Now Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. (Bereshis 42:8)
Rabbi Wallerstein makes a very important insight on this week’s parsha. The brothers do not recognize Yosef. It had been years since they had last seen Yosef and during that time he grew a beard, but they still should have recognized him. If anything, they should have recognized him more because Yosef’s features were similar to Yaakov’s and Yaakov had a beard. So, now that Yosef also had a beard, the brothers were staring at a man who looked exactly like their father.
The reason they didn’t recognize him is because the brothers never thought Yosef could rise to second in command. They never saw his greatness. They saw him as a low-life sinner. They expected to see him on the wrong side of the tracks, in the bad part of the city. They missed how much potential he had.
Unfortunately, this is not the only time this has ever happened. Kalba Savua saw his daughter wanting to marry some ignorant shepherd. This wise, wealthy man told his daughter that if she married this “bum”, he would not give her any support. His daughter married the shepherd anyway. Years later, Kalba Savua felt bad and went to the great Rabbi to see if his vow could be annulled. He said that if the shepherd even knew alef-bais, he would never had taken the vow. The wise Rabbi (who was Rabbi Akiva) said that not only does his son-in-law know alef-bais, but he is the great Rabbi sitting in front of you. Kalba Savua couldn’t believe it. He never believed Akiva the shepherd could be a great, wise man. He never saw his potential.
Let me bring a few modern day examples (I apologize that they are secular examples). Tom Brady, arguably the best quarterback of all time, was not a first round draft pick. Actually, he was drafted in the 6th round. How many teams passed him up numerous times because they did not see his potential.
One of the best selling books of all time, Harry Potter, actually had some difficulty getting published. It was rejected by 12 publishers. Now the series has sold over 450 million books. Those 12 publishers did not see the potential.
The lesson is clear: be careful how you look at other people. Don’t look down at them, because they might be much greater than you think.
Good Shabbos! Freilichin Chanuka!
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