“[Joseph] refused, saying to his master’s wife, ‘Indeed, my master concerns himself about nothing in the house, and whatever he has he has entrusted to me’” Genesis 39:8
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The talmudic depiction suggests Joseph was so tempted that he claim close to sin. It is easy to understand why. A teenage boy rejected by his own family, lost in Egypt, fell into the clutches of a great seductress.
What gave Joseph the strength to overcome temptation? The Talmud records a tradition that an image of his father came to him. But the words Joseph chooses are telling. As noteworthy as what is said is what isn’t.
What is not said is: “adultery is a sin, I can’t do it”. Perhaps the temptation could have overwhelmed his obedience to God. What is said, instead, is that at stake is his master’s trust. Joseph’s outstanding trait is his total loyalty to everyone he meets.
From the beginning of the sidrah he cared for the downtrodden children. Throughout the ups and downs of his life, he constantly exhibits that deep care for everyone he meets.
What he tells the seductress is that his loyalty to her husband makes such an act a sin to God. And it is that sin — the violation of trust — that he can never break.
Earlier in his life the brothers sell Joseph into slavery. According to many, the brothers feared his charismatic power would lead to manipulation and narcissistic self-worship.
Charisma (chein) can derive from two sources. One is an ability to push emotional buttons and manipulate others. In the wrong hands that is dangerous.
But there is another chein, a charm that is Joseph’s. It derives from sincerity and openness, from real care for others and from loyalty. Joseph is the greatest dreamer in Torah. In the end his dreams are actualised through the most counterintuitive means: total integrity, inviolable loyalty and sacred trust.