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    All too easy to believe – Mikketz

    Guido Reni's depiction of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, 1631

    Potiphar’s wife tried all her wiles in order to entice Joseph to sin.

    She was shocked when he resisted. Her wounded pride led her to seek revenge.

    She made sure she told her husband the story in such a way that the Israelite ended up in prison with a bad reputation for doing what in fact he did not do.

    When a Roman matron of the 2nd century (Midrashic sources record a number of episodes about such women) read or heard about it she refused to believe the story could be true.

    Could it really happen that an attractive young man would reject the opportunity like the one offered by Potiphar’s wife?

    “Is it conceivable,” the Roman woman asked Rabbi Yose, “that a young man with all the vigour of youth and away from his parents’ control would deny himself the chance which his master’s wife put before him?”

    Rabbi Yose showed her various texts that reported that other sons of Jacob misconducted themselves with young women, and if the Torah was prepared to tell those stories openly and frankly why should it not be believed when it described a man who would not let his morals slide?

    Today very few people would not side with the Roman matron. Strict codes of morals are highly unpopular. People succumb to every kind of temptation.

    The tragedy is that it is not only or mostly sexual temptation. People sin not only with other people’s wives but with their money, their ideas, “and everything that is your neighbour’s”.

    Just as food-kashrut says, “I am able to say ‘No’ to foods I should not eat”, so does ethico-kashrut say, “I am able to say ‘No’ to things I should not allow myself to do”.

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