is that both of these attributes are really one. To be demanding of one’s self yet tolerant of others’ shortcomings are two sides of the same coin. When we withhold judgement and give others the benefit of the doubt, we are also showing strength as the passuk says, “The patient one is better than the champion and one who conquers his spirit is better than the conqueror of a city”(Mishlei 16:32). We should all aspire and work on developing our strength in both our self-control and our acceptance of others.

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