Yosef haTzadik - from shepherd to king

The possuk in this week’s sedrah says:
פרק נ׳ פסוק ט"ו: וַיִּרְאוּ אֲחֵי-יוֹסֵף כִּי-מֵת אֲבִיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוּ יִשְׂטְמֵנוּ יוֹסֵף וְהָשֵׁב יָשִׁיב לָנוּ אֵת כָּל-הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר גָּמַלְנוּ אֹתוֹ
“Yosef’s brothers saw that their father had died and they said maybe Yosef will hate us and he will return all the evil that we did to him.”

The Baal Haturim explains:
כשחזרו מלקבור את אביהם עבר יוסף על הבור שהשליכוהו בו ובירך ואמר ברוך שעשה לי נס במקום הזה אמרו עדיין הוא זוכר מה שעשינו לו.
“When they came back from burying their father Yosef passed by the pit that they had thrown him into and made a beracha ברוך שעשה לי נס במקום הזה – Blessed is He who did a nes for me in this place. They said – he still remembers what we did to him.”

The Baal Haturim is very difficult to understand:
  • Why would Yosef not remember what happened to him?
  • There is a halacha that if someone passes by a place where a nes happened to them they should make this beracha. Why should Yosef not have made the beracha? He was simply observing the halacha.
 The possuk says in שמות א', ה':
ויוסף היה במצרים
And Yosef was in Mitzraim.

Rashi comments on this
 וכי לא היינו יודעים שהוא היה במצרים? אלא להודיעך צדקתו של יוסף - הוא יוסף הרועה את צאן אביו, הוא יוסף שהיה במצרים ונעשה מלך ועומד בצדקו.
 “We know that Yosef was in Mitzraim – so why does the passuk need to say this?

The possuk is telling you the tzidkus of Yosef – it was the same Yosef that shepherded his fatheYosef’s sheep as became king in Mitzraim and stood in his tzidkus.”

Rashi stresses that it was the same Yosef - what does this mean? Also, just as we know that he was in Mitzraim we know that he remained a tzadik, he was kind to the brothers although they sold him.

Why does the possuk need to say that he was a tzadik?

The medrash says (Bereishis Rabba : 93:7-8) that when Yosef and Yehuda were arguing with each other Yosef kicked the marble base of his throne so hard that it shattered. What was Yosef saying by this?

Rabbi Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler shlit”a explains that there are two types of king. There is a king who is essentially a weak person and who is only powerful because he is the king. On the other hand there is a king who is essentially a powerful person and rules because he is a powerful person.

Yehuda said to Yosef – you are a weak and corrupt ruler. Yosef responded - without my throne I would also be powerful.

Yosef was not dependant on his position for his standing. This was symbolised by the fact that he could smash the base of his own throne.

This is what Rashi means:
הוא יוסף שהיה במצרים ונעשה מלך ועומד בצדקו
He was the same Yosef who was in Mitzraim and became king and remained a tzadik.

When Yosef became king, he did not assume any new trappings of power, his attitudes and understanding were the same as when he had been shepherding Yaakov’s sheep.

The brothers did not understand this. They thought that Yosef had started a new life in Mitzraim and that his position as king was not based on his experiences in Yaakov’s house. Therefore they thought that Yosef would not have wanted to remember the pit because it would have been beneath the dignity of the ruler of Mitzraim to remember such lowly beginnings. Subsequently they that he was looking into the pit to remember the bad that they had done to him and that he would repay the evil that that they had done to him.

However really Yosef was still Yosef, he was the same Yosef who had shepherded Yaakov’s sheep, and being saved from the pit was just one thing that had happened to him between shepherding Yaakov’s sheep and becoming ruler in Mitzraim.

Therefore when the brothers approached Yosef, he answered them:
כ וְאַתֶּם חֲשַׁבְתֶּם עָלַי רָעָה אֱלֹהִים חֲשָׁבָהּ לְטֹבָה לְמַעַן עֲשֹׂה כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה לְהַחֲיֹת עַם-רָב
“You intended bad against me, Hashem intended it for the good to do as this day and to keep alive many people.”

This was a good thing that happened on my way from Yaakov’s house to Pharoh’s palace, and the reason that I stopped by the pit was not to remember something bad, but was rather to make a beracha - גם זו לטובה.


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