Vayeshev 5774-An installment in the series
From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School
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Â By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz-Mara Dâ€™Asra Cong Sfard of Midwood
Â Soon thereafter the Egyptian kingâ€™s wine steward and the baker offended their master, who was the king of Egypt.
Â [Regarding] this one (the wine steward) a fly was found in his goblet, and [concerning] that one (the baker) a pebble was found in his bread.Â (Bereshis. Rabbah 88:2)
The kingdom of the earth is analogous to the Kingdom of Heaven.
–Zohar Miketz 197A
Throughout this Sidra thereâ€™s a marked disparity between Yoseph and Yehudah. All of Yosephâ€™s well-intentioned plans go awry First, he shares his prophetic dream with his brothers and they grow jealous of him. Then he tries to edify his brothers and some are ready to kill him while, in due course, they sell him to an Ishmaelite caravan consigning him to near-certain doom. He serves his master faithfully, resisting all temptations, but then gets framed for an infidelity that he was innocent of. Finally, he makes a minor effort at self-help, asking the Pharaoh’s wine steward to say something favorable about him to Pharaoh and, as a result, ends up spending another two years prison.
On the other hand, Yehudah seems to be living the proverbial charmed life. Even though he was the one who presented Yosephâ€™s goat-bloodied garment to their father, causing their father overwhelming anguish, Â he still merited being in Yaakovâ€™s proximity all those long years that Yoseph was in exile. Â In the, apparently, very sordid affair of Tamar, all ended well and the progenitor of the Messianic line was born.
The Izhbitzer teaches that Yoseph envied Yehudah and had grievances about HaShemâ€™s conduct of his own affairs. He wondered why HaShem crowned all of Yehudahs endeavors with great success, even those that were overtly risky or that ventured far into moral and ethical ambiguity. Â Whereas all of his own actions, no matter how purely motivated, came under the closest Divine scrutiny, the â€œprecision of a hairsbreadthâ€ and, invariably, were found wanting.
The dreams of the Pharaohâ€™s wine steward and baker were meant to serve as an allegorical response to Yosephâ€™s grievances. Every king, including the King of all kings, has a servant like the wine steward and a servant akin to the baker.Â The wine steward was restored to his position because he was not responsible for his offense.Â Thereâ€™s really nothing that he couldâ€™ve done to prevent a fly from buzzing into the wine goblet.Â A fly is animate and has an instinct if itâ€™s own. Itâ€™s even possible that the fly fluttered into the goblet after it was already in the Pharaohâ€™s grasp. However, the bakerâ€™s offense was unpardonable as an inert pebble should never have found its way into the kingâ€™s bread loaf. Yoseph was like the baker and Yehudah was like the wine-steward.
King Dovid, the quintessence of Yehudah, is described by the Zohar (Mishpatim 107A) as the Kings â€œjesterâ€. As a powerful king himself how should we understand this unusual title? We know that King Dovidâ€™s songs of Tehilim were sung as the wine libations were poured in the Beis HaMikdash on HaShems â€œtableâ€ kivayochol -as it were. If the purpose of a jester is to dispel sadness from, and bring merriment to, the kingâ€™s heart, then jesters and wine stewards employ different means to achieve the same goal. So, the jester designation can be understood in wine steward terms.
But the â€œjesterâ€ designation refers to the something deeper as well. Yehudahâ€™s offenses, and those of his descendants, were deemed to be beyond the range of their Â bechirah chofshis– free-will. As our sages taught; â€œthe Angel appointed to preside over desire forced himâ€ to consort with Tamar (Bereshis Rabbah 85:9).Â Jesters allow their kings to toy with them and to defeat them at the royal courtsâ€™ games. When a person loses his bechirah chofshis he becomes G-dâ€™s plaything, a mere puppet on HaShemâ€™s string, as a jester might, a man who has lost his bechirah chofshis â€œletsâ€ G-d win kivayochol.Â The pasuk states: â€œthat You may be justified when You speak, and be in the right when You judgeâ€ (Tehilim 51:6). When expounding on the episode of Dovid and Bas-Sheva the Gemara understands that what Dovid meant to say here was â€œlet them [the people] not say, â€˜The servant triumphed Â against his Masterâ€™.” (Sanhedrin 107A). In other words, Dovid is telling HaShem â€œIâ€™m your jester, I let my King winâ€
On the other hand, Yoseph was like the baker. HaShem had instilled Yoseph with a fiery clarity and brilliance and the passionate strength to withstand all tests. After all, the House of Yoseph was to be the flame that would consume the House of Esav (see Ovadiah 1:18). HaShem had placed Yoseph in a crisp, brilliant and immaculate place. He and his descendants needed to stay spotless in order to refute any of Esavâ€™s contentions. As trying as Yosephâ€™s trials were they were never outside the scope of his bechirah chofshis. Yoseph was in complete control of his choices.
If something unseemly crept into Yehudahâ€™s affairs it was as though the zigzagging fly splashed into the Kingâ€™s wine goblet after it was already in the Kingâ€™s hands.Â There was absolutely nothing that the jester/wine steward could have done to prevent it. Â If something inappropriate contaminated Yosephâ€™s affairs it was as though a tooth-shattering pebble was in the Kingâ€™s bread.Â The King grew furious and bitterly disappointed because this was absolutely something that the baker could have, and should have, put a stop to.
The righteousness of the unblemished will straighten his way; and by his wickedness, the wicked shall fall.
Â When an otherwise unblemished Tzaddik sins, the Divine trait of Strict Justice demands the harsh and â€œprecision of a hairsbreadthâ€ punishment to expiate the sin. But the Divine trait of Mercy seeks alternatives modes of Tikun-sin repair and amelioration.Â It will not allow the Tzaddik to take the punishment. Instead It allows the Tzaddik to observe someone guilty of a coarser, more overt expression of the same sin taking their punishment.Â This sensitizes the Tzaddik to his own misstep.Â The Tzaddik sees the retribution being executed and, growing reflective and insightful concludes, in essence, that â€œthere, but for the Grace of G-d, go Iâ€. This is why the pasuk says â€œand by his wickedness, the wicked shall fall.â€, Â when the correct poetic meter of the sentence should have been â€œand the wicked shall fall by his wickedness.â€ The truth is that there are times and situations when the wicked fall due to the wickedness of the unblemished! They do so in order the enable the unblemished to straighten his way.
As sternly as Yoseph was judged compared to Yehudah, it could have been even more severe. In fact, mercy tempered the justice that he was dealt. The Pharaohâ€™s baker became the punishment proxy for Yoseph, the Divine Kingâ€™s â€œbakerâ€. The dissimilar dreams of the wine steward and the baker were not just revealed to Yoseph because he happened to be the best dream-interpreter available in the dungeon. They were revealed to him to help him understand the difference between Yehudahâ€™s relationship with HaShem and his own, to help him identify with the baker rather than with the wine steward, to stop grumbling about alleged Divine miscarriages of justice, to realize his own strengths and responsibilities, to shift the responsibility for his tribulations to his own broad shoulders and thus be metaken– repair and repent for his shortfalls.Â
Adapted from Mei HaShiloach I Vayeshev end of long Dâ€H Vayeshev
Â And Mei HaShiloach II Vayeshev Dâ€H Bâ€™Inyan