וישמע ראובן ויצלהו מידם לז:כא The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni 145) tells us that this intervention of Reuvein to save Yosef is an example of a mitzvah that would have been done with much greater zeal had the one doing it been aware that it would be recorded for posterity in the Torah. “Had Reuvein known,” says the Medrash, “that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu was going to write that he saved Yosef, he would have picked Yosef up on his shoulders and run him all the way back to Yaakov. Had Aharon known that Hashem would write that he was happy in his heart upon greeting Moshe Rabbeinu, he would have done so with musical instruments, and had Boaz known that it would be recorded that he gave roasted grain to Rus, he would have offered her the finest meat.
From all this we learn,” concludes the Medrash, “an attribute of derech eretz: that when one performs a mitzvah, one should do so with a rejoicing heart.” Reuvein, Aharon, and Boaz were not aware of the great significance that Hashem attributed to their actions. Had they been aware of that, they would have put their heart into it fully, and done the mitzvah in a far better manner. The Medrash adds a very salient point: “In the past, one could do a mitzvah and have it be recorded by the Neviim. Now that there are no longer Neviim, though, who records a person’s mitzvos? The answer is Eliyahu and Mashiach. And Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu affixes his signature, as it were, to the recording, as the pasuk says, ‘Then spoke those that fear the Almighty…and it is written down in a book of remembrance before Him.” Even today, every action – without exception – is still being written down.
The “take home” lesson of this is: if you are doing a mitzvah, then try your best to do it with a whole heart. Even in a situation when you aren’t really sure about it. For example, say you are deliberating whether or not to give tzedakah to an indigent fellow. Inside your mind, you are vacillating. Not sure of whether or not you should or if you will. And then, in the end, you decide to just give him the tzedakah. At that moment, don’t do it with hesitation or in a begrudging manner. If you decide to do the mitzvah, then do it with a whole heart!
(From Rebbetzin Twersky)
In parshas Vayeishev we learn about Yosef Ha’tzaddik’s terrible test with the wife of Potifar. Rashi brings the Chazal that, one day, Yosef could not withstand the temptation to sin any longer, however an image of his father Yaakov’s likeness appeared to him, and he was able to overcome his yetzer hara.
Rebbi asked, “If Yosef overcame his nisayon because of a supernatural occurrence, why do we attribute great tzidkus to him and call him Yosef Ha’Tzaddik? It seems that if not for a special miracle from Hashem, he would have fallen.”
Rebbi continued, “Whenever someone has a test to sin, there is a subconscious hesitation. The vision of Yaakov appearing to Yosef was not a supernatural occurrence. Rather, it was Yosef’s subconscious hesitation a moment before sinning. Deep down in his psyche, Yaakov’s message was ingrained in him. Yosef’s greatness was to grab on to that subconscious hesitation and use it to overcome the yetzer hara.
(Reb Yehuda Eisenstein)
Provided courtesy of VayigdalMoshe.com