“…And this is the aspect of Yosef Hatzaddik (Joseph), of whom it says, ‘איש אשר רוח אלקים בו’ (‘A man who possesses the spirit of God within him’). Because Yosef is the type of tzaddik that can go down to the lowest places and extract souls from the dungeons. Yosef himself also fell to those dark places, as it says ‘לעבד נמכר יוסף’ (‘Joseph was sold as a slave’). Slavery is the aspect of sadness, (as we learned in another place) which comes from the poison of the snake, which is an aspect of Ham, the forefather of Egypt, who was cursed to be a slave of slaves. Yosef went through all that. He was in jail for many years and he had gigantic challenges with lust, which comes from sadness. But precisely because he went through those challenging times and was able to hold one to his faith, he merited to attain additional holiness. And that’s why he has the power to reverse everything to GOOD; to reverse pain and suffering into joy. This is what Rachel prophesied when Joseph was born. She said ‘אסף אלקים את חרפתי’, ‘Hashem collected (אסף) my disgrace’. Because that’s Yosef. He can go through all the disgraces and remove them. And then Rachel said, ‘יוסף ה’ לי בן אחר’ ‘Hashem should add (יוסף) to me another son’. Because not only does Yosef erase the disgrace. He can do even more (יוסף); He can turn it all into GOOD”. (Hilchos Hoda’ah 6:32)
“Joseph was a seventeen year old shepherd” Says Reb Nosson, (Hashkamas Haboker 4:16), “A shepherd is what we call the leaders of the generation. He was the greatest of his generation. And he was seventeen, which has the numerical value of טוב (GOOD). Because Yosef was good to everyone and was able to bring everyone closer to God. He was able to see the good in the lowest people”.
This is the power of the real tzaddikim. They don’t put us down. They aren’t looking for the ‘elite students’, whatever that is (if it even exists?) They are masters of finding the good. No matter what adversity they go through, they pray and pray to see the good. They believe so strongly that Hashem is perfectly good that they won’t entertain the thought that their circumstance can be bad. Instead they hope endlessly and profusely to see the good. The same is true with how they interact with others. They only try to find the good. They’re not foolish. They know that the low people have bad traits. But they also know that their eyes should only be used to see good. It’s not always easy. But they won’t yield until they can find something good and bring the lowly person back to Hashem.
As I was reading through the story of Yosef this year, it struck me again how often the torah uses the word ויהי (and it was) in the story. That word is found in the story an abnormal amount of times. The Talmud in Megilla (10b) says that the Torah uses the word ויהי to precede a difficult time. I decided to count it up. From Chapter 39, when it says ‘ויוסף הורד מצרימה’ (‘and Joseph was brought down to Egypt’), the Torah writes the word ויהי a total of 17 times till the end of the parsha, which is just when things start to turn around. As Reb Nosson said above, 17 has the numerical value of טוב (GOOD). This is a beautiful clue the Torah is dropping us to show how even in the darkest, scariest time of his life, Joseph doesn’t stop clinging to Hashem and turning everything into good.
No doubt, this type of faith and ability to turn everything into good is really hard to do. Most of us sink further and further away from Hashem – and positive thoughts – when we experience adversity. But Breslov Torah teaches that we need to trust in the tzaddik. He did it, he can do it, and if we believe in him, attach ourselves to him and his ability to find the good, then we’ve admitted that there is a possibility of good, even in the adversity. This is how we can slowly grow to see more and more good in our lives. This is the greatest investment. The more we see good, the better life gets – no matter what position we are in. It’s worth the work. Good luck!