Sharing Torah Insights

“Hashem frees those in captivity”

Posted on כ״ה בכסלו ה׳תש״ע (December 12, 2009) | in Chanukkah, VaYeshev | by

VaYeishev – Shabbos Chanukah 5770

The Talmud (Yoma 35b) recounts the attempted seduction of Yosef by Potiphar’s wife, with the following conversation between them:
She threatened him, ‘I will have you thrown into prison!’ he replied, ‘Hashem frees those in captivity’ (Tehillim 146). She pushed further, ‘I will cut down your height!’ and he responded, ‘Hashem straightens the bent’ (ibid.). And once more she menaced, ‘I will put out your eyes!’ and he retorted, ‘Hashem gives sight to the blind’ (ibid.).

Yosef’s responses to Potiphar’s wife require clarification. Was he saying that she could do her worst to him because he would be miraculously saved by Hashem? What about the edict that “we do not rely on miracles?” I believe that the answer to this question can be found in another Gemara, in Brachos (28b). We are told that when Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakkai’s students came to visit him on his deathbed Rebbi Yochanan began to cry. His students asked him, “Rebbi why are you crying?” He answered them that he would be crying even if he was only going on trial before a king of flesh and blood whose punishments are not eternal – how much more so is he justified in crying in anticipation of his judgment before the King of Kings, Whose verdicts are not bound by this world!

Yosef’s response is not about miracles – it’s about yiras shamayim, the fear of Heaven. He was not saying that if you incarcerate me, mutilate me or blind me you will not be successful because Hashem will save me. He is making a declaration of his belief in Hashem and His will. Hashem is the Master of the World, ‘He is the One Who frees those in captivity’. The threats of any human being are null and void before the will of Hashem! Yosef Ha’Tzaddik earned his title by putting his yiras shamayim, above any concerns of this world – “…how can I commit this great evil and sin before G-d?!” (Bereishis 39:9) We encounter countless opportunities to earn this title for ourselves in the decisions that we make everyday; let us rise to the challenge.

Good Shabbos and a Freilichin Chanukah!

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