"Pharaoh Dressed Him in Robes of Fine Linen"

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

Sicha for Shabbat from the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion



"Pharaoh Dressed Him in Robes of Fine Linen

and Placed a Gold Chain about His Neck"

Summarized by Betzalel Posy

When Pharaoh promoted Yosef to be the prime minister of Egypt, the Torah emphasizes that the first thing he did was dress him in clothes reflecting the majesty of his office. The material element of Yosef's promotion seems symbolic of his victory, with the help of the Kadosh Barukh Hu, over all the obstacles that stood in his way. When Yosef put on his new clothes and picked up his scepter, he was representing not his own greatness, but that of his Creator.

Judaism recognizes the importance of physical and material trappings and encourages us to acknowledge this significance as well. Not only do they provide grandeur for God, but they remind a person that he is created in God's image and must behave in an appropriate manner.

Materialism is one of the most easily misused benefits that we have in this world. It disturbs me to enter the Beit Midrash, which stands as a marker to the splendor of Hashem and His Torah, and to see coats lying around on chairs and tables. Not only does this show disrespect for the Beit Midrash, but also for the clothes themselves. Coats are also a way to serve the Kadosh Barukh Hu, and neatness and presentability are an essential part of the life of a Ben Torah.

Of course, contemporary Western culture tends to have too much respect for materialism, and sees it as a value in its own right. Israel is no less guilty of this than others. We have our malls, places of consumption culture and "hanging out." Even the Charedim now have their own mall in Jerusalem, where they can waste time and effort with the certification of the BaDaTz. Is this what we have returned to our land for?

Materialism can be overused and misused. While assuring that we behave in a respectful and dignified way, we must remember why we need to maintain that dignity and majesty. This is the lesson that Yosef HaTzadik gives us when he says to his brothers, from his seat of grandeur: "Et ha-Elokim ani yareh" - "I fear God."

(Originally delivered at Seuda Shelishit, Shabbat Parashat Miketz 5757.)


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