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Divrei Torah on the weekly portions

Bereishit: VaYeishev

Cluedo: The Butler, in the Prison, Without the Cup

"In three days, Pharaoh will give you back your position and you will place Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you did before, when you were his butler. But just remember me and remind Pharaoh about me " (Bereishit 40:13-14) .

After saying "give you back your position" why does the verse add "and you will place Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you did before"? Also, how could Yosef put his trust in the butler; shouldn't he only put his trust in God?

Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains that if a person is sent to prison for a misdemeanour, then that person would resolve that when he is eventually freed he will be very careful not to make the same mistake again. Similarly, the butler accepted upon himself that if he ever regained his former position, then he would be much more careful that no flies would come into contact with Pharaoh's wine. The butler thought he was sitting in prison because he had been careless. Yosef wanted to impress upon him that the real reason was otherwise. Meshech Chochmah expounds that the butler was there to teach Yosef royal etiquette which would soon prove to be useful education.

Accordingly, when Yosef told him that he would return to his position, he also informed the butler that it would be superfluous to practise greater carefulness as a butler, because he was only really in prison for Yosef's benefit. Hence, Yosef linked the butler's freedom to "But just remember me". Thus, Yosef instructed the butler "and you will place Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you did before", meaning with the same level of care as before, but it was not necessary to worry about the earlier misdemeanour.

Now we can understand that not only was Yosef not guilty so far of lacking trust in God, but he actually gave the butler a lesson in God's Providence, how everything had been supervised by God.

On the verse "God was with him (Yosef)" (Bereishit 39:3) , Rashi's interpretation is that the name of God was familiar in Yosef's mouth. Mesiach Ilmim notes that almost every time Yosef speaks he gives credit to God (, e.g. Bereishit 39:9; 40:8; 41:16; 41:25,28,32; 41:51; 42:18; 43:29; 45:5,7,8; 48:9; 50:19; 50:25) . So, how did Yosef slip up in his trust of God such that the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 89) teaches that Yosef had to spend an additional two years in prison as a punishment for twice asking the butler to remember him?

Rabbi Shimon Shkop observes that for Yosef to ask once would not have been punished because once is hishtadlut (putting in one's own effort) which is permitted, but to ask a second time is not regarded as hishtadlut and also discredits the first time. Rabbi Moshe ben Chaim Alshich comments that Yosef had not asked the butler to help advance the date of his release, merely to ensure that action be taken when his release was due. Nevertheless, on Yosef's high spiritual level, this was deemed inappropriate reliance on mankind. Alternatively, others suggest that Yosef should have just waited until the end of the three days, until the moment the butler was due to be released, before making his request to be remembered.

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