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    Why didn’t Joseph learn? – Vayyeshev

    The Tzena Ur’ena was once the religious textbook of pious women.

    From it came the stories of Biblical personalities that sometimes made the women cry and sometimes infuriated them. Some stories had both effects at once.

    One year when the sidra Vayyeshev was read a certain woman got very upset at the way Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. “Poor lamb,” she said, “God should have compassion on you!”

    A year later on the same Shabbat her reaction was quite different. “You silly fool!” she said; “how can anyone want to pity you? You know what happened to you last year, and now you let those brothers treat you like that again!”

    The woman’s lack of historical sense makes us smile. But we are all sometimes guilty of doing what she thought Joseph had done – failing to learn from history.

    The Rambam teaches (Hilchot T’shuvah) that the mark of true repentance is when you have the opportunity of committing the same mistake again and this time you resist the temptation.

    “I might have lapsed once,” you say, “but I know my mistake, and I’m not going to repeat it!”

    As the proverb puts it, “Once bitten, twice shy”.

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