Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
“Ben porat Yosef, Ben porat alei ayin” (A charming son is Joseph, a son charming to the eye) – These famous words are part of the blessing that Yaakov Avinu bestows upon Yosef in this week’s Torah portion. Since then, Yosef is identified as someone who is unaffected by the “evil eye.” Many commentators explain this phenomenon in terms of Yosef’s “good eye.” That is, the worse things get for Yosef, the more positive he becomes and the more he goes out of his way to be helpful to everyone around him. He sees every situation in a positive light from which all may benefit. In the book “Tanya,” composed by the Alter Rebbe (Shneur Zalman of Liadi) and published in 1797, we are instructed to emulate Yosef – to practice lovingkindness even when we have been wronged. At such times, instead of seeking revenge, we must show favor to those who have mistreated us.
Although Yosef’s brothers threw him into a pit and sold him to a passing caravan, he does not bear a grudge and makes peace with them. Even when he is thrown without cause into an Egyptian prison, he is pleasant to his cellmates. Regarding this, the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote that “Yosef discovered the secret for contending with human evil: focus on the positive and not on the negative, understanding that you are part of a great divine plan and are meant to utilize any encounter with evil as an impetus for self-improvement and for the betterment of the world at large.” Yaakov blesses Yosef that an unfailingly good eye, an ability to see everything in a positive light, will be his and that of his descendants forevermore. Indeed, with the evil eye out of the picture, Yosef’s success was assured.