Yosef brought back bad reports about them (Bereshis 37:2)
There were three people in history who have been associated with the title “HaTzaddik” (Noach, Shimon (from the times of the Bais HaMikdash), and Yosef). But why do we give the title “HaTzaddik” to Yosef; he did one of the worst sins of all time. Yosef spoke Lashon Hara. Yosef related to his father that his brothers ate limbs from live animals, that the sons of Leah would demean the sons of the handmaids by calling them slaves, and that they were suspected in illicit relations. It should be pointed out that the brothers were actually not as bad as Yosef said they were. Yosef misjudged them. For example, they did not eat limbs from a live animal. The animal was properly slaughtered but it was still moving convulsively so it looked like they were eating from a live animal. Yosef looked negatively at his brothers and spoke terrible Lashon Hara. So, how can we call such a person a Tzaddik?
The answer is found in parshas Vayechi. Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years and during that time Yosef made sure he was never alone with his father. This is because he was worried his father would ask him about what really happened and how he ended up in Egypt. Yosef did not want to even be tempted to speak Lashon Hara, so he went to a far extreme of making sure he was never alone with his father.
When I ran track in high school, I won a few awards. My favorite one was not a medal for winning a race (I never finished first place anyway), but it was for “Most Improved”. To get the “Most Improved” award, a person needs to work every day at trying to get better. It does not mean he will be the best, it just means he is always moving in the right direction.
This is what Yosef did. He was not a perfect person; he sinned. But he worked on himself to get better. He became the “Most Improved” and that is what made him a Tzaddik.
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