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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler

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Vayeshev - II

Believe In Your Husband

And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Yosef and she said, "Lie with me." (Bereshis 39:7)

Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen Dushnitzer, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Petach-Tikvah, was very careful not to rebuke anyone directly unless it was absolutely necessary. When he saw students who were not concentrating on their learning in the beis hamidrash but were talking about other matters, he would keep walking around them until they understood that they should stop their conversations and get back to learning.

When he had to rebuke a student directly for not learning Torah and wasting his time, he would immediately ask forgiveness from the student, since he was afraid that his rebuke might have been too harsh.

One of his students related the following story: "One day, I came late to the yeshivah. Rabbi Eliyahu called me over and reprimanded me for my tardiness. After a short while, Rabbi Eliyahu came over to me and asked me if I had been embarrassed by what he had said, and asked me for forgiveness. Since he was the mashgiach he had to rebuke the students, but he was so concerned about not hurting anyone's feelings that he was always afraid that perhaps the student had been hurt by his words."

(Hizaharu Bi-Chvod Chavreichem, p. 353)

Rabbi Eliyahu's efforts were designed to demonstrate to the students how important they were. He never degraded or insulted a student, even when that student needed to be corrected. This is also the proper way to behave towards our spouses. Beyond avoiding belittling our spouses, we must also encourage them and show that we believe in their potential to succeed.

On the day that Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Yosef, everyone went away to worship idols, but she pretended she was ill so that she could stay home and seduce Yosef. When they came back, her friends came to visit her. They asked her, "Why do you have a sad face?"

She told them what she claimed had happened during the day, that Yosef had attacked her. They told her, "There is nothing to do except to tell your husband that Yosef did this, so that he will put Yosef in jail."

Potiphar's wife answered, "But please do me a favor, and all say to your husbands that Yosef tried to seduce you also." All the women agreed and told this lie to their husbands.

All the ministers came to Potiphar's court and told him what their wives had said. Potiphar wanted to execute Yosef. The ministers said, "Don't kill him and lose the money that you paid to buy him as your slave; rather imprison him."

Nevertheless, he still wanted to kill him until Osnas (Potiphar's daughter) came to him secretly and swore to him and told him the truth.

Then G-d said to Osnas, "I swear to you, since you judged Yosef favorably, the tribes that I will raise from him will be raised through you. You will marry him and thus be the mother of these tribes."

(YALKUT 146, par. Vayavo)

What did the women mean when they said, "There is nothing to do except to tell your husband?" What did the women mean when they said, "There is nothing to do except to tell your husband?" Why did Potiphar's wife want everyone to tell their husbands that Yosef had also tried to seduce them? Why was it not enough for her to tell her husband what Yosef had supposedly done to her? Further how could Osnas have sworn to know the truth of the matter when she could not possibly have known what happened, as she was not home at the time? What did G-d mean when He said that Osnas judged Yosef favorably? Why was Osnas rewarded by being selected to be the mother of the tribes that G-d wanted to raise from Yosef?

Potiphar's wife was angry at Yosef because he was not willing to give in to her seduction, and she decided to take revenge. Her plan for revenge was to tell her friends that she was raped by Yosef, so that he would be punished.

But because she was well known for her promiscuity, she was afraid that her story would not be believed. So she acted as if she was ashamed and refused to tell the story to her husband until her friends compelled her to do so. She managed to convince them that she was so hurt by the rape, that she preferred not to tell him about it, even though that would mean that Yosef would go unpunished. That is why her women friends had to "coax" her into telling Potiphar. Our Sages allude to the success of this deception when they quote the women as saying, "There is nothing to do except to tell your husband..." Potiphar's wife had completed the first step towards her revenge on Yosef.

Potiphar's wife's promiscuity was so notorious that she believed that she needed the other women to tell their husbands that Yosef had also tried to rape them in order to give her story veracity. She felt that with her reputation, even being "coaxed" into making a confession would not be sufficient to convince her husband, and therefore the only way to take revenge on Yosef was to have other women who did not have such a bad reputation tell the same story.

Her trick worked, as we see that all the ministers came to tell Potiphar what Yosef had done, or more exactly, what their wives had told them that Yosef had done. The Midrash does not mention that Potiphar was enraged about what Yosef had done to his own wife, because he never believed a word that she said. But her plan ultimately worked because Potiphar did not catch on that she had convinced all of her friends to lie also, and therefore he was duly enraged when he heard from their husbands about Yosef's supposed attacks.

Now we can understand how Osnas could have sworn to know the truth even though she had not been at home during the episode. Osnas knew her mother well enough to figure out that she had fabricated the whole story and had convinced all of her friends to lie for her. She also recognized that Yosef was such a tzaddik that he could not possibly have done such a thing, and therefore she was certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the whole matter was a hoax. So when she swore that she knew the truth, it was really a deduction based on what she knew to be true of the characters of Yosef and her mother. This is what is known as Limud zechus.

The reward that Osnas received was due recompense for her actions. Since she believed in Yoseph's strength of character, it was a just reward that she was the one to be the mother of the tribes that were going to come from him and contribute to the strength of the Jewish nation.

A Wife Who Has Total Faith In Her Husband

A virtuous wife is one who has total faith in he husband. Of course she realizes that no person is perfect, but a good wife will think of her husband's failures as small, and his achievements as great. She will think that he is wise, righteous and trustworthy. She will constantly encourage him to pursue his goals, since she believes in his capability to achieve them.

That is what G-d meant when He said, "You judged Yosef favorably. The tribes that I will raise from him will be raised through you." Yosef needed a wife in order to bring those destined tribes into the world, and there was no more fitting wife for him than the woman who judged him favorably and believed in him. A wife's job is to assist her husband, as the verse says, "I shall make for him a helpmate." 1 A wife cannot help her husband if she does not have complete faith in him. That is what Osnas had for Yosef, and therefore she was the one most fitting to be his wife.

Our Sages' words should encourage us to try to be as faithful and loyal as Osnas. When we say a woman's task is to help her husband, this means that she stands by his side with encouragement and truly believes that her husband can succeed in anything he tries. She genuinely feels fortunate that she married this man, prays to G-d that nothing bad will befall him, and that G-d will always help him in all his endeavors. If he is feeling down, she should cheer him up an say, "Never mind. Try again. I know you can do it."

Never should a wife belittle her husband by telling him, "You will never succeed," or "Whatever you do is always a flop Saying things like this are discouraging, and do not help at all. Instead, she should comfort and encourage her husband. She must show him and tell him that she feels he has all the capabilities to be a champion in whatever he does. Such a wife is a true asset to her husband.

Most of the men who were successful in life had wives who believed in them and were full of encouragement. These women fulfilled one of the purposes for which they were created, " to be for him a helpmate." They did not belittle their husbands or discourage them from striving to reach their goals. In reality, it is not always easy to be encouraging, especially when going through difficult times, but believing in our spouses is a crucial ingredient in the success of any marriage.

1. Bereshis 2:18

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