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Posted on January 6, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

A charming son is Yosef, a son charming to the eye; [of the] women, [each one] strode along to see him. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him. (Breishis 49:22-23)

a son charming to the eye: His charm attracts the eye that beholds him… of the] women, [each one] strode along to see him: The women of Egypt strode out on the wall to gaze upon his beauty… and became quarrelsome: His brothers became his antagonists… Rashi

One thing is abundantly clear from even a superficial review of Birchas Yaakov, Yaakov’s Blessing to his children immediately before his death. A Brocho, a blessing is not a general fantasy wish for another person, like, “I hope you find a winning lottery ticket in the parking lot!”

After many years I am convinced that the greatest gift that you can give another person is not to import something from the outside but to show them the importance of what’s on the inside, to show someone the power of their potential and to help them begin to mine out their latent talents. That way they can develop themselves and be a blessing to others, and that may just be the biggest blessing.

Yosef is hit with two contrasting descriptions in the first two out of three lines of father’s “Brocho”. On the one hand he is recognized as a literal rockstar. There’s no other way to describe the charisma and natural energy that Yosef generated wherever he went. He was charming and beautiful and electric. Women struggled just to get a glimpse of him. He was awesomeness on display and naturally so.

On the other hand, he is told in the very next verse that his brothers hated him. What’s that about? It’s like a “good news bad news joke”.

What is he to do with this combination of information that his father is feeding him in the last moments of his life? Yes, Yosef was both a rockstar and he was hated. What’s the message for Yosef and for us?

Years back we had the Great honor and privilege to do a Rosh Hashanah program for three years in a row with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski. I remember him telling us at that time that he did not write some fifty books, he wrote one book fifty different ways. All of the books were about one subject, “self-esteem”. I asked him, “What’s self-esteem?” He answered in a heartbeat, “Healthy self-esteem means seeing your good points and bad points simultaneously.”

I realized that the operative word is “simultaneously”. If somebody only sees their good points then they are at risk of becoming haughty, perhaps a narcissistic personality. If they only see their bad points, then they will tend to be depressed and give up and fail before even trying. If one sees their good points and then their bid points alternately, then they are manic, taking off for flight and then crashing and burning again and again. But if somebody sees their bad points and they’re good points simultaneously then they never get too low because they always know that they have something special to offer and they never get too high because they understand that they have Faults and foibles. I saw a phrase that caught my eye and stayed with me. It goes like this, “I can be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time!”

The Maharal explains that water is the model of Chomer – Materialism. It takes on the shape of whatever vessel holds it. It has no form of its own. People with lower self-esteem are fluid and are easily influenced by their surroundings. They care too much about what other people think about them.

Someone with a healthy self-image gives shape to the environment around him because they have their own positive sense of self. Perhaps that was Yosef’s source of finding favor in the eyes of so many people. In spite of the fact that people hated him he remained himself. Now, in order to preserve that healthy sense of self he also needed to hear that people hated him. It was a large serving of humble pie, and a helpful reminder that he and we are both a masterpiece and a work in progress.