Category Archives: Vayeshev

Dangerous Spiritual Success (Vayeshev)

Dangerous Spiritual Success (Vayeshev)

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. -Bill Gates

The Torah builds up and then describes a frightening scene of brotherly hatred. Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. To compound the insult to Jacob’s other children, Joseph describes to them, not one, but two dreams that hint at his eventual leadership of all his brothers. Later, when Jacob sends Joseph to check on the wellbeing of the brothers and their sheep, the brothers plot to kill Joseph as he approaches them.

At the last moment, instead of directly killing him, they throw him into an empty well. The Torah, which is typically thrifty in the use of extra words tells us that “the well was empty, it had no water.” It would seem obvious that if it’s empty, there wouldn’t be any water in it. Many commentaries expound on this seeming redundancy in the verse.

The Bat Ayin on Genesis 37:24 uses the verse as a springboard to discuss some of the ways we fool ourselves into unhealthy behavior, even, or especially, when we start off on the right path. He explains that our evil inclination will start off by having us consider all of our good traits and accomplishments, and that we should be proud of them. However, that is just the beginning of the insidious strategy. The second part is that our evil inclination, having achieved a feeling of pride for our legitimate traits and accomplishments, will then have us develop pride in things that we haven’t reached or achieved. This strategy is hinted at in the description of Joseph in the well. The first part, “the well was empty,” mirrors a person’s spiritual reality and the pride they feel in the success they’ve achieved so far. The second part, “it had no water,” is the delusion we have once we live too much off feelings of spiritual success.

The Bat Ayin suggests that the remedy is to return to a humbler approach, where though we can be happy about and celebrate our successes, we must realize that even our successes are thanks to God and are in His hands and therefore we should circumscribe any undue pride even in successes we’ve achieved.

May we have many successes to be humble about.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for their significant fusion ignition breakthrough.

Daily Seductions (Vayeshev)

Daily Seductions (Vayeshev)

The most important of life’s battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul. -David O. McKay

Joseph, who was sold by his brothers as a slave, ends up serving in the house of Potiphar, a powerful minister in Pharaoh’s empire. By biblical accounts, Joseph was extremely handsome and his good looks attracted the attention of Potiphar’s wife who attempted to seduce him on a daily basis.

The Midrash has some fascinating suggestions as to one of Potiphar’s wife’s underlying motivations. The Midrash explains that Potiphar’s wife had some sort of vision that her line and Joseph’s were meant to be joined. Based on that vision, she continuously tried to seduce Joseph. As it turns out, there was some truth to her vision, but she wasn’t the one who was meant to actualize it. Rather that vision was fulfilled years later through her daughter, Osnat, who eventually marries Joseph and gives birth to Potiphar’s wife’s grandchildren.

The Chidushei HaRim on Genesis 39:10 adds, that Joseph likewise had a similar premonition that Potiphar’s wife’s attentions had some divine or prophetic element to it. However, he wasn’t sure if the attention was something he was meant to act on or not. He wasn’t sure if the attraction of Potiphar’s wife came from his good inclination or his evil inclination.

However, when he saw that her seduction was a daily occurrence, he understood that the evil inclination was pushing this relationship. The Chidushei HaRim states that when the good inclination tries to persuade us to do something, it pushes once. If we don’t seize that good initiative or opportunity, it will seldom present itself again. However, the evil inclination attempts to entice us daily. When Potiphar’s wife accosted Joseph every day, it became clear that it was really the evil inclination at work.

May we stand strong in front of our daily temptations and take advantage of the fleeting opportunities to do the right thing.

Shabbat Shalom,



To giving thanks. It should be a daily exercise.

Victim’s Collusion (Vayeshev)

Victim’s Collusion (Vayeshev)

Silence is the ultimate weapon of power. -Charles De Gaulle

Joseph’s half-brothers hate him. The hatred is so deep, that they conspire to kill him. However, at the last moment, brother Judah suggests that they sell Joseph into slavery rather than kill him. Joseph is transported from the land of Canaan, south, to the Egyptian empire, where he becomes Potiphar’s slave. Though he excels in his servitude, Potiphar’s wife, whose advances upon Joseph are rejected, ultimately accuses Joseph of accosting her, landing him in prison.

