During the great hunger, when the people of Egypt discovered that all the grain they had stored during the years of plenty had rotted, they, as well as residents of other nations of the world, turned to Yosef Hatzaddik — whose granaries were blessed by Hashem — to purchase wheat and thereby keep themselves alive. In the process, Yosef earned astronomical sums of money, and proceeded to hide the money as three separate treasures.
Chazal (Sanhedrin 110a) teach us that one treasure was subsequently revealed to Korach, which made him fantastically wealthy. Another treasure was revealed to the Roman Emperor Antoninus the son of Asverus, and the third was hidden away for the benefit of the tzaddikim when Moshiach will come.
These three treasures symbolize three very relevant lessons.
In every generation there are those who disagree with the choice of a specific individual as a leader, and will often go to great lengths either to prevent that person from achieving a prominent position, or to remove him from it. Convinced of the righteousness of their cause, they are certain that nothing could stop them from fulfilling out their plans.
What they fail to realize is that the opposite is true: When it is pre-ordained for someone to achieve a position of greatness, the efforts of his enemies can’t block this from happening.
While we have no inkling of the greatness of the saintly Shevatim, there is much that we can learn from our superficial understanding of the story of Yosef and his brothers. When his brothers sold him as a slave down to Egypt, it seemed certain that the dreams Yosef had related — in which he was portrayed as a king and they would bow down to him — would never come true. Yet it was precisely their action which put in motion the chain of events that culminated more than twenty years later in the brothers repeatedly bowing down before Yosef, in total subjugation.
Regardless of the actions of his brothers, nothing could prevent Yosef from becoming viceroy in Egypt, and, generations later, it was “revealed” that Korach’s attempt to lead a rebellion would fail. It was HaKadosh Baruch Hu Who had appointed Moshe Rabbeinu as the leader of the Bnei Yisrael; no one could take that away from him.
At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that, while those who seek to harm another are fully responsible for their actions and must seek forgiveness and do teshuvah, the individual who suffers at their hands should view them with the recognition that this too was pre-ordained from Hashem — for his own benefit.
As we learn this week, Yosef Hatzaddik told his brothers, “Although you intended to me harm, Hashem intended it for good, in order to accomplish… that a vast people be kept alive…” (Bereishis 50:20)
The second lesson involves the oft-repeated myth, that somehow the fact that the Jews are “so different” is what causes others to hate us so. If only, this sorely misguided train of thought goes, the Jews would agree to shed their distinctive identity — at least partially — that would help eliminate anti-Semitism.
While there is no shortage of historical evidence to debunk this myth, we can also learn this from both the success of Yosef — who remained a tzaddik, observant of the Torah well before it was even given on Har Sinai — and the remarkable relationship between Rabi Yehudah Hanassi and the Roman Emperor Antoninus. Also known as Rabbeinu Hakodesh, this saintly Tanna was the leader of Klal Yisrael, and Antoninus would visit him in secret, showing him the greatest deference imaginable.
Throughout the generations, Jews who stood proudly by their principles and refused to yield an iota of the holy mesorah often earned the respect of the rulers of the countries they lived in. At the same time, when the sword of Eisav was, R”l, unleashed against Jews, they massacred those who sought to negotiate away parts of their observance alongside those who remained true to the Torah.
Finally, the story of Yosef Hatzaddik and his brothers also teaches us that enmity between brothers does not last forever. It took more than twenty years, but in the end the Shevatim were reunited and reconciled. This is symbolized by the third treasure, the one that will be revealed when Moshiach will come. For then all divisions will be set aside, and unity will reign among all of us.
Every possible action we can take towards extinguishing the fires of machlokes and increasing peace among Jews will help bring that day ever closer.
(Adapted in part from the sefer Pardas Yosef.)