Rashi on 37 (25) cites the Medrash about what the camels were carrying:

and their camels were carrying, etc.: Why did Scripture publicize their burden? To let you know the reward of the righteous, for it is customary for Arabs to carry only naphtha and tar, whose odor is foul, but for this one (Joseph) it was arranged [that they should be carrying] spices, so that he should not be afflicted by a foul odor. [Mechilta Beshallach, treatise 2, section 5]

How is it that Joseph was considered a Tzaddik at this moment? Isn’t his righteousness discovered only in the later encounter with Mrs Potifar? See here where the Zohar is quoted to say,

"Rabbi Shimon says, prior to the occurrence of that test to Yosef, [he] was not called a tzaddik. Because he kept from damaging the covenant of the foundation (Yesod) he was called a tzaddik."

  • 1
    Presumably Hashem knew in advance that he would be a Tzaddik. Cause and effect aren't necessarily in that order in Shamayim.
    – Ariel
    Dec 6, 2012 at 23:22
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    I think it likely that the Zohar is saying that Yosef is called a Tzaddik because of passing the test with potiphar's wife. Yosef is the only one of our Forefathers who is called "The Tzaddik". Not even Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov get that title.
    – Menachem
    Dec 6, 2012 at 23:35
  • Maybe he was a Tzadiq is the same way Yishma'el was when dying of thirst under a bush in the desert, according to the Midrash ( brought in Rashi on 21:17 ). See: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/22103/1368
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 7, 2012 at 7:30
  • Maybe he was considered a Tzaddick for not revealing what his brothers had done and in accepting the charem of silence imposed by them. (no source, just a thought) Dec 7, 2012 at 11:09

1 Answer 1


The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Toras Menachem vol. 31 page 184) explains this statement of the Zohar at length based on his father's commentary (Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Shnuerson - Likkutey Levi Yitzchok, Haaros Lesefer HaZohar Shmos-Devorim pg. 46). What comes out of the discussion is that there is one level of Tzadik attained simply by virtue of having a bris ("ועמך כולם צדיקים"), and a higher level merited through safeguarding the bris. This later level of Tzadik is what Yosef obtained through the incident with Pitofar's wife, but it does not negate him being considered a Tzadik even before.

Alternatively, the הגהות מהרצ"א דינוב to an almost identical statement in Zohar (2:23a) writes as follows (my own loose translation):

הן אמת שכן מרגלא בפומייהו דרבנן לקרוא יוסף הצדיק, אבל לא ידעתי שחר מקומו במקרא, ואפשר כן נמסר להם בתורה שבע"פ Indeed we find that the Sages commonly refer to Yosef as "Yosef Hatzadik", however I am not aware of the Scriptural source for this. It is possible that was an oral tradition.

It seems he is learning that the meaning of being called a Tzadik in the Zohar is that this became is title. Although he was considered righteous already when being taken down to Egypt, it was only after passing the test with Eshes Potifar that he merited the unique title of "Yosef Hatzadik". (As suggested by this comment).


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