What is our image of a spiritual person, a man or woman of G‑d? Torah teachings present us with a number of different possibilities. In our Parshah we learn about a highly interesting figure: Joseph.

Joseph and all his brothers are regarded by the Sages as having been highly spiritual men. The Torah records some of the conflicts and paradoxes in their lives. Nonetheless, each of them had sufficient spiritual power to found an entire tribe, a whole section of the Jewish people. In fact, Joseph founded two tribes: Ephraim and Menasseh.

The Sages point out an interesting distinction between Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was the creator and administrator of a vast system which centralized the food production of Egypt. By contrast, his brothers were shepherds, leading quite solitary lives pasturing their flock on the slopes of the ancient Canaanite countryside.

The Sages tell us this contrast indicates a difference in spiritual stature. For some people, an intimate relationship with G‑d can only be maintained in a quiet atmosphere, remote from the hurly-burly of daily life. The brothers, contemplative mystics, are in this category. But Joseph was on a higher level. He could maintain his bond with the Divine at the same time as playing a highly active role in a complex civilization.

For us in the 20th century, both examples are relevant. The contemplative style of the brothers relates to certain moments in the day, and Shabbat. The vigorous active style of Joseph provides the example of how we should be during the week, with every moment full, significant and effective — while at the same time, continuously, we maintain our awareness of and bond with G‑d.