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RABBI CHAIM LOBEL הרב חיים לובל

This week is Parshat Vayechi
Candle Lighting 1/6/12 4:25 PM NYC EST
Rabbi Chaim Lobel - Young Israel of Aberdeen, NJ
www.yiaberdeen.com


 

 

Who’s the Boss- In Memoriam of Mr David M.Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
After Jacob dies, Joseph’s brothers are understandably afraid. Thirty-nine years earlier, they had sold Joseph into slavery, knowing full well what other nations do to their slaves. Now, Joseph is the Pharaoh’s viceroy and their father is dead. Will Joseph finally take his vengeance? “Joseph’s brothers saw their father was dead and said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will harbor hatred against us and return upon us all the evil that we had done to him.’” (Genesis 50:15)

So they came before Joseph and humbly asked, “Please forgive your brothers’ spiteful transgressions and sins for we have done you evil . . . We are here to be your slaves.” (Genesis 50:17-18)

Joseph weeps and responds “Don’t be afraid, am I to replace G-d? Yes, you thought to harm me but G-d was doing so to benefit us all; in order to bring about what we have today, sustaining an entire populace.” (Genesis 50: 19-20)

Joseph’s response demonstrates extraordinary humility. The second most powerful person in the greatest empire in the known world stands before the brothers who sold him into slavery and says, “Am I to replace G-d?” As Rashi (1040 – 1105) explains, Joseph was telling his brothers that even if he wanted to harm them, only G-d can determine a person’s fate. Joseph proves his point by reminding his brothers how they sought to harm him but, instead, their actions led to Joseph becoming viceroy and an entire region surviving a famine.

The Sforno (Rabbi Yaakov ben Ovadia Sforno, 1475 – 1550; Bologna, Italy) seems to share Rashi’s understanding but adds one more point – Joseph refused to judge his brothers. “Am I to replace G-d?”

The Torah then concludes, “[Joseph] comforted them and spoke to their heart”. (Genesis 50:21)

Looking at this scene, we must remember that Joseph, for all his power, remains the victim. Joseph, now as viceroy, could have turned and become the oppressor; he was the one who was threatened with death and then sold into slavery by his own brothers. Yet, it’s not his position but his outlook that raises Joseph to learn to be above his brothers.

“Am I to replace G-d?” is followed by “[Joseph] comforted them and spoke to their heart”.

We learn from Joseph how recognizing that everything is within G-d’s power and according to G-d’s will can transform a person and arouse his compassion for others. Apparently, once a person accepts that justice will be done but by G-d and G-d alone, his outlook changes even to become compassionate, even to brothers who once betrayed him.

Shabbat Shalom

 


 
   
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