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Friday, December 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

This week's parsha recounts Yoseif's infamous encounter with the wife of Potifar. As we know, she made repeated efforts to seduce Yoseif but he ultimately rejected her time after time until she fabricated a false claim of assault. I believe it is widely assumed, perhaps based on midrashim, that she had a true desire for Yoseif and leveled her false accusations only after she realized she would never succeed.

But I have begun to question that assertion. It is noteworthy that the Torah tells us (39:7) only that she "cast her eyes upon Yoseif" and demanded, "shichvah imi." There is no mention of any genuine feelings for Yoseif in the way they are expressed in the incident involving Shechem (perek 34.) Perhaps it can be suggested that the casting of her eyes was not a matter of desire but rather a feeling of jealousy at the success of Yoseif and the level of trust he had earned in such a short time. And indeed, the framing of Yoseif was always part of the plan.

This episode therefore fits perfectly into the framework of Sefer Bereishis as a harbinger of challenges the Jewish Nation will face throughout the generations. This is a repetitive script we have seen played out over and over, perhaps mostly in our day when the Jews hold a position of power. We are repeatedly baited into confrontations which, no matter what the circumstance, will always have us looked upon in a negative light.

The case made by Potifar's wife against Yoseif was not very strong. If he was the true aggressor, a logical mind would have expected her to flee with him holding her clothes as opposed to inverse. Also, if her claims were truly believed, Yoseif would surely have been put to death and not simply thrown in jail. Nevertheless, he had to be punished for the house of Potifar to avoid being shamed. Perhaps there is a comfort in knowing that it is simply our destiny to always be judged unfavourably in the eyes of the world. We can therefore never become comfortable wotj their perception of us and must always be mindful not to further tarnish our public image.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)

Dikdukian: Naaseh Neis (Chanukah)

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