Yosef’s development

The story of Yosef and his brothers is a very difficult one to understand. We have to start with looking at each side, recognizing that they were all spiritually great people  and trying to pinpoint a deeper view of the weaknesses and mistakes. 

Let’s look at Yosef right now in the beginning of Vayeshev. The Torah calls him a youth repeatedly in the story. He was 17 at this point. The other 10 older brothers were between 17 and 23 years old. So he was not the “kid brother” 10 years younger than everyone else. 

Rabbi Schwab says that the Torah calls him a youth to illustrate for us his weakness. That is the great weakness of youth – impatience.  Yosef struggles with balancing his future and potential (which were real and great) and waiting for them to develop in the “right time and place”. He seems to be getting ahead of himself quite often. 

This starts with him at home, telling on his brothers to his father, as though he is the older on e in authority. Continues with him telling them his dreams about becoming a leader / king, making his brothers uneasy and jealous. While he is clueless that his “looking ahead” is stoking the flames of hatred of his brothers, they are busy coming up with a way to get him out of the family. 

Even in Egypt, Rashi tells us when he starts to succeed as Potifar’s slave, he begins to think that his time to “rise the ranks” is here, he needs to fix his hair and so on. Once again jumping ahead. 

However, when tested with Potifar’s wife and her “vision of connection to Yosef (mistaken, because it’s her daughter he marries later, not her), Yosef realizes that even though something’s here, he needs to wait for the proper opportunity. 

In jail, he gets a bit too excited about the Butler and his opportunity to get out of jail, and on a microscopic level jumps the gun and thinks that now he’s going to leave via the butler, he is punished with 2 more years in prison. 

As we go full circle, by the time he is pulled out of jail, Yosef has totally matured and gained control of every situation. Personified by two events. 

·        When they rushed to take him to Pharaoh from prison, he refused to hurry to see the king, he insists on washing up, changing clothes and taking a haircut. Realizing this was his opportunity to make a deep impression, he slows everyone down and makes sure to do things right 

·        The whole story of Yosef pretending to accuse the brothers (for reasons that need to be explained) is an exercise of patience and self control on Yosef’s part. He is dying to reveal himself, embrace his family and see his father, yet he knows he needs to wait for the right moment. 



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