Parshat Miketz details the events of Yosef being stripped of his coat (39:12) and thrown in a pit for the second time (the first time by his brothers, the second time into jail, which the Torah calls a pit (41:14)), only this time with vastly different results. What changed this time, and how was this change instrumental in Yosef’s growth and ascent?
Rabbi David Fohrman offers a beautiful explanation that brings several stories together, with a common practical lesson for us all to extract. He explains that Yosef’s troubles started with the negative reports he told his father about his brothers, where the Torah uses the word “dibah” to describe his brothers, a term used one other time in the Torah to describe the negative reports the spies delivered about the land of Israel. To rectify his first mistake, Yosef had to go back into a pit and correct his actions. When he comes out of this second pit to report to Paroh and interpret the dreams, Yosef tells Paroah “biladai”, or “it’s not me” – it’s G-d that interprets the dreams, not me. That level of selflessness is a more mature version of Yosef than the one that was self-absorbed the first time he was thrown into a pit, and ironically the reason why Paroh is comfortable bequeathing so much power over to Yosef.
To underscore this message, there’s a similar growth parallel between the two coat episodes. The second time Yosef was stripped of his coat, it was done in an act of honor and integrity, and to avoid the temptations of Mrs. Potifar, despite the ramifications. The fact that Yosef was willing to lose his coat for the second time despite the disastrous results the first time, despite the unfortunate results the second time, simply to keep his integrity intact, showed tremendous growth as a person, which proved that he was ready to move forward as a leader, both for the house of Paroh and for the Jews.
The integrity and humble characteristics that Yosef developed is what enabled him to grow as a person, and what ultimately enabled him to lead his family through some rough times. The Torah imparts this growth beautifully and subtly, such that only careful analysis and introspection will help us grow and ascend, as Jews and as people.