In this week’s reading, Yosef is sold, enslaved, and taken to Egypt, where he is purchased by Potiphar, chief executioner to Pharoah. He soon earns Potiphar’s trust, such that Yosef is entrusted to manage Potiphar’s house and all his property [Gen. 39:1-4].
This works out very well for Potiphar; because the Torah tells us that from the moment he handed things over to Yosef, G-d “blessed the house of the Egyptian because of Yosef, and the blessing of G-d was in all that he had, in the house and in the field. And he abandoned all that he had in the hands of Yosef, and he knew nothing regarding it, save for the bread that he ate” [39:5-6].
Then, however, Potiphar’s wife becomes attracted to Yosef, and tries to seduce him. He is called Yosef HaTzaddik, “the righteous Joseph,” because he withstood her temptations.
Until, one day, he didn’t. She found him at a weak moment, alone in the house, and he was ready to give in to temptation. Then, the Medrash tells us, he saw his own reflection.
The Medrash teaches us that Yosef looked exactly like his father, Yaakov. So when he saw his reflection, he saw his own father staring back at him! Seeing that image changed everything, and that is why Yosef broke free of her and fled from the house. And thus Yosef is called HaTzaddik, the righteous, because being reminded of his father saved him from transgression.
In our daily prayers, we constantly recall our righteous forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. We are linked, parent to child, back to those holy great-grandparents. We may not have a mirror, but we have numerous daily reminders through our prayers. We learn to emulate their deeds, because, thanks to them, we have much to live up to!