After successfully interpreting the dream of Pharoah’s chamberlain in prison, Yosef asks him if he would remember him and mention him to Pharoah. The parshah ends by saying that once the chamberlain was freed, not only didn’t he remember Yosef but he also forgot him.
Rashi asks, why the double language? “Since Yosef depended upon him to remember him, he had to remain imprisoned two more years.” According to Rashi yosef should have believed that Hashem would get him out and should not have relied on a person.
Since I was a kid I always had problems with this Rashi. I don’t understand! Why shouldn’t Yosef do everything that he could to advocate for himself? Doesn’t Hashem help those who help themselves? Is there something wrong with asking a person to help you in return for helping them?
After putting many years of thought into this question, I think I have a better understanding of what Rashi is saying that the Torah is trying to teach us.
First of all, look at the way that Yosef asks the chamberlain to help him.
“If you would think of me with yourself wen you will have benefited, and you will please do me a kindness, and mention me to Pharoah, then you would get me out of this building.”
Rashi says that Yosef was asking for a Chesed – a kindness, a favor, something that he did not earn. it sounded like Yosef did not believe himself that he deserved to be free. If he did, he would not have felt the need to almost beg the chamberlain to tell Pharoah.
When Yosef then says, “For indeed I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have not done anything for them to have put me in the pit.”
I can just here the chamberlain voice just like Morgan Freeman from the Shawshank Redemption, “If you ask them, everyone in Shawshank will tell you that they are innocent!”
Yosef just sounded guilty. Not to say that swayed the chamberlain one way or the other. I don’t think he honestly cared whether Yosef was innocent or guilty. I think that he may have been inclined to help Yosef out at first when he just saw him as a friendly servant boy. But when Yosef asked him to mention him to Pharoah, he probably started to see Yosef as more of an ambitious person, potentially a rival. I think that Yosef’s request was probably the reason that the chamberlain did not advocate for him.
And that is certainly a lesson to learn from the story, but not the main lesson that Rashi wants us to learn.
The main lesson is that Yosef did not believe in the justice of his own cause. He had done everything that he was supposed to do. He was correct. He knew it, Potifar knew it, Potifar’s staff knew it. He should have advocated based on the Justice of his cause and he should have had faith that because he was in the right, eventually Hashem should come through.
The way that he asked the chamberlain to do a chesed for him, seems to say that Yosef had given up and he felt that the only way to get out was to bargain and make deals with people that he would then owe favors to. Sometimes that is a last resort that people, unfortunately, are forced to resort to.
But Yosef should have believed. There was no need to bargain or make deals with people in his situation. He was in the right and he should have continued to do the right thing, press his case forward, and believe that ultimately Hashem the true judge would set things straight.