Parashat Vayeshev // “He Settled”

- ה ר ח -

Why is Joseph’s downfall the source of great hope?

Jacob’s sons connive to kill Joseph and throw him in a pit

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” Genesis 37:3 – 4

  • Joseph’s story is a chain of misfortunes that ultimately lead to success. This tortuous journey shows us that we can see the bigger picture only in hindsight – and that every step of the way has meaning, even when there is no apparent reason or the crisis seems too dreadful. At the beginning of his life, Joseph indulges in egocentrism and arrogance. He behaves with disdain toward others and is not aware of how his negative behavior is perceived.
  • The pit where Joseph lays is not physical. Rather, it represents his descent to lower inner spheres – to a spiritual void. Joseph is also accountable for his downfall. That is why the Book of Genesis (37:24) stresses that “the pit was empty; there was no water in it” – because water represents the learning and spirit that fill our lives with meaning. If we are selfish, proud, and full of ourselveswe will be unable to open our hearts and awareness to the outer world. Our external husks will prevent the light from penetrating our hearts.

Jacob deciphers dreams and gains fame

“And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it…Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph…And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison” Genesis 39:20

  • Joseph is sold to the Ishmaelites and taken to Egypt. Potiphar then purchases Joseph, who soon becomes Potiphar’s most trusted servant. However, Joseph’s physical beauty is still an obstacle for him and he continues to be proud and arrogant. Potiphar’s wife slanders Joseph, claiming that he has tried to seduce her. Joseph is once again thrown into a pit that is also spiritual in nature – representing his descent to a lower sphere. While imprisoned, Joseph meets Pharaoh’s former cup bearer. Joseph foretells that the cup bearer will be acquitted and asks that he remember him. However, after rejoining Pharaoh’s court, the cup bearer forgets Joseph. Joseph finds himself desperate and desolate, far from home and his family. He is confined to a cell in prison, all by himself. It is precisely there, at rock bottom, that salvation can take place

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “He Settled”  

  • Pride and selfishness cloud our hearts. People who are full of themselves cannot receive light, share it, or spread it on.
  • The downfall described in the tale of Joseph is not physical, but rather spiritual in nature. It is the descent to a lower place inside the soul. Salvation comes when we are at our lowest – and we often can only understand the meaning of events that befall us in retrospect. 
  • The greatest revelations occur precisely when we are lonely, persecuted, or beaten. In circumstances such as these, we are forced to fight, fail, learn to overcome our fears, and move on. It is only at the end of such a long and narrow tunnel that we can emerge into a wide, open plane.
  • Our connection to divine energy transforms us and allows us to see that we are not alone. However, for this connection to take place, we must learn to transcend our earthly selves.
  • On our path to righteousness, we learn to view both darkness and light as opportunities for spiritual growth. The most righteous – those who reach the highest spiritual levels – are capable of seeing only light.  
  • While our lives may be pre-determined, our choices are not. We can always choose blessings – and in doing so, shape our fate. Failure is another chance for improvement. Correction is the option we seek.

The power to heal is the desire and ability to heal ourselves or others through both spiritual and physical means.