Parshat Vayeshev – Josh Segal

Posted on December 4, 2015

This week’s Parsha is Vayeshev and in it we get a glimpse into the life of Yosef. Upon being sold by his brothers, Yosef wound up in the house of Potiphar. Initially, he was provided with social graces and a sense of warmth and welcome. Living a life of luxury is a desire held by most teenagers, but Yosef displayed a great act of resistance. Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Yosef. Her seduction was immediately followed by the phrase, “and he refused,” which was shadowed by words of Yosef himself.

However, the phrase, “and he refused,” seems to be separated from the dialect that follows. This shows that Yosef’s words were not an act of refusal. The phrase itself was an act of refusal, and Yosef’s words were merely an explanation of this action.

But why is this distinction significant? Potiphar’s wife was a form of the Yeitzer Hara, which attempted to seduce Yosef into the deep pit of temptation, encapsulated by sin. Therefore, it is important that Yosef’s immediate response be an act of refusal. One must not meander through a discussion with the Yeitzer Hara, because then the Yeitzer Hara would win. Upon debating with the Yeitzer Hara, this scheming entity would have already devised a plot to lure you into its trap. Once you test the water, you have fallen victim to the force of the wave.

This teaches us that in any interaction with temptation, our immediate response must to be to refuse the temptation all together. Pondering over the pros and cons of the sin will lead you down a dark path, filled with mind games placed there by the Yeitzer Hara. Why is contemplation negative? Because you are already drawn further into the temptation meaning that you have already considered performing the act. Ultimately, the best thing to do is to remove ourselves from the situation in order to prevent ourselves from committing the sin.