Joseph is eventually released, due to his dream-interpretation skills. By successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph is elevated to the post of Viceroy of the Egyptian empire, a role he had been filling for nine years, before he meets his brothers again. Then he starts the strange charade of remaining unrevealed to them, forcing his full-brother Benjamin to come to Egypt, threatening to force Benjamin into slavery on trumped up charges, and only later revealing himself to his brothers, and subsequently they relay his prominence and wellbeing to their father, Jacob.

The big question that vexes many of the commentaries is why didn’t Joseph communicate with his family beforehand? Why, when he was in a position of tremendous power, did he not send a message to his beloved father that he was alive and well? Why did he let his father believe he was dead or missing all those years?

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 37:26, takes us back to the original sale of Joseph into slavery to answer the question. The brothers really had intended to kill him, or at the very least to let him die in the pit they had thrown him into. But Judah, a savvy negotiator, declared to his brothers: “We gain nothing by his death. If we sell him, at least we gain something, and it removes our hated brother from our midst.” Then they give Joseph a choice: “Either we let you die as planned, or we sell you into slavery on condition that you never reveal your identity or origins to anyone, that you never return home nor contact our father.”

Joseph has no choice but to keep his silence and never contact his family. The purpose of the charade with the brothers then becomes clearer. Joseph couldn’t just declare that he was Joseph when his brothers first meet him in Egypt. That likely would not have gone well and the family rapprochement wouldn’t have occurred. They needed to go through a few steps first to undue the damage of selling him into slavery. When Judah, who initially sold Joseph into slavery then saves Benjamin from a similar fate, they are redeemed. This then allows the brothers, of their own volition, to suspend the enforced silence, to inform their father as to Joseph’s wellbeing and to bring him to Joseph in Egypt, which is what they go on to do.

Joseph’s silence and collusion with his brothers in his own harsh fate were painful, but he had little other choice. In the end, he was able to overcome his circumstances, and reunite the family.

May we only use silence in a positive way.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Chuck Yeager, the man who broke the sound barrier, who passed away this week.

A Person of Trust (Vayeshev)

A Person of Trust (Vayeshev)

I have seldom known a person, who deserted the truth in trifles and then could be trusted in matters of importance. -Babe Paley

Joseph finds himself unjustly imprisoned in the royal Egyptian jail. Among his jail mates are the royal baker and the royal wine steward who had each been party to some affront to Pharaoh. Joseph famously interprets their dreams, correctly predicting that the wine steward would return to the good grace of Pharaoh while the baker would be executed.

The Meshech Chochma on Genesis 40:13 brings our attention to the fact that the wine steward had a particularly sensitive role which required Pharaoh to have the utmost confidence in the man. If Pharaoh did not trust the steward, he would not accept a cup of wine poured exclusively for him. He would have the steward pour two cups, Pharaoh would pick one at random, have the steward drink it, and then, satisfied that there was no foul play, Pharaoh would drink from the second cup. The fact that Pharaoh was willing to drink from a cup that the steward poured only for Pharaoh signified that Pharaoh had the highest level of trust in the steward, putting his very life in the steward’s hands.

Joseph, in interpreting the wine stewards dream, assures the steward he will return to the same level of trust, that he will pour a cup exclusively for Pharaoh and that Pharaoh will accept it. God also arranged that the baker should also be present so that Joseph could give the equally predictive but fatal interpretation of the baker’s dream. This way the steward would see that Joseph wasn’t merely giving good interpretations to curry favor with his listeners, but rather, he had the gift of divine prophetic interpretive powers.

Furthermore, God wanted Joseph to be incarcerated with these royal servants in order to learn the methods and practices of the royal palace, in preparation of his forthcoming sudden elevation from slave and prisoner to Viceroy of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, who would unexpectedly need to know how to conduct himself and maneuver within the royal court.

Joseph, upon his release and elevation, proves himself to be both trusted by Pharaoh and able to astutely navigate the royal court.

May we prove ourselves worthy of trust and may we successfully navigate our various social milieus.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the Chassidic celebrations of 19 Kislev.

Why you should wash your hands (Vayeshev)

Why you should wash your hands (Vayeshev)

By two wings a man is lifted up from things earthly: by simplicity and purity. -Thomas Kempis

Jews have an ancient ritual of washing hands after using the bathroom, and before eating bread. While the command pre-dates any concept of hygiene and was likely one of the reasons why Jews survived the Black Plague in such large numbers, the Berdichever gives a much deeper, mystical reason for the practice.

