by Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer
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"Yosef couldn't restrain himself, so he called out, "Remove everyone" (Beraishis 45:1).
At this point, Yosef's compassion for his brothers was so overwhelming, he couldn't restrain his eagerness any longer to reveal the truth to them. Yet, he did manage to wait until the room was cleared of any bystanders, which Rashi explains was done to avoid embarrassing his brothers before strangers. Rav Yehuda Leib Chasman zt"l comments how we see Yosef's awesome self-control, he was in command of every situation. On the one hand, he had a burning desire to reveal himself; on the other hand he was careful to wait until the right opportunity. Chazal say that Yosef put his life at risk by emptying the room of his guards and attendants, for his brothers still desired to kill him. Yet, he felt it was the proper thing to do so as not to humiliate them, and he had the iron self-discipline to imperil his life in order not to shame them.
Previously, when Potiphar's wife grabbed Yosef by his garments, the verse remarks, "he fled and went outside". Sforno notes that the word went is superfluous; it should have said he fled outside. He explains that Yosef ran from the room to get away from her, but when he exited the house, he maintained his composure and walked calmly. He did this to avoid the inevitable hue and cry that would follow people seeing him flee. That in turn would reveal Potiphar's wife's advances to him, and he wished to avoid getting her into trouble. Again, we see Yosef's remarkable mastery when he's in a tight spot. He has the presence of mind to reflect on how his behaviour will affect others, and act serene and composed. Even the wicked wife of Potiphar was accorded dignity and thoughtfulness by Yosef.
The Mishna in Avos (1:1) says, "be deliberate in judgment". Rav Yisroel Salanter zt"l explains that this adage is relevant to us all, not only to judges. When we're deciding a course of action or direction in life, we should not be hasty in our decision-making, but give it careful thought and consideration. In Sanhedrin (7a) we learn, "A judge should always imagine a sword at his legs (poised to strike him) and Gehinnom open beneath him." Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt'l says that this is necessary to induce an element of fear so that he will deliberate long and hard, and arrive at the proper decision, as we are enjoined in Avos. It follows then that any person making a decision in life must have the fear of an unsheathed sword and the fires of Gehinnom before his eyes, so that he'll consider carefully all ramifications of his conclusion.
Orchos Chaim L'Harash is a listing of some one hundred and fifty brief ethical teachings, divided into seven sections. In the great mussar Yeshiva in Kelm, a section was recited daily. One motto goes, "al t'vaheil al masecha - Do not act hastily." This partical saying was said in Kelm with much emotion and intensity, because it was considered the cornerstone for sound moral development. The Baalei Mussar compare spiritual activity to physical pleasure. Just as one who rushes his meals cannot enjoy his food properly, so too, one who rushes with his mitzvos cannot derive satisfaction from them. Peace of mind is engendered through calmness and deliberation.
Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer, Kollel Beis HaTalmud Yehuda Fishman Institute, Melbourne Australia
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