Rabbi Arthur Waskow‘s article, In the Dark: Joseph and His Brothers, examines Joseph’s, son of Jacob, character. Joseph was very ambitious and determined, “always moving ‘upward’ – in the scale of the community he seeks to dominate” (Waskow). In all that Joseph did he would eventually become the leader.
Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. Even when sold into slavery by his brothers, he became the head of Potiphar’s house. After he is thrown in jail because of Potiphar’s wife’s advances, Joseph is appointed to oversee all of his fellow prisoners by the warden. He eventually reaches the position of Supreme Overseer, as Pharaoh’s chief servant after he interprets a dream for the Pharaoh.
Waskow described Joseph as a “tzaddik”, a righteous man. He gave examples of how Joseph is a tzaddik. The first, Joseph refused Photiphar’s wife when she began to make her advances on him. He was not willing to commit adultery. Additionally, Joseph cares for his family, even after they sold him into slavery, and seeks to reconcile. Waskow reminds us that many argue that because Joseph never addressed God he cannot be a tzaddik, but it is true that God never addressed Joseph. Joseph teaches us it is possible to do the right thing, even when there are forces acting against us.
In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” (NRSV). This statement by Joseph shows that he saw the bigger picture. Even though adversity was given to him, beginning with his brothers, he was able to take this adversity and use it for good.