This week’s Torah reading is Parashat Vayeishev. The reading is Genesis 37:1-40:23). Here is a brief commentary from Baruch:
In this week’s Torah reading, Joseph is sold into slavery. At first the brothers were planning to kill him. This shows how easy it is for sin to take hold of people and lead them to commit an act of physical violence. One needs to realize that pride and jealousy can be manifested by a strong hatred that leads to murder. The only thing that kept the brothers from killing Joseph was their desire for profit. As Judah said, “What profit that we should kill our brother…?” (See Genesis 37:26). This would be a good time for you to take a spiritual test. What are your thoughts concerning Joseph’s brothers? If you are thinking how sinful they are, you have failed the test. The proper response is to see oneself in the behavior of the brothers. The brothers felt that they could easily get away with murder, but decided in the end to accomplish the same thing, i.e. getting rid of Joseph, by selling him to the Ishmaelites.
The point is this— if you were convinced that you could commit some crime (sin) and not ever be found out, would there be greater temptation to do the act? Perhaps you would not kill another person, but we all have things in our past, sometimes not so distant past, that we certainly would not want others to know about. For example, it is common that people behave differently in their home town, than when on vacation in a distant city. The expression, “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” testifies to this tendency.
The real problem with the brothers was a lack of faith in the reality of an omnipresent and omniscient G-d. Obviously it does not matter where you are, HaShem is watching. Your friends, family, and others who know you may not be with you to see what you do when you are alone, but certainly a real believer will experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The real test of spiritual maturity is whether you are more concerned with a friend learning of some sinful deed that you did, or you sinning against the counsel of the Word of G-d and grieving the Holy Spirit?
Eventually the brothers truly were sorry for what they did to Joseph. Surely one’s sin will find him out. There is coming a day when all will be exposed. If you really believe this, your life will reflect this. If not, you are probably looking forward to your next trip away from home.
[On the Shabbat during Hanukkah, Numbers chapter 8 is also read.]