By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg

Toward the end of Parshas VaYechi a very intriguing discussion is recorded between Yosef and some of his brothers. Following their return to Mitzrayim from interring their father Yaakov, Yosef’s brothers were gripped by a sudden fear. They feared that Yosef was now going to take retribution for the bad that his brothers had done him nearly four decades earlier. They reasoned that Yosef was very nice to them for the past seventeen years only out of respect for their father who was still living, and now that Yaakov was no longer there, Yosef could act freely and as viscously as he wished (and Yaakov would not be there to stop him). Based on this fear, the sons of Bilha were sent to Yosef to relay to him instructions in Yaakov’s name: “Please tell Yosef to forgive the sins of his brothers that they wronged him.”
Yosef boldly responds, “Fear not! Am I in the place of Hashem? I can do you no wrong if Hashem does not will it. The proof is visible in our past history; you sold me to Mitzrayim with evil intent, but Hashem had good intentions in my descent to Mitzrayim, namely, to enable me to sustain all our families, and if Hashem didn’t have this goal then your evil scheme would not have worked. It’s obvious that Hashem is all powerful, and I can do nothing to harm you. He is the only One who can choose to do you good or evil.”
From a Bitachon perspective, the only fear which is permissible (and is actually encouraged) is fear of Hashem. Any other fear is strongly discouraged. The real reason why a person fears a certain response, outcome or unknown future occurrence is because there is a lack of Bitachon in Hashem. If the Bitachon in Hashem was complete, then confidence that Hashem will make everything work out in the best possible manner would be the only idea filling one’s mind. So for the Shvatim to entertain such a fear that Yosef would behave vengefully, although it may have been a well-founded fear (because he stopped inviting them over to dine at his table), it reflected on a lack of Bitachon. (This is aside from the fact that revenge itself is also against emuna and bitachon that Hashem orchestrates everything.)
Interestingly, Yaakov did not suspect Yosef of desiring revenge. Perhaps the reason is because Yaakov recognized Yosef’s level of Bitachon and connection to Hashem and knew that he wasn’t capable of conducting himself in a manner contrary to Hashem’s expectations of him. This is what Yosef reflected in his response to his brothers, “I have a firm belief that only Hashem is in charge, and that only Hashem has a say in what should happen to whom. This excludes everyone, even I, the viceroy of Egypt (the mightiest country in the world at that time) from having an opinion as to whom should be done evil. Thus, my dear brothers, you have nothing at all to fear.”
Yosef echoed this same message in Parshas VaYigash, immediately following his revelation of his identity to his brothers. “Do not be angry or distressed that you sold me to Mitzrayim, because this whole chain of events has nothing to do with your intentions, it was really Hashem’s plan that I should pave the way for our family in Mitzrayim so that I should be able to sustain you.”
So the two Bitachon lessons we learn are that fear of Hashem is the only fear that should be exercised, to the unequivocal exclusion of all other fears, and the notion that Hashem is the sole decision maker, which should guide our every action.

Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at

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