Vayeshev: Remaining Upright

A Redundant Line?

At the beginning of parsha Vayeshev, Jacob’s favored son Joseph tells his brothers about his dreams, which seem to imply that he is superior to them. The first dream starts: “Behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright, and behold, your sheaves encircled [it] and prostrated themselves to my sheaf.” (Gen. 37:7).

Joseph is known as “ha Tzaddik” (“the righteous one”) so it can’t be possible that he tells his brothers about his dream just to make them feel small. But what is the deeper message Joseph is conveying? Rabbi Zvi Belovski zeroes in on one seemingly redundant line in Joseph’s depiction of the first dream “…my sheaf arose and also stood upright….” Once the sheaf is described as having risen up, why is it necessary to add “also stood upright?”

To explain this, Rabbi Belovski refers to a verse in Psalms, “Who will go up to the mountain of God, and who will stand in His holy place?” (Ps. 24:3). The Maggid of Koznitz (Rabbi Yisrael Hopstein, 1737-1814) explains that climbing the mountain and standing on the mountaintop are two different levels of spiritual growth. Climbing the mountain means coming close to God; standing on the mountain means staying close to God. The twelve sons of Jacob were spiritually elevated individuals, and they all merited to come close to God. But only one – Joseph – was so saintly that he maintained his connection to the Holy One no matter the situation. Even after being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, Joseph had faith in his Creator and never gave in to despair.

May we be blessed to find such moments of closeness to the Divine, and may we find the strength to dwell in them for as long as possible!

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