Parshas Vayechi 5760
Outline Vol. 4, # 1
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
In the initial stories of Dovid Hamelech (King David), no one imagined that
he was fit to be king. Even the prophet, Shmuel HaNovi, did not consider
the possibility. Only the direct command of Hashem caused Shmuel to
reconsider his first impression. What held Dovid back from
recognition? The false perception that others had of him.
Yosef was relegated to slavery. Slowly, his master came to the realization
that the "slave" deserved to be the master... Later, Yosef was confined to
the dungeon, until the warden realized that the prisoner was fit to be in
control of the criminals. There he remained, until Pharaoh realized that
this "prisoner" actually deserved to be ruler of the kingdom...
Flawed Perception and Repercussion
Our perceptions of people are, by necessity, flawed. We assess people by
what we see of them -- their status, actions and behavior. However, people
are not limited by their past and present social status, or their
behavior. The human potential is vast, nearly infinite.
If we understood the repercussions of assessments we make of people, we
would see the foolishness of labeling. You can harm another person by
creating and maintaining your flawed perception of him. However, the harm
to yourself is even greater: Your foolish perception of people limits the
relationship you might have enjoyed with them.
Pharaoh saw that Yosef had immense capabilities. Allowing Yosef to pursue
his potential would be for everyone’s best interest, so there was no
justification for maintaining the perception that others had had of
him. By showing the Egyptians that their assessment of Yosef was flawed,
Pharaoh realized an amazing opportunity.
The brothers who sold Yosef, had found justification for their actions.
Even when they came to regret what they had done, it was the uncaring and
brutal treatment which grieved them, more than the sale itself.
Suddenly, after many years, Yosef revealed himself to the brothers. They
were shocked into complete silence. Although they had found justification
for their actions, the thought that Yosef had actually achieved dominion
over them, threw them into confusion. They were going through a mental
shift -- their concepts and perceptions were thrown into total
disorder. The confusion was the result of the sudden recognition that
their perception of their brother had been completely off-base.
When we criticize a fellow worker, we are really criticizing
ourselves. The fact that the person has made mistakes, even multiple
mistakes, does not warrant that he should be held back for eternity. Our
diagnosis, however, may have a much more lasting effect, by branding the
man incompetent for life. In reality, all that we are spreading is the
evidence of our own incompetence at helping the person.
Just as we must strive for personal improvement, we must strive to help our
friends and acquaintances free themselves from their inadequacies. Just as
we must never give up hope for ourselves, we mustn't give up hope for
another person's redemption. When we speak derogatory words about another
person, we only point out our own failure as a human being.
"Anyone who tells of his friend’s blemish, is himself blemished..." Talmud,
Waiting for Opportunity
Yosef could have complained about his hardships. He would have had
justification for blaming his brothers. Such an attitude, however, would
have entailed the abandonment of his personal responsibility to help. One
of the greatest trials is for a victim to overlook the harm he received,
and, instead, to seek the betterment of the wrongdoer. There is so much
complaining today, because everyone sees himself as a victim. Yosef,
however, displayed infinite patience. By acting slowly, deliberately, he
was able to gradually eradicate the cause of the crime committed against
him. He acted not as a passive victim, but as a catalyst.
Reproachful speech shatters loyalty, destroys relationships. When you
speak derogatorily about the fellow worker, no one in the office can trust
you anymore. Having spoken without discretion, you have shown that you are
not concerned about others' reputations. It is your own lack of vision
that has left you bitter and complaining. With a positive attitude, a
dynamic personality will show himself resilient, unscarred by the hardships
of life, ready to pounce on new opportunities.