by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – December 13, 2011
We read in the Torah section of VaYeshev how, after many difficulties that Joseph endured during his lifetime, including being sold into slavery by his brothers, he was regularly harassed by his captor’s wife to perform an immoral act with her.
Our Sages tell us (Bereshit Rabbah 85:2) that Joseph’s captor’s wife actually had some sort of noble intentions, for she had a vision that she would beget descendants from Joseph and wished to actualize this vision. Unbeknownst to her, these descendants would come from her daughter and not from her.
In commenting on this episode (Daniel Y. Travis, A Voice in the Darkness, pp. 89-90), R. Moshe Sternbuch notes that it teaches us to be wary of good intentions. If misguided, they can cause more damage than good.
Despite her good intentions, Joseph realized that doing this with his captor’s wife would bring him everlasting pain in the world to come (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 3b). In heaven, R. Sternbuch points out, they would have repeatedly shown him the vision of how he transgressed G-d’s Will while on this world.
R. Sternbuch goes on to note that modern technological advances have brought many kinds of media in existence that can show us the past and present in ways previously inconceivable – phenomenon that has a deeper significance. In explanation, R. Sternbuch cites the Chafetz Chaim. In the past, the Chafetz Chaim explained, Jews believed that G-d knows and sees everything and recorded all our actions. As the generations became weaker in their faith, they required a more tangible sign of this reality. Media that capture and record sounds and images, which can be replayed at a later time, help to illustrate what it means that all our deeds are being recorded to be seen when we reach the world to come.
We must remember to be wary of good intentions for they can sometimes lead us to very wrong conclusions and those conclusions will be replayed for us over and over to our regret in the world to come. May we never allow ourselves to be led astray.