Thursday, November 25, 2010
VaYeishev 5632 Third Ma'amar
In this week's parsha, Potiphar's wife attempts to entice Yosef HaTzadik. He refused to be tempted, "וימאן ויאמר אל־אשת אדניו הן אדני לא־ידע אתי מה־בבית וכל אשר־יש־לו נתן בידי ... ואיך אעשה הרעה הגדלה הזאת .../He refused, and he said to his master's wife, 'Behold, my master is not concerned with anything in the house, and all that he has, he gave over into my charge … so how can I do this great evil …?" (Breishis 39:8-9) Yosef HaTzadik's logic is that taking his master's wife would be a betrayal of the trust that his master put in him. Yosef could not allow himself to betray that trust.
The Sfas Emes advises us to use the same logic to thwart our own evil inclination. God could have taken away our possibility of choosing. He entrusts us with choice and expects us to act responsibly. How can we betray God's trust?
It is also possible that Yosef's argument was for the benefit of Potiphar's wife more than it was for himself. This can be inferred from the wording of the pasuk. First, "וימאן/He refused." Afterward he presents her with his argument. The implication is that Yosef did not need the argument. He refused because he was not tempted by her. He overcame his evil inclination completely. The argument, then, was for her sake.
Another way to understand the pasuk is that it is impossible to think logically while in the heat of passion. We must first at least distance ourselves from the immediate danger of submitting to our evil inclination. Only then can we argue logically. Yosef first had to refuse her advances. Only from a state in which there was no immediate danger of submitting to the evil inclination was he able to have the presence of mind to present a logical argument.