He explains that one of our missions in this material world, is through our thoughts and actions to release and elevate “sparks” that permeate our physical existence and move them to the spiritual plane. Only humans, who are the bridge between the physical and the spiritual have that capability and purpose.

Therefore, every act we do, even the most mundane ones, should ideally have the intent and purpose of elevating those hidden sparks from the material and superficial to the spiritual and sublime. We have the power to take the finite and temporal and somehow, just by having the right intention and effort, make it infinite, timeless.

That, the Berdichever states, is the secret of washing hands (Netilat Yadaim in Hebrew). By washing hands in the ritual fashion, we are elevating those particular sparks in time and space. Washing hands is somehow related to three instances where God’s “hand” is referenced to in the Torah: “the great hand,” “the high hand,” and “the strong hand,” and the washing of our hands on each occasion as prescribed, elevates those trapped sparks and returns them to their divine root.

This is also connected to the blessing on eating bread, “Blessed are You, God, our God, King of the World, Who takes out bread from the earth.” The word “earth” relates to the physicality of this world. “Who takes out” refers to retrieving those divine sparks from the material and converting them, returning them back to their spiritual origin.

As a physical, material, earthly being, I often feel like I have no idea what the Berdichever is talking about. However, some part of me, some spiritual stirring perhaps, feels like I’m touching on something familiar, something forgotten, something beyond my physical senses, beyond even rational comprehension. If we believe that we are indeed souls clothed in physical bodies, that our corporeal self is merely a shell, a host for our eternal spirits, then the Berdichever is giving us hints and guides for the spiritual beings that we ultimately are.

May we reach growing levels of understanding and the comprehension that really, it’s all for God, and we each need to find our own way, our own purpose in this divine scheme.

Shabbat Shalom,



To cousins, nieces and nephews. It’s always good to connect and reconnect.

The Trick of Dream Interpretation

The Trick of Dream Interpretation

Man, alone, has the power to transform his thoughts into physical reality; man, alone, can dream and make his dreams come true. -Napoleon Hill

The subject of dreams comes up heavily in the Book of Genesis. It starts with Jacob and his famous ladder that reaches the heavens. However, it’s his son, Joseph, who gets the lion’s share of dream narrative in Genesis.

It starts with Joseph’s own prophetic dreams, which imply his future ascendancy and the subservience of his brothers to him. It’s followed by the dreams of his prison-mates, Pharaoh’s wine steward and baker, whose dreams he correctly interprets. And it ends most dramatically with Pharaoh’s dreams, which Joseph is called on to interpret, which he does successfully and in the space of a day takes him from the dungeons of Egyptian to control of the Egyptian empire.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 40:9 (Vayeshev) gleans a vital lesson on the lost art of dream interpretation, of which our ancestor Joseph excelled. He explains that the key to a positive dream interpretation starts with the words the dreamer chooses when describing the dream.

Pharaoh’s wine steward, when telling over his dream to Joseph, uses the word (in Hebrew) “In my dream,” (“bachalomi”) which is also related to the Hebrew verb “to heal” or “health.” Joseph correctly interpreted that the dream was a sign of good things to come based on the wine stewards choice of words. However, Pharaoh’s baker started his dream narrative with the Hebrew word for “also” (“af”) which is unfortunately synonymous with the Hebrew word for “anger.” It was clear to Joseph from the baker’s word choice that his future was bleak, and that is indeed what happened. Three days later the wine steward was elevated to his former prestige while the baker was executed, exactly as Joseph predicted.

Rabbeinu Bechaye’s point is that we should always be careful in our choice of words, for we never know the impact they may have, especially in the interpretation of ethereal and potentially prophetic dreams.

May our words ever be positive and our dreams sweet.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the British and French engineers and workers of the Channel Tunnel, who finally met up after more than two years of digging, 27 years ago, this week.

Clueless Joseph?

Clueless Joseph? 

Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. -Graham Greene


Joseph recounts to his brothers his fantastical dreams which seem to imply that he will rule over them. The brothers don’t take this well at all. If they detested him before for being their father’s favorite, now they outright hate him.

After this episode their father Jacob orders Joseph to meet up with his brothers who are tending their sheep far to the north, around the area of Shechem. Joseph appears to go without hesitation or concern.

Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 37:13 explains that Joseph had no fear of his brothers because he had no ambition whatsoever to rule them. His dreams were just dreams; not anything that he planned or foresaw might come to fruition. Therefore, in his innocent mind, he had nothing to fear from his jealous brothers.

The brothers, on the other hand, took his dreams very seriously. They believed that the apparently chosen son did intend to rule over them and saw him as a clear and present danger to themselves and how they hoped to conduct their lives, free of tyrants or rulers. Hence, the acts they took, first of planning to kill Joseph and then the decision to sell him as a slave, stemmed from purely defensive motives. They were protecting themselves from the mortal threat of Joseph the tyrant. The fact that this was the furthest thing from Joseph’s mind did not have one iota of effect upon the brothers’ fears or actions.

Joseph, though he did suffer over the prolonged enslavement and separation from his family, always seemed to have God with him, and the very actions the brothers took are what eventually lead Joseph to rule over them, thereby inadvertently fulfilling his prophetic dreams.

God often protects the innocent, but it doesn’t hurt to be less naïve.

Shabbat Shalom,



To all the subscribers and those that have encouraged and promoted the launch of my Daily Torah Tweets. Thanks!

Delayed Punishments


 Whenever a human being, through the commission of a crime, has become exiled from good, he needs to be reintegrated with it through suffering. The suffering should be inflicted with the aim of bringing the soul to recognize freely some day that its infliction was just. -Simone Weil


The Torah believes in punishment, either divine or court-inflicted. However, it generally comes from either a sense of justice and creating balance, or in somehow rehabilitating the evil-doer. It is interesting to note that the concept of a jail is almost completely absent from the Jewish legal code. There was either financial compensation, corporal punishment or the death penalty.

The Sfat Emet in 5637 (1876) asks how did God allow Joseph to be punished and placed in prison after he withstood the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, when according to the sages, it was a divine test greater than all the tests the Patriarchs endured. He answers that it was punishment for an earlier sin.

According to the Midrash, the ancient oral tradition that accompanied the written Torah, Joseph sinned when as a youth of seventeen he slandered his brothers to their father Jacob. But God postponed that punishment to a better time. That time is exactly after Joseph had performed an act of moral courage that transforms him and places him at a higher spiritual level. Now that Joseph is more righteous, two things happen. He somehow has greater strength and capacity to bear the punishment, but now, God is also more exacting with him and so the punishment must be meted out. In a way, Joseph’s newly acquired righteousness now forces him to confront and seek atonement for his earlier sins.

The Sfat Emet warns based on this episode, that if a person performs some great act or avoids serious sin, he shouldn’t be so quick to congratulate himself; as such pride may invite a closer examination of his past and bring down punishment for previous sins.

May we realize our mistakes and repent for them and so reach those higher ethical levels without paying a painful price for previous indiscretions.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Nobel Laureate Professor Dan Shechtman of Israel on his inspirational visit to Uruguay.








Deadly Gossip

First posted on The Times of Israel at:

Baal Haturim Genesis: Vayeshev

Deadly Gossip

Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a Gossip. -Sir Richard Steele

In my current role, many people seek my intervention in a variety of personal issues. Usually they tell me details of matters that personally affect them. However, once in a while, they will start to gossip. That is when I respectfully, but firmly, ask them to stop gossiping.

On one particular occasion, I asked the speaker to stop and I quoted to him the Talmudic dictum that the Baal Haturim on Genesis 37:2 references: Gossip kills three different people. It kills the one who speaks it, it kills the one who is spoken about and it kills the one who is listening. A week later one of those three was killed in a tragic accident.

The Talmud further states that gossip is worse than murder, adultery and idolatry combined. I finally understood that it is more than exaggerated rhetoric. The three cardinal sins break the bonds of life, of marriage and of faith respectively. Gossip breaks all of these and more. It breaks the bonds of friendship and of community that are just as vital, if not more so than life, marriage and faith. I have seen this happen. I have seen the consequences of gossip. I have seen the destroyed lives.

So let’s control ourselves. Let’s think before we share that juicy bit of gossip. It is deadly – and you never know who will be the next fatal victim.

Shabbat Shalom,



To all those who restrain themselves from gossiping. And to all those completing the 3-year study cycle of Maimonides’ Mishne Torah. The new cycle starts this Sunday. Join us!







