Jewish Pavilion
Erik Ginsberg

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Each week we feature a different outstanding Florida Rabbi.

Torah Portion of the week:


Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider
Etz Chaim Synagogue

The Gemara in Brachot (20A) tells the story of Rabbi Yochanan who was a very handsome man. The Talmud describes how he would sit at the entrance of the Mikve (ritual bath) and as the women would leave they would pass by Rabbi Yochanan. Rabbi Yochanan explained that the women seeing his beauty while leaving the Mikveh would give them the merit of having children as beautiful as he.

The Rabbis told Rav Yochanan that they were not comfortable with his sitting outside the Mikve. Rav Yochanan answered don't be concerned because "I am a descedent of Yosef."

A perplexing story in the Talmud. Rabbi Solevietchik Z"TL raises 2 questions. First, why did Rav Yochanan sit outside the Mikveh? And secondly, what did he mean when he answered that "he is the descendant of Yosef?"

The Rav explains that when the Gemara speaks about the beauty of Rav Yochanan it does not mean only physical beauty. Rather, it refers to an appearance of holiness and righteousness. The beauty of Rav Yochanan was the beauty of a face which glowed with goodness and purity. Rav Yochanan believed that if the women would see him before they would go home and be with their husbands that this could effect the outcome of the child. The thoughts and attitudes during intimacy can effect the outcome of the child.

Although he knew he would be ridiculed by his colleagues he felt it important to try to benefit the women and families of his city. Therefore, Rav Yochanan sat outside the Mikveh.

What did Rav Yochanan mean when he answered that he was the descendant of Yosef?

He did not mean that he literally came from the family of Yosef, he could not have possibly known that! Rather, what he meant, was that he came from the "stock" of Yosef.

He lived as Yosef lived.

Yosef was a man of confidence. He believed in himself even when it meant going against the majority view. Yosef, who is referred to in the Torah as a lad, in many ways was not. If he was, he could never have dreamed the way he dreamed. All of his brothers opposed his dreams and mocked him yet he never stepped down, he was never intimidated.

Yosef is self-confidant. And his confidence becomes stronger. He first dreams of bundles of wheat and then dreams of the sun, moon, and stars.

The Rav makes an important distinction. Judaism warns against arrogance - "Ga-avah", but Judaism encourages self confidence and pride - "Gayut". The characteristic of "Gayut" is a characteristic of G-d: "Hashem Malach "Geyut" lavesh" - "G-d will have donned grandeur". What is the difference between the two traits? Arrogance is when man tries to be more than he is. Pride is when man strives to use all his talents and strengths and reach his potential.

Yosef was not arrogant. Yosef had confidence in himself. Rav Yochanan, had selfconfidence as as well, as a descendant of Yosef.

Yosef and Rav Yochanan teach the importance of pride, selfesteem, and self-confidence.