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    The pull back & return – Vayyeshev

    Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife, by Philipp Veit c.1816

    Many Biblical people have nicknames. Abraham is the Father; Moses is the Teacher; Elijah is the Prophet.

    Joseph, who is central to this week’s reading, is called Yosef HaTzaddik, Joseph the Righteous One.

    At first sight it seems strange. How could Joseph be a tzaddik when he was almost guilty of a grave sin with Potiphar’s wife?

    True, he refrained at the last minute from sinning with her because, according to the sages, he saw a vision of his father Jacob and knew that succumbing to temptation would be completely wrong and an insult to his father’s memory.

    The Maharal of Prague says that a tzaddik is a person who has sinned (or almost so) but has truly repented. The tzaddik is a person who has risen above his wrongdoing.

    The pull back and return from wrongdoing made Joseph a great man and maybe that’s why when the Israelites eventually left Egypt it was Joseph’s bones that they took with them (Ex. 13:19).

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