The story of VaYeshev reveals the secret of success.
The Parasha of VaYeshaev opens with the story of the relationship between Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, and his brothers. When Joseph goes on his father’s mission to look for his brothers, it is said: “And a certain man found him and behold he was wandering in the field…” (in Hebrew wandering is To’eh, which also sounds as wrong, although spelled differently) and the Midrash says he was wrong (To’eh) in everything. Meaning, although he learned and knew the secrets of The Creation, while he lived in the protected environment of his father’s home, he did not know how to imply what he studied. The great change occurred the minute he was thrown into an empty well by his brothers. At that point Joseph understands that something is not “working” well for him. That something he is doing is wrong and that he needs to change it. And indeed, right after that the Torah tells us that a convoy of Ishmaelites that passed by and purchased Joseph was carrying “…spicery and balm and ladanum…”, and Rashi (The great French commentator – 11th century) explains this is the reward of the righteous man. Rashi explains that Ishmaelites usually carry crude oil, however, in order to keep Joseph of getting harmed by the bad smell, that convoy was carrying perfumes and incense.
This is where Joseph changes and becomes Joseph Ha’Tsadik (the righteous). Here he understands that “Many are the ills of the righteous, but the God delivereth him out of them all” (Psalms 34). Meaning, that the Creator created a perfect universe, but when everything is too perfect we are fed up with it and that is why “Many are the ills…”. When are granted the opportunity to turn the darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness, to be righteous, this is a place we have to choose to be in.
Joseph understands that if he dreams about being a “king” he has to work for it, and when he was sold to Potiphar he immediately adjusts to his new situation in order to produce the best of it. After a short while he becomes in charge of all Potiphar’s property. However, then he lets pride get over him and when Potiphar’s wife covets him, he finds himself in the “pit” again. There he also becomes in a very short while the “king” of the pit.
“For a righteous man falleth seven times and riseth up again, but the wicked stumble under adversity” (Proverbs 24, 16) – this is the secret of life. We have to remember that all the pain and sufferings we experience is an opportunity given us to make a choice – to choose between subordinate (dealing with pain and emotional reactions) and essence (fulfilling our visions and goals).
The Ari says that our Tikun in this world can be only in a physical body and that is why our “work” here is so hard. This is the only way we could turn darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness. When it looks like evil controls the life of the righteous it is in order to give the righteous the opportunity to work on transforming himself and the situation, and this state of mind is the secret of success.