El abogado egipcio de José

ficción bíblica: Génesis Vayishlaj

Traducido del inglés y editado por Caro Cynovich

­dorePharaohSmallEl abogado egipcio de José

—Ejecuten al esclavo —Faraón entonó, mientras tomaba delicadamente un sorbo de vino—. ¿Por qué es necesario molestarse por un caso tan común?

—Es esclavo de Potifar —respondió el Sumo Sacerdote—. El propio Potifar pidió esta audiencia.

—Curioso… —Faraón respondió, levantando los ojos de su copa de plata—. Entonces háganlo pasar.

Un guardia real anunció solemnemente:

—El Gran Chambelán, Potifar.

Otros dos guardias abrieron las altas puertas —incrustadas de oro— de la sala de audiencias públicas del Faraón.

Potifar, que había estado esperando en la antecámara, entró más lento que lo habitual. Él era llamado a menudo a la sala con fines comerciales. Esta era la primera vez que se acercaba al Faraón con un tema tan sensible y personal. Potifar vio las filas de sacerdotes acompañantes sentados a ambos lados del recinto. Vio a los eunucos de pie, sosteniendo grandes ramas de palmera, en cada extremo de la larga cámara revestida de mármol. Estaban constantemente abanicando el espacio, creando un ambiente mucho más fresco que el calor abrasante del exterior. Potifar pasó por delante de las estatuas de faraones anteriores y otras figuras de la historia de Egipto. Se acercó al trono. A tres pasos de distancia se dejó caer de rodillas y realizó el homenaje habitual.

—¡Dios te salve, Faraón! ¡Rey y Señor!

—Dios salve al Faraón —los sacerdotes corearon—. Rey y Señor.”

—Potifar  —Faraón hizo señas para que se levantara— ¿Por qué nos molestas con un crimen tan sencillo? Mata al esclavo y termina con esto.

—No es tan simple, oh Faraón —Potifar se aclaró la garganta— No estoy seguro de que el esclavo sea culpable.

—No entendemos el problema —dijo el Faraón, en un tono perturbado—. Tu esposa, esposa del Gran Chambelán, acusa a un humilde esclavo de acoso y estamos aquí sentados… ¿discutiendo su inocencia? Mátalo y consigue un nuevo esclavo.

—¿Acaso el Maestro de Justicia —interrumpió un sacerdote desde un lado—, no buscará la justicia?

—¿Quién es este perro insolente? —Faraón le preguntó al Sumo Sacerdote—. ¿No puedes controlar a sus propios sacerdotes?

—Yo no soy más que un humilde servidor —el sacerdote atrevido continuó con una perfecta reverencia—, listo para servir al Faraón en este caso, para que pueda llegar a una solución racional y verdadera. De esta manera, todos los súbditos de su reino sabrán una vez más la divinidad de su sabiduría y su poder.

—Continúa, sacerdote —Faraón se sentó, algo aplacado.

—La esposa de Potifar, Zelichah, ha acusado al esclavo de su casa de acosar de ella. El mismo Potifar duda de esto. Puede ser útil examinar los reclamos con más detenimiento para llegar a un entendimiento más profundo de la verdad.

—Potifar —preguntó el sacerdote— ¿hubo testigos que declararan a este supuesto ataque?


—Entonces es la palabra del esclavo contra la de su mujer —intervino Faraón—. Está claro que escucharemos a la mujer.

—Eso se hará, a menos que, oh Faraón —el sacerdote continuó—, exista una razón para creer que Zelichah no está diciendo la verdad.

—¿Por qué habría de mentir sobre un asunto tan importante? —preguntó Faraón.

—¡Oh Hijo del Cielo! —el sacerdote hizo un gesto dramático—. Faraón, de todas las personas, sabe que no todo es como parece. Faraón ya puede percibir que hay un misterio en este caso, que sólo la mente brillante del Faraón puede descubrir.

—Sí  —el Faraón se animó—. Hablas con la verdad, sacerdote. Vamos a llevar luz a este misterio, a donde ningún mortal puede. Debemos determinar qué fue lo que realmente sucedió. Puede que no sea como ella dice.

—Al hacer las preguntas correctas —continuó el sacerdote—, al pensar lo que nunca mortal podría pensar, Faraón revelará la verdad.

