Parashat Vayeishev (And he dwelt) Genesis 37:1-40:23
Haftarah: Amos 2:5-3:8
In this week’s Torah portion one learns an important truth concerning sin. First and foremost sin is an offense against G-d. Not much of a spiritual revelation, but one that we tend to forget. Although Joseph was the recipient of much unfair treatment he did not allow this personal injustice to change his view of HaShem. More and more I see individuals who even teach the Bible at theological institutions to allow their perceptions of the world to taint their theological views, rather than relying only on Scripture to form their theological beliefs.
Joseph demonstrated great faith while enduring affliction that was not the result of his own actions. Despite this personal suffering he trusted that G-d was in control and would use all these things for His purpose. It is most significant that the Scripture tells the reader that in all of these afflictions G-d was with Joseph.
Many might think that it was this unjust treatment that Joseph was enduring that posed the greatest struggle for Joseph; however this may not be the case. Satan is not foolish, if one method does not meet with his desired result he is very willing to change to a different form of an attack. In other words when Joseph remained faithful to G-d in light of all this affliction, Satan decided to attack Joseph in a vastly different way. This brings us to the Biblical account of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Here the challenge was not to suffer for obedience for the purposes of HaShem, but rather to reject personal gratification in order to remain faithful to G-d’s moral standards.
It would have been very easy for Joseph to rationalize that he deserved some enjoyment after such unfair treatment of being sold into slavery. He could have justified his actions by saying G-d had abandoned him in Egypt, and in his anger against G-d, behave in a way that showed his contempt for HaShem’s laws. Many times when people feel that G-d has not been “fair” to them they begin to embrace a lifestyle of sinfulness, but this was not Joseph’s approach. He maintained a Biblical perspective of G-d, not allowing his personal life experiences to color his understanding of the L-rd. When given the opportunity to have a momentary gratification of his flesh he did not lose his vantage point. He rejected the invitation to sin, sayings,
“…And how shall I do this great evil and sin against G-d?” Genesis 39:9
Improper sexual behavior is a great evil, however more and more the believing community is allowing the reality of how the world behaves to shape its perspectives for sexual morality. Recently I spoke to a set of parents who were counseling their twenty four year son to postpone marriage until he finished two more years of schooling and worked for a few years thereafter and had enough money saved up to buy a home. This young man had been in a serious relationship with his fiancé for just over three years. Both families are believers and are very happy with the idea of the marriage. It is just that they believe that waiting a few years will place the couple in a much better financial situation than marrying now.
This young couple has been faithful to the Biblical standards of sexual purity until now. When I was asked to offer my opinion on the matter I spoke to the two sets of parents without the couple being present and asked them if they felt that postponing marriage might place unnecessary temptation before their son and daughter. I stated that because they felt they were ready to marry, obviously there would be strong feelings among the engaged couple that would naturally want to be expressed sexually. I was very shocked to hear the parents’ surprise to learn that this couple was not sexually active. How sad that these believing parents did not consider the possibility that their adult children were walking in obedience to the Biblical commandments.
It was also surprising that the parents had such disregard for the standards of G-d, preferring that this couple live in sexual disobedience for the sake of being in a better financial position. It was most sad that upon hearing about the proper spiritual conduct of the children they had raised and being sensitive to their adult children’s decision that the time was right to marry, the two set of parents agreed that if they had waited this long, that they could wait a few more years.
It was clear in the conversation that continued that it was not a big deal to the parents if the couple did not wait to be sexually active until marriage, as the parents rationalized the couple was planning to marry anyway. In other words, the parents did not see sexual immorality in the same way as Joseph, as a great evil. It is most sad, but few people today think in the same way as Joseph.
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