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Parashat Vayeshev


Most often action is initiated by an emotion, which then stimulates the intellect to find ways to satisfy it. Given man’s cunning, the intellect can concoct various psychological schemes to deliver whatever it is that emotion desires. Rationalization is one of the most common drives utilized by the intellect to provide for the emotions. Since rationalization consists of logical excuses to cover up the true reason behind a given behavior, it is by definition false, and thereby dangerously misleading.

In the Parashat this week Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved him more than all of the other brothers and they hated him.

We know that the brothers were envious of Joseph and despised him because Jacob loved him more than them. The true state of each brothers emotion was, ‘I hate Joseph because my father loves him more than he loves me!’. The awareness of this feeling, would not be too well tolerated because a person who considers himself to be morally principled would think, how petty of me! Far be it from me to hate my brother because my father happens to favor him over me.

However, it is something altogether different to say, ‘I hate Joseph because my father loves him more than he loves my brothers’. By setting oneself aside and championing the cause of others, one can consider oneself to be virtuous because one is standing up for the underdog. The brothers deluded themselves that they were not acting out of selfishness, but out of noble devotion to their brothers who were being treated unfairly because of Joseph.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Shaul