An old lady has been attending synagogue for years. One week, as she follows the Torah reading about Joseph being sold by his brothers, she gasps.
“What’s with you, Joseph?!” she exclaims. “You knew what would happen! You should have learnt your lesson from last year!”
Jokes aside, the old lady has got a point. The Torah is not a story book; of the countless episodes it could have recorded, only a few were chosen. These are the stories that contain timeless messages, imparting lessons relevant to every person, in all places and at all times. So if we’re reading the same portion year after year and haven’t grown any wiser…
One such powerful incident, related in this week’s Torah portion, originally occurred with Joseph. Yet its message makes us the real protagonists.
Joseph, as a slave alone in Egypt, was surrounded by a culture of immorality. One day, with his master, Potiphar, out of the house, Joseph was confronted by the mistress. Potiphar’s wife pressured him incessantly, tempting him to commit adultery. The more he protested, the more she nagged. And she threatened. Eventually, he had no choice but to flee from her grip–and then ended up serving years of jail time when this influential woman framed him out of spite.
How did Joseph manage to uphold his ideals in the face of all that pressure? The commentaries teach that Joseph pictured the face of his saintly father, Jacob, from whom he had been cruelly torn at the tender age of 17. He thought of the challenges his father had endured and the extraordinary sacrifices he had made. This inspired Joseph, giving him the strength to overcome his temptations.
Our children, our little Josephs, will encounter many challenges in their lives. Bombarded by the enticements of a selfish, immoral world, how will they find the strength to do what is right?
The answer is up to you. Your children will picture your face and ask, “What would Dad have done? What would Mom say?” And if a memory comes to mind of the sacrifices you have made, they are likely to sacrifice as well.
Few can forget the scene created when Sandy Koufax, celebrated baseball player, refused to play on the High Holidays. Let your kids have such a memory–of you. Give them something to be proud of. And when push comes to shove, you will be proud of them.