Noach we know of course, but where exactly is Yosef called a tzadik? I keep seeing people say "as we know, Yosef is called a tzadik" but what is the exact source?


3 Answers 3


I don't know if these citations are the earliest, but I found

מסכתות קטנות מסכת אבות דרבי נתן נוסחא א פרק טז and הוספה ב לנוסחא א פרק ז

the first citation has this, " ויש אומרים זה יוסף הצדיק כשבאתה אותה רשעה היתה מענה אותו בדבריה"

תלמוד בבלי מסכת יומא דף לה עמוד ב

this one has "כלום נאה היית מיוסף? אמרו עליו על יוסף הצדיק: בכל יום ויום היתה אשת פוטיפר משדלתו בדברים,"

סדר עולם רבה (ליינר) פרק ל

בראשית רבה (וילנא) פרשת ויגש פרשה צג

(note, these are the 5 or so first citations when I run a Bar Ilan responsa search for יוסף הצדיק -- there are 477 total citations when my searcdh is run through all available texts)


The Talmud refers to Joseph as "the righteous" (Yoma 35b):

אמרו עליו על יוסף הצדיק: בכל יום ויום

This appellation is used in the Seder Olam (ch. 30) as well (which is attributed to the Tannaim making it a little older than the Talmud).

דבר אחר [יהב] חכמתא לחכימין, זה יוסף הצדיק

This honorific corresponds to an interpretation of Amos (2: 6) as referring to Joseph:

כֹּה, אָמַר ה', עַל-שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְעַל-אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ: עַל-מִכְרָם בַּכֶּסֶף צַדִּיק, וְאֶבְיוֹן בַּעֲבוּר נַעֲלָיִם

Thus saith the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not reverse it: because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes (Trans. Mechon Mamre).

Accordingly, the Midrash interprets the sold righteous one as Joseph who was sold by his brothers. (Eizenstein's Midrashic collection; Assarah Harugei Malchut: p. 444):

וכתיב על מכרם בכסף צדיק ואביון בעבור נעלים (עמוס ב' ו'), ולכן טח אותו רשע את הבית במנעלים כדי שיכירו באיזה דבר מכרו את יוסף שנאמר בעבור נעלים

If one accepts the Midrashic interpretation, then the earliest source for the honorific "the righteous" for Joseph would be the verses in Amos. If one does not accept the Midrashic interpretation, then the earliest source would be the Talmud.

  • Note: Genesis Rabba uses this appellation as well, but I omitted it as it is reckoned to date from the Amoraic period which is later than the Seder Olam, and although contemporaneous with the Talmud, it is less noteworthy.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 3:01
  • Why not be righteous and explain yourself commentless downvoter?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 15:41

The Mishnah relates that Joseph was righteousness because he had buried his father (who was righteous), and because Moses (who was righteous) had then buried Joseph, and therefore Joseph was righteous.

This line of deductive reasoning appears in b. Sotah, Folio 9B, of the Babylonian Talmud (as translated by Jacob Neusner).

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The Christian New Testament reflects this same Jewish oral tradition to indicate the righteousness of Joseph concerning his bones in Hebrews 11:22.

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