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Toward the end of Parashat Vayeishev, Yosef is imprisoned along with two of Par'oh's chief servants. Starting in Gen. 40:6, the Torah tells us that he notices that they look sad, asks why, and proceeds to interpret their dreams for them, which ultimately leads to his interpreting Par'oh's dreams, becoming viceroy of Egypt, and reuniting his family.

I seem to recall some commentator suggesting that it's significant that all of those good results started with Yosef's simply being sensitive enough to his fellow prisoners that he noticed their sadness and asked them about it, but I haven't yet found who it is. (I've scanned the standard Mikra-ot Gedolot commentaries as well as R' Hirsch so far.)

Have you seen this idea written down anywhere?

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2 Answers 2

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l mentioned this idea in one of his talks (Shabbos Chanukah 5734 - Sichos Kodesh 5734 1:211-212, adapted into English by others). He also adds that it wasn't just that Yosef noticed that they were upset - they probably were on all the other days too, having been demoted and thrown into jail - but that they were upset more than usual, meaning that he was extra sensitive to their moods.

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In Peninim on the Torah, eighth series, by Rabbi Aryeh Leib Scheinbaum (2002, ISBN 0-9635120-0-5), the author comments on 40:7 as follows (in part):

Yosef's sensitivity catalyzed circumstances that changed his entire life and the history of Klal Yisrael.[...] He noticed — he cared — he took action. First and foremost, however, he noticed. This caring for another human being ultimately led to Yosef's salvation from imprisonment and elevation to the position of viceroy. Thus, his father, Yaakov, was able to come down to Egypt as royalty — all as the result of a few words.

He doesn't cite a source. POTT is generally a compendium, but perhaps these were his own thoughts.

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