Beit Midrash

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Fleeing in Vastly Different Directions


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

One of the highlights of our parasha is the moment of spiritual elevation that turned to a symbol for generations of strengthening oneself in service of Hashem – Yosef’s fleeing from the clutches of Potiphar’s wife, thereby standing up to a great moral test.
Chazal connect between this fleeing and the miracle of the Splitting of the Sea. "In the merit of the bones of Yosef, I will split the sea for them, as it says, ‘He left his garment with her and he fled outside’ (Bereishit 39:12), and it is written, ‘The sea saw and fled’ (Tehillim 114:3)" (Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael, Beshalach 3).
The haftara of Vayeishev also speaks of fleeing, in this case, regarding the weakening of the brave and strong, who will end up fleeing the battlefield (Amos 2:14-16). Later on, the navi speaks about a powerful earthquake that will cause much destruction, followed by survivors being killed by sword without the ability to flee or even being taken as captives (ibid. 9:1). These two mentions of fleeing are also connected to Yosef, but in a negative way. Israel will be punished for, among other things, the selling of a righteous, poor person (ibid. 2:6), which is a reference to the sale of Yosef. The earthquake about which the prophet spoke took place at the time of King Uziyahu, and it was followed by a terrible military defeat of Uziyahu and that of the empire of Yeravam II.
It is impossible to finish this discussion without citing the fleeing that is prophesied by the prophet Zecharia (14:3-8). While using imagery from Amos, Zecharia takes it to a positive place. He tells how Hashem will go out to fight against the nations who will attack Eretz Yisrael. Hashem will ‘stand’ on Har Hazeitim, as the mountain will split, with part going toward the Dead Sea to the east and part toward the Mediterranean to the west. The navi then describes how the local population fled from the area of the mountains, as people fled from the earthquake at the time of Uziyahu. This section is the haftara reading for Sukkot, in which we read about the happenings at the end of days when our enemies will fall by means of Hashem’s miracles, and He will redeem us with the coming of Mashiach. That earthquake is a happy, albeit frightening, one, which relives, to a great extent, the miracles and salvation of the Splitting of the Sea, which as mentioned, is connected to Yosef’s righteousness.
The merits of our predecessors indeed stand up for us for thousands of generations (see Shemot 34:7). May we be worthy of seeing miracles in the merit of Yosef Hatzaddik.
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