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Midot Hayom 5770 Day 37: Gevurah in Yesod

[Joseph] said to [Jacob], “I am ready [to go to my brothers]” (Genesis 37:13). Although Joseph knew that his brothers hated him, he did not want to disobey his father [by refusing to go] (Mechilta Beshalach Pesikta).

He went to great lengths to honor his father. Furthermore, he did not enter the room when his father was alone lest [his father] ask how his brothers treated him. [This might result in Jacob’s] cursing them and thereby destroying the whole world (Pesikta Rabbati 3:45).

The two Midrashim may seem to contradict each other: If Yosef was worried that Jacob’s cursing the brothers could destroy the whole world, why was he not concerned that they would kill him, which would also destroy the world? Surely it was possible for Yosef to ask his father to send someone else and not disobey his father. Jacob was aware of the tension between the brothers. He would have understood.

The man of Yesod, loyal to the source of his life and accomplishments, does not and need not worry for himself, as he understands that Yesod of existence will guide and protect him. He is consistently loyal his responsibilities and does not consider the possible consequences for him.

However, he must also focus his Yesod view on others, doing all he can to ensure that each person will be able to achieve his own Yesod. Yosef could not allow his father to curse the brothers as it would damage Yaakov’s and the brothers’ Yesod. A curse will be a response to a specific action rather than an appreciation that God was guiding all the events to achieve a specific result.

Yosef was sensitive to each person’s role in God’s plan, and in his loyalty to that plan, protected every party from losing their awareness of the Foundation guiding all the events and instead, focusing on specific actions. Yosef protected the Yesod of each individual specifically, or, as we say, with Gevurah – specificity.

History is full of stories of people who have a sense of their own destiny. Most see their potential as their own, not as coming and directed by the Foundation of All Existence, God. Even those who speak of serving God, are willing to focus on their mission, ignoring the specific role of each individual, their Gevurah in Yesod.

One parent is inspired to change in a way that will affect the entire family. He, or she, senses the magnificence of their soul, and wants to live with that awareness. It may very well be the beginning of Yesod. However, true Yesod demands, Gevurah, or focus, meaning that this person not impose his new directions and practices on others, without paying equal attention to how the changes will affect them.

I had a student who found a new way to express his prayers that was incredibly effective for him. He, as everyone else in Yeshiva, prayed aloud, and the people around him heard his new form of prayer and were distracted. He argued that his new approach would work for everyone, and that rather than complain, they should emulate his prayer. His approach clearly lacked Yesod, an awareness that whatever we are is not “our own,” and Gevurah in Yesod, that each person is guided by the Foundation of All Existence.


  1. Do I focus on my immediate responsibilities or on how each responsibility is part of the development of my entire Soul, which comes from God? Am I able to see the Yesod in everything I do?
  2. Make a special effort during this day of the Omer to appreciate each Mitzvah performed, each prayer recited, and all the Torah you study as part of the much larger picture of achieving the potential granted by the Creator.
  3. Before reciting a blessing before eating, focus on the food as a gift that is rooted in Yesod as much as your entire Avodah, or Service of God.
  4. You can measure the integrity of your Yesod by your awareness of how your actions affect the people around you.


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