Boruch M. Boudilovsky
Rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya

Miketz: Joseph and Self Resistance

The dramatic story of Joseph, which occupies a significant portion of the book of Genesis, tells us of an orphan loved by his ailing father and hated by his powerful brothers, who would emerge from the suffering of slavery and misery of prison to become the second most authoritative man in the civilization of his time. It is a tale of tragedy and joy, deep affection and hostile jealousy, ambition, conspiracy, abuse, potential murder, kidnapping and human trafficking, regret, exile, grievance, allegations, hope, famine, wealth, economy, power, loyalty and betrayal, and inspiring closure. What shapes the story, however, is repentance instead of revenge, kindness rather than anger, and generosity in place of punishment (easily contrastable with the Count of Monte Cristo).

Surprisingly, Joseph’s greatness is not usually attributed to his position of power against all odds, nor his economic strategy which sustained Egypt throughout years of famine. What earned Joseph the rare and unexaggerated title of righteousness was an event (Gen 39:7 – 13) which took place when Joseph was just another disposable slave. Joseph rose to the highest imaginable level of human greatness at a time when he was forgotten, abused, and hopeless. In a moment of great physical urge, captivating temptation, irresistible lust, and overwhelming seduction, Joseph found the strength to restrain and retreat. It was a private and secret moment. Apart from the persuasive woman involved, no one would have known. Abandoned, powerless, and despondent, in a depressing and crushing environment, Joseph would have briefly enjoyed not only pleasure but perhaps some comfort as well. Despite these vigorous human physical and emotional inclinations, Joseph escaped, thereby risking even more personal catastrophe.

Ben Zoma said: […] Who is strong? One who masters his [or her] evil impulse, as it is said, ‘He [or she] who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he [or she] who rules over his spirit is better than he who conquers a city’ (Prov. 16). (Ethics of The Fathers 4:1)

Courage, strength, and heroism, is the virtue of resisting impulsive behavior as exemplified by Joseph.

About the Author
Rabbi Boruch Boudilovsky was born in Israel and grew up in Scotland and New York. After graduating high school in Denver Colorado, Rabbi Boudilovsky moved back to Israel where he studied at Yeshiva, served as an IDF combat paratrooper, and completed his Rabbinic training. After working in Israel as both a formal and informal educator in various exciting environments, Rabbi Boudilovsky was appointed in 2010 as Associate Rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, the largest Orthodox community in the United Kingdom. During his years in London, Rabbi Boudilovsky led a successful startup Synagogue and community in South Borehamwood, and completed an MA at King’s College London in the department of Religion and Theology. In the summer of 2016, Rabbi Boudilovsky moved back to Israel with his family to accept the position of Rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya.
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