—¿Cuándo ocurrió, teóricamente, este ataque? —Faraón le preguntó a Potifar.


—Ayer fue el desbordamiento del Nilo —Faraón pensó en voz alta—. Todo el reino estaba en la celebración en las orillas del río. Eso explicaría por qué no hubo testigos. Un día conveniente para los traviesos.

—¿Su esposa presentó alguna prueba de este ataque? —Faraón indagó más profundo.

—Sí  —respondió Putifar—. Ella tiene la ropa del esclavo que ella afirma que se quitó antes de su ataque.

—Eso es un mal augurio para él —Faraón dijo, mirando al sacerdote en busca de orientación—. ¿Por qué se desnudaría el esclavo en su presencia, a menos que fuera con intenciones deshonrosas?

—Debemos examinar su ropa —sugirió el sacerdote.

—Sí. Excelente idea  —Faraón exclamó—: Traigan la ropa del esclavo.

—Y la de ella también —agregó el sacerdote.

—¿La suya también? —Faraón estaba confundido— ¿Por qué necesitaríamos su ropa?

—Se puede aprender mucho de los tejidos que fueron testigos de los hechos reales —explicó el sacerdote.

—Por supuesto —estuvo de acuerdo Faraón—. Trae la ropa que la mujer llevaba en el momento del ataque reportado —el faraón ordenó a un guardia que estaba cerca—. Asegúrese de recibir la verificación de otra persona de la casa de que son de hecho las prendas correctas. Y sé rápido al respecto  —añadió Faraón emocionado—. Nosotros los dioses no tenemos tiempo para siempre.

El guardia salió corriendo de la sala.

—Mientras tanto, ¿qué más podemos descubrir sobre el caso? —preguntó Faraón , deseoso de progresar—. ¿Dónde están tu mujer y el esclavo ahora?

—En la antecámara.

—¡Maravilloso! —Faraón aplaudió con alegría—. ¿Con quién deberíamos empezar?

—Con el esclavo —ofreció el sacerdote.

—¿Por qué el esclavo ? —Faraón miró al sacerdote con suspicacia.

—Faraón ya sabe lo que afirma Zelichah, pero todavía tiene que escuchar el esclavo —explicó con calma el sacerdote—. Tal vez el esclavo admita su pecado, lo que solucionaría rápidamente este caso.

Faraón parecía ligeramente abatido por el pensamiento.

—O tal vez revelará algo de información nueva que sólo la mente perspicaz de Faraón podrá percibir. Faraón tendrá entonces la oportunidad de probar sus sospechas, y volver a examinar las alegaciones de Zelichah.

Faraón asintió con la cabeza.

—Hagan entrar al esclavo —comandó.

José entró en el pasillo. Llevaba una simple túnica de esclavo. Miró con curiosidad a las estatuas y se detuvo brevemente en una como si la reconociera. Continuó haciendo su camino hacia el trono. Todos los ojos lo miraban impasible, especialmente los de Faraón.

—Pedimos que entre el esclavo —Faraón preguntó confundido—,  ¿quién es este principito guapo?

A Faraón efectivamente le parecía apuesto José, quizás el hombre más bello que jamás había visto. Y además le parecía inquietantemente familiar.

—Yo soy José. Esclavo a Potifar. Soy hebreo, traído a la fuerza desde Canaán.

Un murmullo de incredulidad se agitó entre los sacerdotes.

—¡Un hebreo! —Faraón preguntó con una mezcla de repulsión y curiosidad—. ¿Pero tan atractivo? Te ves más como un hombre de ascendencia real que un esclavo.

—Yo soy el bisnieto de Abraham, a quien se recordará por haber visitado a tu ancestro hace más de un siglo.

—¡Abraham! ¿Será posible?

Para sorpresa de todos Faraón saltó de su trono y caminó hasta José. Lo tomó por el brazo, y con fuerza lo arrastró por el pasillo, hacia la entrada.

Los guardias alrededor rápidamente siguieron a su señor. Los sacerdotes salieron de sus sillas y también siguieron la extraña procesión. El Sumo Sacerdote y Potifar los alcanzaron y se pararon cerca de Faraón. Los eunucos se quedaron en sus lugares, abanicando mecánicamente la habitación.

Faraón se detuvo junto a una de las estatuas femeninas y colocó a José a su lado.

