Midot Hayom 5770 Day 38: Tiferet in Yesod
Every day Potiphar’s wife would try to persuade Joseph with words. The garments that she wore in the morning she did not wear in the evening, and the garments that she wore in the evening she did not wear in the morning. She said to him, “Consort with me.” “No,” he replied. “I will have you imprisoned,” she threatened. He replied, “God releases the bound.” (Psalms 146:7) “I will bend your stature.” “God straightens the bent.” (Verse 8) “I will put out your eyes.” “God gives sight to the blind.” (Verse 8) She gave him a thousand talents of silver. Nevertheless, he refused to listen to her “to lie beside her,” (Genesis 39:10)in this world, “to be with her” in the World to Come. (Yoma 35b)
Joseph ignored Potiphar’s wife’s constant efforts of seduction. She attempted to present herself in new ways each time he saw her, not understanding that his refusal was based on himself and not because of her. He was, after all, the man of Yesod, consistently loyal to the Source of his existence.
Once she figured out that he wasn’t refusing her specifically, but was protecting who he was, she attempted to threaten him. However, his connection to his Source allowed him to respond to each threat with a verse. He explained that all her threats were already preempted, or balanced out by a promise of God. He maintained the Tiferet of his Yesod. Any threat would be counter balanced by God.
Potiphar’s wife then attempted to throw Joseph off balance with her gift of a thousand talents of silver. He responded by explaining that he understood that Tiferet means that there is a balance between heaven and earth. Whatever we do on this world creates a reality in heaven. If he would even “lie beside her” in this world, he would be destined to “be with her in the World to Come.” She could not disturb the Tiferet of his Yesod.
I am convinced that the behavior of each of the destructive characters in the Bible is a lesson in the strategies of the Yetzer Harah – the Evil Inclination. Potiphar’s wife began with straightforward and intense seduction. Yosef was sufficiently loyal to his Foundation that derived from God to withstand seduction. Yesod, seeing ourselves rooted in God’s will for us to exist can protect us from the seductions of the Yetzer Harah.
Although we might expect Potiphar’s wife to attempt to bribe Joseph before threatening him, avoiding the ill will engendered by threats, she did the opposite. She began by threatening him with prison, bending his stature, even blinding him. The Yetzer Harah appreciates that someone who is able to withstand intense seduction will not respond to bribes, at least, not at this point of the battle. Seduction is the promise of pleasure, very similar to a bribe. So, the Yetzer Harah will attempt to threaten the person with what he will lose by refusing to sin. He will not threaten the loss of pleasure but the loss of further opportunities to grow or even to continue to function as he currently does: “If you wake up for prayers, you will be too tired to learn during the day.” “If you do not do this you will suffer embarrassment and loss of prestige.” “If you repress yourself you will not be able to grow as you should.”
The Yetzer Harah attempts to throw our sense of Yesod off balance. We can recognize that it is the Yetzer Harah speaking the second we sense that we are off balance, that we have lost our sense of Tiferet.
Once we are off balance, he senses our vulnerability, and attempts to bribe us, to restore the balance in a destructive manner. The only strategy is to emulate Yosef and focus on the balance between our physical and spiritual lives.
Pay attention to moments and situations when you feel off balance. Recognize that you are vulnerable and make an effort to protect yourself by balancing a destructive drive with a constructive action.