BLASPHEMY-3/Joseph and his master’s wife


© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner

Class BLASPHEMY-3/Joseph and his Master’s Wife

1: He increased YHVH’s Honor

Last class we learned how Judah and Tamar sanctified YHVH’s Name, which appears 3 times in that section. Now the Torah brings the4 story of Joseph and his master’s wife. Let’s count how many times the Name of YHVH appears in that section!

“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt.
Then Potifar, the chamberlain (Eunuch) of Pharaoh,
the ‘captain of the kooks (or assassins), an Egyptian,
bought him from the hands of the Yishmelites who had brought him down there.
And (1) YHVH was with Joseph and he was a successful man
and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
And the master saw that (2) YHVH was with him
and that (3) YHVH made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
And Joseph found favor in his sight and served him,
and he made him overseer over his house,
and all that he had he put in his hands.
(Genesis 32:1-3)

YHVH appears 8 times, against the 8 Commandments
In just a few words, the Torah describes how Joseph ascended to power in his master’s home. So far we’ve counted 5 times the name YHVH, but in fact the Name appears a total of 8 times in a short story, in one of the most concentrated way in the Torah!
Obviously, the number 8 reminds us the 8 commandments that Joseph kept in his master’s home: 7 of Noah plus the 8th of Abraham: circumcision.
Later, when he would ascend on the throne of Egypt, he would ask the Egyptiansto circumcise themselves (Rashi.)

Sold as a sex slave
But for now he is a slave sold in the slave market for sex. That is why the verse states that he was bought by an Egyptian ‘man.’
Joseph, a 17 years old beauty, was purchased by “a Egyptian man” as a sex slave.
Indeed, Egypt excelled in witchcraft and sex perversions. The Rabbis said that “in Egypt, men married men and women married women.” Brothers married their sisters, and bestiality was rampant. The Torah refers to it as “The Egyptian Filth.”

Gabriel castrated him
But the verse also says that Potifar was eunuch. Why would he then purchase a sex slave like Joseph? The Midrash explains that when he attempted to molest Joseph, the Angel Gabriel castrated him. This also explains his wife’s frustration.

A cruel, master of killers
The Torah also refers to Ptifar as “the Capitan of the assassins, a cruel henchman. You would not like to get in his way.

Joseph success
Now the verse says that (1) YHVH was with Joseph, and that he was a successful man in the house of his master, and that his master saw that (2) YHVH was with him and that (3) YHVH made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
How could a pagan Egyptian know that YHVH was with Joseph?
The rabbis explained that Joseph kept YHVH’s Name on his lips. Whatever he did he said: “G-d willing,” (using YHVH Name.) This way his master could attribute Joseph success to YHVH.

He sanctified YHVH name
This way Joseph increased the HONOR of YHVH in the eyes of his master and the rest of the household. In other words, Joseph SANCTIFIED YHVH Name by his behavior. .

In summary so far: Joseph sanctified YHVH’s name by

  • By keeping, and teaching, the 8 commandments (7 of Noah plus one of Abraham) as evident from the 8 times YHVH appears in the text
  • By keeping YHVH Name on his lips
  • By attributing his success to YHVH. 

    2: He sanctified YHVH’s Name by his life

    Everything looked good for Joseph in his master’s house, until his master’s wife coveted him. Now he had to withstand the worst trial of his life:

    “And Joseph was a good looking person, and well favored.
    It came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph
    and she said, lie with me. But he refused and said to his master’s wife,
    behold, my master knows not what is with me in the house
    and he had committed all that he has to my hands
    there is none greater in this house than I,
    neither had he kept anything from me but you, because you are his wife.
    How can I do this great wickedness and sin against ELoKiM?

    Drunk with success, Joseph wasn’t careful. The verse says he was ‘good looking,’ he curled his heir and wore fancy clothes. So attractive, in fact, that the Egyptian women cut their fingers with their kitchen knives while watching him (Midrash). Unfortunately, his master’s wife lusted for him too.

    The master’s wife
    Some rabbis attributed royal goals to her seduction of Joseph, as if she ‘foresaw’ that she would bear children by him. Indeed, they noted, Joseph would later marry her daughter Osnat. But whatever her motives were, she, a married woman, attempted to force herself on him, her pretty slave.


    “And it came to pass as she spoke to Joseph day by day
    that he hearkened not to her to lie by her or to be with her.
    And it came to pass about this time that Joseph went into the house
    to do his work, and there was none of the men of the house there within,
    And she caught him by his garment saying, lie with me, and he left his garment in her hand and fled and went outside.

    The Midrash says that what stopped him from ADULTERY was an image of his father that he saw. Thus “Honor your father” brought him to Honor God’s Name.

    When he refused her he mentioned ELKM, since he was aiming at the law.
    But having YHVH’s Name on hi slips, made him a known follower of YHVH.
    Hence by his refusal he sanctified YHVH Name.

    Her retribution was harsh. She lied to her husband, claiming that he, Joseph, had tried to rape her. The master then threw Joseph to Pharaoh’s dungeon.
    Very few people merit to escape that dungeon.
    Joseph fate seemed to be doomed.

    But (6) YHVH was with Joseph and showed him grace,
    and gave him favor in the eyes of the officer of the prison,
    and the officer of the prison committed to Joseph’s hands
    all the prisoners that were in the prison,
    and whatever they did there he was the dower of it.
    The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hands
    because (7) YHVH was with him
    and that which he did, (8) YHVH made it to prosper.”

    YHVH was with him eight times
    Thus we\ve counted 8 times the name YHVH appears in the story. This is exceptional, since the rest of the chapters are written under ELKM Name only.
    First Judah brought YHVH down to Earth, her Name appearing 3 times in his story
    Then Joseph brought YHVH to Earth, with her Name appearing 8 times in the story of his master\s wife
    Both sanctified YHVH Name,
    But at that point in the story Joseph prevails

    .Thus the family of Jacob was healing from their spiritual depression.
    Foremost of them were Judah and Joseph.
    What about the rest of the brothers? On that we’ll learn next class.