—¡Es cierto! ¡Eres la viva imagen de ella!

—¿Quién es ella ? —preguntó Potifar.

—Esa es la estatua de Sara. La leyenda cuenta que ella fue la consorte de nuestro predecesor por un corto tiempo. Era considerada la mujer más bella del mundo. Fue nuestro tatarabuelo que encargó su estatua como un recordatorio de su extrema belleza.

La multitud reunida miró a José y luego nuevamente a la estatua de Sara. Ambos estaban claramente relacionados; sus apariencias tan similares no podían ser una coincidencia. La fina forma de la nariz. La frente despejada. Los pómulos altos. Los ojos almendrados. Los labios firmes. Incluso el cabello rizado era idéntico.

—¡Qué curioso misterio! —Faraón exclamó—. ¡Tu esclavo acusado no es otro que la encarnación de Sara! ¿Por qué está todo el mundo de pie alrededor? ¡Vuelvan a sus puestos!

—¿Me dices tu nombre de nuevo? —Faraón se volvió a José mientras los sacerdotes y los guardias se deslizaron nuevamente a sus lugares.

— Yo soy José, oh Faraón.

—Sí, sí. José. Vamos a continuar con esta investigación —Faraón se acercó de nuevo a su trono con José; Potifar y el Sumo Sacerdote estaban cerca. Faraón se sentó de nuevo con un ademán ostentoso.

—Esclavo —el Faraón se dirigió a José—, ¿es cierto o no es cierto que has acosado a la mujer de Potifar?

—Yo no acosé a la señora de mi amo, oh Faraón.

—¿Por qué le dicen lo contrario?

—No puedo decir, oh Faraón —José miró significativamente a Potifar.

—Ustedes saben que el castigo a un esclavo atacar a un maestro es la muerte —explicó el Faraón—. Si no se produce una explicación viable, no tendremos más remedio que ejecutarte, por más bonito que puedas ser, y a pesar de tener un linaje ilustre.

—Yo sólo puedo adivinar las motivaciones de la mujer de mi amo en acusarme cuando estoy libre de culpa. Sin embargo, si yo fuera a hablar mal de ella, puede deshonrar a mi amo que ha sido tan bueno y amable conmigo.

—Hermoso y honorable —apuntó el sacerdote audaz, al regresar de las líneas laterales.

—Es cierto —señaló Faraón—. Pero no ayuda a su causa ni a sus posibilidades de sobrevivir. Puede retirarse. ¡Traigan a la esposa de Potifar!

José fue bruscamente escoltado fuera de la cámara. Unos momentos más tarde Zelichah entró.

La guardia real anunció formalmente:

—Zelichah, esposa del Gran Chamberlain.

Zelichah deslizó por el pasillo en un vestido ceremonial, austero y recatado. Se inclinó junto a su marido.

—Zelichah  —Faraón le indicó que se levante—. ¿Por qué afirmas que tu esclavo te acosó?

— Porque lo hizo, oh Faraón —Zelichah respondió con una mezcla de orgullo y dolor.

—Tenemos razones para creer que puede ser inocente.

—¿Inocente? Yo he comprobado lo contrario, oh Faraón. El siervo ha estado mirándome desde el día que llegó. Esperó pacientemente hasta que la casa estaba vacía, me atrajo a mi habitación y luego me atacó. Tengo la evidencia de sus ropas, que entiendo que Faraón ha convocado tan sabiamente. Yo era su presa.

—Tal vez la presa fue realmente el cazador —el sacerdote le susurró a Faraón.

Faraón miró desconcertado al sacerdote, mientras trataba de dar sentido a sus palabras.

—¿Qué mujer podría resistirse a la belleza extrema que acabamos de presenciar? —el sacerdote continuó en voz baja—. Puede que realmente haya existido un encuentro entre José y Zelichah ayer, pero que los roles hayan sido los contrarios.

—¡Pruébalo! —Faraón golpeó en su trono— . Está muy bien jugar a buscar la inocencia de un esclavo, pero acusar a una mujer de la alta nobleza de adulterio es un juego peligroso.

En ese momento el guardia enviado volvió con dos prendas en la mano. Se acercó a Faraón con ellos.

—Tiempo divino —el sacerdote dijo para sí mismo—. Oh Faraón, si le preguntáramos a la señora y el esclavo de llevar sus prendas de vestir del momento en cuestión, se podrá obtener un mayor conocimiento de los hechos.

