Our Sages attach the appellation Tzadik, righteous one, to Yosef, presumably because of his ability to withstand the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife. Yet the Torah itself refers to Yosef as an Ish Matzliach, a successful person, no less than three times. And what a success story Yosef is.
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“And it does not leave the womb before it is made to take an oath…and what is the oath one is made to take? Be righteous and do not be wicked” (Nidah 30b).
How common it is for people to return from a funeral and realize how little they knew about the deceased. All too often, it is only after a person’s death that one realizes the tremendous contributions made by the deceased. Alas, at that point, it is too late and we soon tend to return to our daily activities.
Being pregnant with one’s first child is the best of times. One imagines a talmid chacham, a nuclear physicist, a Nobel laureate, an Olympic athlete and a great philanthropist all wrapped in one. It is only when one gives birth and begins to raise a child that one realizes that is not exactly how it works out.
It is not only the expectations of the parents that change with birth. The baby, too, undergoes a great awakening.
“And Yaakov was a pure man, dwelling in the tents” (Breisheet 25:27). Like his father before him, Yaakov had little interest in the wider world surrounding him, preferring to remain near home, engrossed in study. He was the direct opposite to his twin brother, who was “a man of the field”. The fact that Yaakov was cooking soup while his brother was out hunting exemplifies their very different personalities. But as is often the case, circumstances have a profound effect on one's initial plans. The quiet life of Yaakov would not last long.
Our Sages identified each of our patriarchs and matriarchs with the character traits that they best exemplified. Avraham, the master of hospitality, is the exemplar of chesed, loving-kindness. Yaakov, who learned the effects of mistruth the hard way, is identified with the trait of emet, truth. While practicing distortions, even if legitimate, he suffered his whole life from the deception of others; yet Yaakov is our role model for the faithful, honest employee, giving heart and soul to his unscrupulous boss Lavan.
Death, as we have often noted, is the primary source of tumah, impurity, with a corpse classified as avi avot hatumah, the grandfather of tumah.
"And Sarah lived one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; these are the years of Sarah's life” (Breisheet 23:1).
A famous rabbinic comment elucidating the triple expression of years teaches that Sarah maintained her stunning beauty, intuitive wisdom and sinless innocence throughout her life. Furthermore, the seemingly superfluous ending of the verse “these are the years of Sarah’s life” teaches, in the words of Rashi, that her years "were all equally good".
It is hard to imagine more influential institutions of Jewish learning than those of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. These two great schools set in motion much of the foundation of the Oral Law. It was regarding their some 316 disputes recorded in the Mishna that a heavenly voice declared, “These and those are the words of the living G-d” (Eiruvin 13b).