In this week’s Parsha, Yosef, the son of Yaakov was sold in to slavery and brought to Egypt. Yosef was an incredibly handsome boy and his slavemaster, Potuiphar’s wife attempted to entice him to sin in numerous creative ways. One day, when no one was around, she grabbed his cloak in order to seduce him. When he realized this he slipped out of his cloak and ran outside. She then used his cloak as “evidence” that Yosef had tried to seduce her and he was thrown in to jail!
There is an obvious question. Presumably, Yosef was much stronger than her and prudent enough to realize the implications of his cloak being left behind. Wouldn’t it have been reasonable to delay a few seconds, wrest his garment from her and then flee?
This teaches us a fundamental principle. All through life, we are tested and tempted by our Evil Inclination to sin. The purpose of this is for us to grow stronger in our service of Hashem by improving our character. The Torah is teaching us that when tempted, our immediate reaction should be to flee the scene of our temptations. We should not use logic and reason and convince ourselves, “I am strong enough to withstand this test!” Rather, we should avoid putting ourselves to the test and when confronted, extricate ourselves from the situation with the most possible haste.
Yosef was rewarded in many ways for this heroic act, Amongst them is the fact that he rose to the prominence of being appointed second to King Paroh himself, when he was released from prison.
Furthermore, generations later when the Jews were leaving Egypt and were trapped at the Yam Suf the Sea of Reeds, a miracle occurred and the sea actually split to allow them safe passage and subsequently came crashing down on the Egyptians who were in hot pursuit!
In whose merit did the sea split? One of the methods in which our Sages extract hidden meanings in the Torah is when there is the same word used in 2 (or more) places, this hints to a connection between the 2 subjects. When Yosef fled the advances of Potiphar’s wife, the Torah describes it as “Va’yanass, and he fled. In Tehillim (Psalms), when it describes the splitting of the sea, it states the sea “saw,” “Va’yanass, and the sea fled! What did the sea witness that caused it to flee and allow the Jews access? It “saw” the coffin of Yosef that was being carried for the purpose of reburial in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel! In yosef’s merit, the entire Jewish nation was saved! (To take this a step further, it seems that the fact that he withstood such a test would not have been enough of a merit. Only because he fled from the test, he earned eternal merit for the Jewish people).
By Rabbi Sharaga Thav