—¡Que así sea! —Faraón tronó, perdiendo la paciencia.

El guardia le entregó el vestido Zelichah, quien salió tras él.

Unos minutos más tarde ambos Zelichah y José entraron en la sala y se dirigieron hacia el trono.

—Zelichah, si se me permite —el sacerdote preguntó — ¿por qué no estabas participando en las celebraciones por el desbordamiento del Nilo ayer?

—Yo estaba enferma.

—¿Y este es tu atuendo habitual cuando estás enferma? Tu vestido revela más de lo que esconde. Yo creo que a excepción de los eunucos, ningún hombre puede evitar sentirse atraído por tu belleza evidente y desbordante. Oh Faraón, este vestido tiene un solo propósito: la seducción.

—Eso no es una prueba.

—Es cierto. Pero es una indicación. Vamos a examinar más a fondo. También tenga en cuenta que la ropa de Zelichah está en excelentes condiciones, no tiene nada que haga alusión a ningún tipo de violencia. La prenda de vestir del esclavo, sin embargo, está rasgada. Es posible argumentar que en su arrebato de pasión, el esclavo rasgó su propia ropa, pero vamos a examinar cuidadosamente la parte rota. Oh Faraón, si Faraón lo desea, por favor toma la ropa del esclavo en la parte que está rasgada.

Perplejo, el Faraón se bajó del trono, se acercó a José y le agarró la prenda donde el sacerdote pidió.

—En la opinión divina del Faraón, ¿podría la rasgadura haber sido hecha por él mismo?

—No. El desgarro está en la parte posterior. Él no podría haberlo alcanzado por sí mismo.

—Eso elimina la posibilidad de que el esclavo se arrancó la ropa a sí mismo por pasión —el sacerdote dedujo—. Tal vez quedó atrapado en algo, tropezó y se rompió.

—Eso no es posible tampoco —señaló Faraón—. Esta prenda fue arrancada por una mano humana.

—Deducción celestial, mi querido Faraón. Entonces, si no lo hizo él mismo, y no fue un accidente, y no había nadie más en la casa en ese momento, sólo hay una persona que podría haber arrancado el vestido. ¡Zelichah! La pregunta ahora, sin embargo, es ¿por qué? ¿Hizo estragos en la prenda en un esfuerzo de auto- defensa?

—¡No! —Faraón exclamó con entusiasmo—. El desgarro se realizó tirando de la prenda. Eso significa que el esclavo se estaba alejando de la mujer cuando ella lo rompió. ¡El esclavo es claramente inocente!

—Y la mujer por lo tanto, es una ad…

—¡Basta! —Faraón paró al sacerdote—. Basta con que el esclavo es inocente. No necesitamos manchar su nombre ni el de su marido. Además, esta cuestión no puede ser revelada, y el esclavo no puede quedar impune, para que otros no se descubran la verdad. ¿Qué vamos a hacer con él? ”

—¡Que vaya a la cárcel!—ofreció el Sumo Sacerdote.

—Sí  —estuvo de acuerdo Faraón— , la cárcel es sin duda mejor que la ejecución.

—Tal vez la cárcel real —susurró el sacerdote atrevido a Faraón—. Éste requiere una estrecha vigilancia en algún lugar cercano.

Faraón asintió y señaló su secretario.

—Hemos decidido que el esclavo conocido como José se colocará en nuestra prisión real —anunció el Faraón con un poco de pompa—. Cualquier palabra de este caso, por más gratificante que haya sido para nosotros resolverlo, no saldrá de esta sala, bajo pena de muerte. De esta manera, la verdad se revela y se hará justicia.

Faraón se volvió hacia el sacerdote, pero él ya no estaba allí.

—¿Dónde está el sacerdote ? —preguntó el faraón, al no verlo en cualquier lugar de la sala. Todas las cabezas de la sala se volvieron a buscarlo, pero el sacerdote audaz no estaba a la vista.

—¿Quién era? —le preguntó Faraón al Sumo Sacerdote.

—No sé, Majestad —contestó el Sumo Sacerdote nerviosamente—. Nunca lo habíamos visto antes.

—Es una lástima —Faraón respondió con indiferencia, bebiendo nuevamente de su vino—. Habría sido un buen consejero.