A Taste of Torah in Honor of Shabbat
by Rabbi Avi Weiss
Shabbat Parshat Miketz
27 Kislev 5758
In his Hilkhot Deot (Laws of Personality Development),
Maimonides emphasizes the importance of the Golden Mean. He insists however, that one must
go to the extreme to do away with anger. Concerning this emotion, the middle way is not
At our synagogue this week, Liron Kranzler offered a brilliant Dvar Torah in honor of her
bat mitzvah in which she suggested that the story of Yosef (Joseph) teaches how different
people helped Yosef assuage his anger.
Yosef had every reason to be upset--after all his brothers had sold him into slavery.
Hence, when his brothers came to Egypt, Yosef expresses his anger by doing to them
precisely what they did to him. He accuses them of being spies, cast them into a dungeon,
and takes Shimon--the prime mover of Yosef's sale--as a hostage.
In time however, Yosef's rage is abated.
The Midrash notes that when appearing before Yosef, Binyamin (Benjamin) reveals that his
ten children were named for Yosef--Binyamin's name would recall his lost brother. This no
doubt stirred Yosef's compassion. (Rashi, Genesis 43:30)
Yet another Midrash notes that it was Yosef's son Menasheh who decreed that the brother
who stole the goblet would become a slave, while the others would be freed. This was a
non-aggressive, less angry sentence, as in truth, the brother who stole the goblet should
have been killed and the others taken as slaves. Here again, this act of softening the
penalty must have impressed Yosef. (Rashi, Genesis 42:23)
And of course, when Binyamin was detained by Yosef for allegedly stealing the goblet, the
same Yehudah who 22 years earlier instigated the sale of Yosef, comes to the defense of
Binyamin. Here Yehudah shows his remorse which, again must have impacted upon Yosef.
Only after Yosef heard that his brother Binyamin had missed him so, only after his son
Menasheh tempered Yosef's brother's sentence, only after Yehudah defended Binyamin was
Yosef's anger calmed. Through Binyamin, Menasheh and Yehudah, Yosef's deep upset was
counterbalanced; he was able to learn from them the importance of compassion, of running
And only then, soft, caring and forgiving is Yosef able to reveal himself to his brothers.
VISIT THE HIR'S NEW WEB BAYIT
© 5758/1997. Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew
Institute of Riverdale
All rights reserved.
Comments to Webmaster