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The Faithful Joseph put his Trust in the Butler?

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

It was at the end of two years, and Pharaoh was dreaming…” (Genesis 41:1).

At the end of the previous Torah portion, Rashi taught that because Joseph put his trust in the chief butler to help him get released, he had to spend another two years in prison (40:23).

It’s interesting that Rashi based this comment on a Midrash that actually praises Joseph based upon a verse in Psalms (40:5). “Fortunate is the person who puts his faith in G-d, and does not turn to the proud or followers of falsehood.”

The question here is very perplexing. The Midrash seems to be internally contradictory. It chastises Joseph for inappropriately relying on the chief butler to help him, and yet praises him for his trust in Hashem. How can we resolve this?

Our sages explain that trusting in Hashem (bitachon) is intertwined with our simultaneous obligation to exert our own effort to advance our causes (hishtadlus). We’re not supposed to sit back in life and expect that Hashem will do everything for us.

The question is how much effort to expend? This is a very complex issue to calibrate, but one factor depends on the spiritual level of each person. Someone with tremendous faith would normally not have to invest as much of their own effort as someone of lesser faith.

According to the Chazon Ish, the Midrash is teaching that because Joseph’s level of trust in Hashem was so high, his reliance on the chief butler to get him out of jail was unwarranted. This is especially because the Midrash finds fault with the character of the butler. For Joseph to pin his hopes on him seems like desperation, which is really below someone of his spiritual stature.

Brought By Rabbi Michael Skobac


Rabbi Michael Skobac had been involved with Jews for Judaism (Canada) since 1989 and currently serves as its Director of Education and Counselling. He is a leading authority on missionaries, cults and issues relating to Jewish continuity and Jewish spirituality. Rabbi Skobac's publications include Missionary Impossible; Counter-Missionary Survival Guide; The DaVinci Code: A Jewish Perspetive; and Intermarriage: Is There Ligth at teh End of the Tunnel?


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Republished by Angelique Sijbolts with permission for the Noahide Academy.

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