Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg
Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg

What Has Real Value?

At the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev, Yosef has two dreams. In the first one, Yosef and his brothers are making bundles in the field when suddenly the bundles of the brothers surround Yosef's bundle and bow down to it. In the second dream, the sun, the moon and the stars all bow down to Yosef.

The Torah tells us that the brothers responded to these two dreams in two very different ways. After hearing the first dream, they hated Yosef even more than before - "Vayosifu od s'no oso." But after the second dream, it says, "Va'yekan'u vo echav" - the brothers felt jealous of him. Why the difference? Why did they feel jealousy only after the second dream?

The Beis Halevi explains that Yosef's two dreams focused on two different aspects of Yosef's future domination over his brothers. The first dream was about financial success. In that dream, Yosef saw that he was going to become wealthy and his brothers would be dependent on him for their sustenance. That is why the dream is about bundles of grain which symbolize material prosperity, and the bundles of the brothers are bowing to Yosef's bundle, as if to say that the brothers will be dependent on Yosef, that they will need him financially.

But in the second dream, Yosef sees that he is going to surpass his brothers on a spiritual plane. The sun, the moon and the stars - all celestial bodies - symbolize the world of ruchniyus. Yosef was saying that he was going to be the spiritual leader, the carrier of the mesorah, for the entire family.

That is why the brothers were jealous only after the second dream because material success does not elevate a person. It is not intrinsic to the person; rather it is external to him, and as such it is not something to be jealous of. In the first dream, the brothers were bowing only to Yosef's bundle, not to Yosef himself, because Yosef's wealth was external to him. That is why the brothers did not feel any jealousy toward Yosef. They felt only hatred.

But in the second dream Yosef was talking about spirituality. He was saying that he would be greater than his brothers in his Torah learning, in tzidkus. These are qualities that affect the person himself; they transform him and make him special. That is why in the second dream, the sun, the moon and the stars were bowing to Yosef himself, because that dream was implying that Yosef was going to become a greater person, that he was destined to achieve a higher spiritual level than his brothers. And that is why the brothers were jealous of Yosef because special qualities in ruchniyus are intrinsic to a person. They raise him to a higher level and are something of real value.

This idea of the Beis Halevi should give us pause. It challenges us to reevaluate our perspective on life. What gets us excited - the latest iGadget on the market, a new luxury car, or a novel interpretation of the Ramban on the parsha? Whom do we admire - the rich and famous, the heroes of the gridiron, or the businessman who finds time to learn in the Beis Medrash at night after putting in a full day at the office and the individual who selflessly gives of himself to do chessed in the community?

Our accomplishments in ruchniyus transform us as human beings. They make us better people. When we see someone who davens with kavanah, someone who has exemplary middos, or someone who cherishes his involvement in Torah and mitzvos, we should feel jealous of him and want to emulate him. Kin'as sofrim tarbeh chochmah.Jealousy can sometimes be a positive character trait, but only when it gets us to run after things of real value.

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