Parashas Mikeitz

In parashas Mikeitz, we read of Yosef’s rise to the position of viceroy of Egypt. In regard to this rise to greatness, the Midrash writes (Esther Rabbah 7:7):
Rachel’s descendants [Yosef and Mordechai] underwent the same kind of test and attained the same kind of greatness. First let us examine the tests. In the Torah it is written (Bereishis 29:10): “It came to pass, when she [Potiphar’s wife] spoke to Yosef day after day, and he did not listen to her appeals to lie with her.” Here it is written: “It came to pass, when they spoke to him day after day and he did not listen to them.” Now let us examine the greatness they attained. In the Torah it is written (Bereishis 41:42): “And Par’oh removed his signet-ring from his hand and put it on Yosef’s hand, and dressed him in linen garments ….” Here it is written (Esther 8:2): “And the king removed the signet-ring that he had given over to Haman, and gave it to Mordechai.” The Torah continues (Bereishis 41:43): “And he set him upon the chariot that accompanied his own, and they called out before him, ‘Governor!’.” Here it is written (Esther 6:9): “And let the garments and the horse be given over … and let them call out before him: “This is what is done for the man whom the king wishes to honor!’.”
Yosef and Mordechai became top rulers in powerful nations. Now, we do not usually find tzaddikim rising to such positions. Why not? And what made Yosef and Mordechai different?
The Maggid, in his commentary on Esther 3:2–4, answers as follows. Typically, God withholds worldly success from the righteous, so that their success should not distract them from Torah and mitzvos. God does not want the righteous to flourish so splendidly in worldly affairs that they become overcome with a drive for more worldly success.
A person who generally tries to act righteously but is not completely righteous experiences a struggle when he is faced with temptation. The Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination both try to influence him, pulling him in opposite directions. The Good Inclination usually prevails. But when the Evil Inclination presses very hard, day after day, the person is liable to succumb. When such a person experiences extraordinary worldly successes, the danger of getting wrapped up in them and falling from his exalted level is great.
But it is different with a person who has completely subdued his Evil Inclination. Such a person, who is imbued with a single-minded will to reject sin, is no longer swayed in the slightest by any temptation. Even when pressed day after day, he does not give in. Worldly success poses no danger to such a person. Hence God does not withhold from him any worldly blessing or honor. As the Gemara in Berachos 7a says, a person who is primarily righteous may face hardship, but a person who is completely righteous is granted a life of consummate blessing.
We can now see what made Yosef and Mordechai different. They both faced the same test: a temptation cast at them day after day. And neither of them succumbed. This proves that they had vanquished their Evil Inclination to the point where no trace of it was left within them. They were driven exclusively by their Good Inclination. Therefore God singled them out for unique worldly success.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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