The Chafetz Chaim, the leader of European Jewry in the early part of the 20th century, was known as a particularly righteous and saintly man. Once he was asked to testify in a Polish court on behalf of a Jewish defendant. Before calling the Chafetz Chaim up to testify, the defense counsel went through a lengthy explanation of the Chafetz Chaim's character, citing many stories of his righteousness and saintliness. The lawyer's words, however, did little to impress the judge, who doubted the veracity of these stories.
Observing the judge's doubts, the defense counsel acknowledged that some of the stories might be somewhat exaggerated. But then the lawyer added, "It may be that not every detail in these stories is true. But tell me, your honor, do people tell such stories about you and me?"
(Indeed, this courtroom saga had a happy ending. The Polish judge was so impressed with the Chafetz Chaim as a character witness that he ultimately acquitted the defendant.)
The impression one's moral character can make upon others is at the very heart of this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz. The Parsha opens by describing the inability of Pharaoh's wise men to interpret two of their master's dreams. Joseph is brought to Pharoah. He correctly interprets the dream, yet he does not take credit for it. Pharoah recognizes that Joseph is an honest man of integrity who will not plot against him, thus leading him to appoint Joseph as his most powerful and trusted advisor.
My daughter Caila was born with Down syndrome. Her life, like that of Joseph’s, is full of challenges. She too has incredible integrity and strength of character. One would describe Joseph as Hardworking, with Awe of G-d, Compassionate, and Patient. No matter the difficulties Caila has faced every day as a result of her genetic condition, Caila amazes us regularly, encompassing all of these traits of character: a modern-day Joseph!
May we all strive to emulate Joseph and humbly overcome whatever challenges we are faced with.