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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Vayesheb: Inward & Outward Judaism

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In this week's parasha, we can see a key difference between Yaacob and his son, Yosef.

Yaacob lived his life in a very straight-forward manner. He never changed an inch from his traditional Jewish dress, to try and fit it with the fashion of the time. Yosef, however, was different. His Judaism was more hidden. Yosef, as Rashi notes, used to "fix his hair...in order to look beautiful." Yosef did not mind to mimic the current fashions externally, and remaining a steadfast Jew internally.

It was Yosef's good looks that attracted trouble in the first place-trouble in the name of Potifera.

The incident is one intrigue. Yosef was working in the house of a well-known Egyptian, Potifar. He worked hard and earned the trust and faith of his master. One a day when no one was in the house, Potifera looked to convince Yosef to be with her physically. Some Rabbis even say that Yosef was about to be with her, and come to the point of sin, but held back, when he saw "an image of his father".

Potifera tried to grab Yosef, but only succeeded to grab the external, his clothing. She only was able to grab what Yosef thought he could change with the current time and fashion.

However, his internal religiosity won. Seeing an image of Yaacob reminded Yosef of who he was, and so he ran. Yosef learned his lesson well, and after serving in prison for a couple of years, he was called to Pharoh's court to interpret Pharoh's dreams. Yosef showed his new-found external devotion to Hashem and religion, and said that it was not he who would decipher the dream, but rather Hashem.

Indeed, this is an important lesson to us in Galut.We cannot begin to rationalize and compromise our great religion just to fit in with our surroundings. Most people feel strongly about this and would never do anything to sacrifice their beliefs.

However, on a more subtle level, people are conforming with their surroundings without realizing it. Unfortunately, the message from this week's parasha extends to not compromising one's dress, one's behavior, or even one's language. Yaacob Avinu was resolute and strong in the face of hundreds, never leaving what he knew to be the absolute truth. Slowly, Yosef learned that lesson of not keeping one's religiosity private.

Nor should we keep our religiosity in the confines of our kinese, or homes. We need to strive to be like Yaacob, and be outward Jews as much as we can, for the moment one begins to compromise one's religiosity, the dangerous doors of compromising more and more are open...
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