Positive Vision - Day 10

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision".

Day 10 - Yosef HaTzaddik - Doing What Comes Unnaturally

Any discussion concerning shmiras einayim and kedushah must certainly feature Yosef HaTzaddik, whose nisayon is highlighted in the Torah as an example of kedushah par excellence. We will elaborate on his experience later. But in the present context, let us focus on one small detail of that episode.

The pasuk in Tehillim tells us that at Kriyas Yam Suf, “the Sea saw and fled." It seems that the Sea would not split until it saw something. The Midrash explains: What did it see? It saw Yosef’s coffin. Just as Yosef ran away from Potiphar’s wife, so too, the Sea split.

Here’s one explanation ... in light of what we have seen.

The very opposite of nature, that which defies nature, is called a “miracle.”

The Hebrew term for nature is teva; the Hebrew term for a miracle is neis.

The root term “teva” is used in relation to things that are fixed, stuck, and unchanging. It is related to being stuck in quicksand [טָבְעוּ בַּיָּם , see Rashi],and to a coin [ַ מַטבְּעֵ ], which is stamped and whose value is fixed.

The term “neis,” on the other hand, is related to fleeing [ וַיּנָסָ ]. It indicates fluidity, escaping from the fixed situation.

The term neis is also related to a nisayon, a test.

So let’s pull this all together.

Every person has a certain character, a behavior pattern, an instinct, built into his nature - in Hebrew, his “teva.” He is now faced with a nisayon. The nisayon is a test to see whether he can break his behavior pattern, whether he can flee from doing that which comes naturally, whether he can grow beyond "what comes naturally."

Yosef’s nisayon with Potiphar’s wife was not to be fathomed. We’ll get into the details much later. But he broke the natural teva of humans. He fled from that predictable behavior pattern, וַיָּנָס הַחוּצָה , and he fled outside.

The Sea, too, was asked to break its teva. Naturally, waters don’t split. It acquiesced to do so ( (הַיָּם רָאָה וַיָּנסֹ only when it saw the coffin of Yosef, who had overcome his own teva and withstood his nisayon.

If Yosef could separate from the nature machine, so would the Sea.

This is what so intrigued the young man from Haifa (see Day 7). It seemed so weird, so unnatural, to avoid what everyone else was drawn toward ... and this realization, that we can separate and elevate ourselves over the teva, is what triggered his journey to frumkeit.