Parshas VaYeishev - Strength in Numbers

By BJLife/Reb Dovid Fink

Posted on 12/07/17

At the end of Parshas Vayeishev, Yoseph is languishing in jail when a ray of hope seems to come his way.  Yoseph has proven to be an effective, even prophetic dream interpreter.  His talent has been noticed by the Sar Hamashkim, chief butler to Pharaoh himself.  As the Sar Hamashkim is released from prison for an earlier infraction, Yoseph urges him to tell Pharaoh of Yoseph’s special talent in the hopes that it may gain him his release as well. (Vayeishev, 40:14)  Yet, in the very last Pasuk of the Parsha, we are told that the Sar Hamashkim did not remember Yoseph.  He forgot him.  (40:23).  Rashi comments that “since Yoseph placed his trust in the Sar Hamaskim, his release was delayed since he should have left his faith solely in Hashem.  (Rashi, 40:23)

This comment by Rashi seems to be in conflict with some of our deeply held philosophies.  We are specifically taught that Ein Somchin al Hanes – one should not expect or rely on a miracle.  (Gemarah Pesachim, 64b)  While Yoseph surely had faith that Hashem would save him, he understood that he had to make his efforts to bring about his release as well.  One does not know how Hashem will bring about his redemption and may not sit around and say “if it is Hashem’s will, then I will be saved”.  He is required to make his Hishtadlus – efforts, as if Hashem was not part of the equation. (Chovos Halevavos)  So why was Yoseph punished with a delay in his release?

The Yomim Tovim of Channuka and Purim provide an insight which may help us answer this question.  Consider that Channuka recalls a spiritual threat which faced Klal Yisroel.  The Yevanim were not interested in killing us.  Rather, they were determined to convert us and have us accept their Avoda Zara.  How did we repond?  We waged war.  We fought a physical battle to overcome a spiritual threat.  Purim was just the opposite.  Haman’s G’zeira was L’hashmid U’lharog.  Haman was not interested in converting us, he wanted us all dead.  To this physical threat how did we respond?  With fasting, Tefilla etc., a spiritual response to a physical threat.  Why on each of these occasions did B’nei Yisroel respond with what seems to be an opposite reaction? 

When Klal Yisroel faces threats, it means that in the Heavenly Court we are being judged on that Mida.  When we face a physical threat, when there is a question as to whether we may continue to live, the last thing we would want to do is wage a physical war. That is precisely the mida which is in question.  Rather we must use another of our resources – T’filla, fasting etc.  Similarly, when our Ruchniyos is threatened, we cannot rely on a solely Ruchniyos response. Again, we must fight back physically, with an army.

Perhaps this is Rashi’s point.  Yoseph was faced with a physical confinement.  That was not the time to rely on a Tevah solution.  And that’s why it was unsuccessful.  For whatever reason, Yoseph was being judged on his physical state.  That is the time when one should be focused on his spiritual responses to extricate himself.  Hashem has given each of us many valuable strengths and resources to use in his service; spirituality, physical strength, intellect, reason and compassion to name a few.  This is true for the Klal as much as it is for the individual.  When one of us excels in one area we can help compensate for other problems elsewhere.  We are Areivim Zeh L’Zeh in the most fundamental way.  It’s not just about responsibility, we all have the ability to help each other as many parts of one greater whole.