20 Oct 2016 Yosef ha’Tzaddik – the Unique Guest
In Parshas V’Zos Ha’Bracha, the final parsha in Chamisha Chmushei Torah, which will be read on Simchas Torah, we read of the blessings Moshe bestowed upon the tribes of Israel prior to his death.
In his blessing to Yosef, Moshe notes that Yosef is the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, separate from his brothers, which Rashi explains means: שהפרש מאחיו במכירתו – that he was separated from his brothers through his being sold (Devarim 33:16 w/ Rashi).
Yosef is separate; Yosef is different; Yosef is unique. Yosef, whose last name is tzaddik, is so unique that from all the shvatim (tribes), it is he who makes an appearance in our Succos as one of the Ushpizin – one of the seven exalted guests who visits every Jewish Succah over the seven days of the Chag.
Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov’s presence we understand – they are Avinu: the founding fathers of the Umah Yisraelis.
Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Ha’Kohen’s presence we also understand – the two brothers who led us from Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land. One the Law Giver, the other the Kohen Gadol and peace-maker. Together, our first leaders taught us, led us, loved us, admonished us and showed us the way through the desert, and the Torah way of life.
Dovid Ha’Melech’s presence we welcome! The King of Israel, whose descendant, Moshiach, will one day – soon! – redeem us all from this long and bitter exile.
And then there’s Yosef, the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, who is one of the exalted guests. Why, we are compelled to wonder, do we welcome Yosef as one of the Ushpizin? He is not one of the patriarchs, he is not one of our first leaders, and he is not the father of Melech Ha’Moshiach.
Perhaps we can propose three different answers as to why Yosef Ha’Tzaddik visits our Succos.
(I) Yosef Ha’Tzaddik, the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, was separated from his Land, and his brothers and father, Yaakov Avinu, at the tender age of seventeen. Torn away from his family and his home, with no one to guide him and teach him, he nevertheless always remained committed to his faith. As Rashi tells us: שֵׁם שָׁמַיִם שָׁגוּר בְּפִיו – the Name of Hashem was (familiar) regular in his mouth (Bereishis 39:3). In a word, Yosef remained the אִ֥ישׁ עִבְרִ֖י – the Hebrew, the Jew, the Ivri (ibid, v.14), who always followed in the ways of his great-grandfather, Avraham Avinu, the original אִ֥ישׁ עִבְרִ֖י (Bereishis 14:13 – אַבְרָם הָעִבְרִי).
(II) Yosef Ha’Tzaddik, the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, was ridiculed and tormented by his brothers, the sons of Leah: וַיִּשְׂנְאוּ, אֹתוֹ; וְלֹא יָכְלוּ, דַּבְּרוֹ לְשָׁלֹם – and (the brothers) hated him, and they could not speak to him peacefully (Bereishis 37:4). And as their hatred grows (ibid, v.5), they plot to dispose of him by killing him (ibid, v.20). Ultimately, the story concludes as they save his life by throwing him, alive, into a pit. He he is then sold to passing caravans, whereupon he is taken down to the slave block in Egypt and ends up in the home of Potiphar, chief executioner of Egypt. Quite a journey for a lad of seventeen…
And yet, Yosef rose to the highest echelons of power, second to the Pharaoh, ruler as צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ (ibid, 41:45), over the entire ancient civilized world! With royal garments, a royal wife, a chariot and power – Yosef, the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, unbelievably never gave up on himself. He did not allow the negativity of his brothers to bring him down or to stop him from reaching his potential. From their torment and hatred, he overcame and became successful beyond theirs – and perhaps his – wildest dreams.
And finally, (III) Yosef, the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, the one who – as a lad – spoke slander of his brothers, as he brought back reports to their father, Yaakov Avinu – וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם – And Yosef brought evil reports of them to their father (ibid, 37:2), did not allow his own missteps and on some level, failings, bring him down. In the words of my ten year son, who proposed this answer, “Yosef spoke lashon ha’rah, but still became a tzaddik.”
כִּי שֶׁבַע, יִפּוֹל צַדִּיק וָקָם; וּרְשָׁעִים, יִכָּשְׁלוּ בְרָעָה – For the righteous one may fall seven times, and yet, he will get up every time! But the wicked is he who stumbles, and cannot not – and does not – rise again (Mishlei 24:16).
Yosef did not let his spiritual misstep(s) detract him from his singular and ultimate goal as an eved Hashem. One can sin, and yet still rise and become a tzaddik.
And so, Yosef Ha’Tzaddik, the נְזִ֥יר אֶחָֽיו, the separate one from his brothers, comes on Chag Ha’Succos, zman simcha’sainu, to join us in our Succos, to join us in our rejoicing. He teaches us by example and reminds us that: To be a Jew is to always be a Jew. For no matter where life takes us, the name of Hashem must always be regular in our mouths; We must never allow the negativity and pressures of others ruin who we are, and who we can be; and finally, even when we stumble, fall and perhaps fail, we most certainly can rise yet again, and become even greater in our avodas Hashem.
May we be wise enough, humble enough, and courageous enough to allow Yosef the lad, who ultimately became Yosef the ruler – and for eternity, Yosef the Tzaddik – teach us and inspire us all as he visits our Succos on Zman Simcha’sainu.
בברכת שבת שלום וחג שמח,
This week’s dvar Torah is dedicated to those of my children who B”H suggested each of the above insightful answers when I posed the question about Yosef on YomTov.