By1 Divine Providence, Pharaoh’s two servants were located in the dungeon in which Yosef was jailed “in order that the tzaddik’s39 salvation should take place through them.” Rashi on Bereishis 40:1. Yet when Yosef asked the Chief Butler to mention his name to Pharaoh, he was punished, and even “obliged to be imprisoned for two years.” Rashi on 40:23. Why?

The answer to this question may be found by examining the wording of Rashi: “...because Yosef depended on him to remember him.”

It will be noted that in the original, the verse that Rashi proceeds to paraphrase says,2 “Happy is the man who makes G‑d his trust, and does not turn to the arrogant3 nor the followers of falsehood.” Yet in his paraphrase that explains why Yosef was imprisoned, Rashi does not write, “because Yosef turned to the [Egyptian]”; Rashi writes, “because Yosef depended on him....”

This dependence means that if the Chief Butler mentioned him, he would be freed; if not, he would not be freed. Yosef turned to the Chief Butler as if his whole salvation depended on him — and this constituted his sin.

True, Yosef ought to have taken action according to the dictates of nature and turned to him with the request that he mention him to Pharaoh. After all, the Chief Butler was imprisoned there precisely for that reason — “in order that the tzaddik’s salvation should take place through [him].” However, this step should have been taken with a complete trust that its success depended on the Will of G‑d, not on the Chief Butler.

This explains why, instead of quoting the verse, Rashi paraphrased it and wrote: “Because Yosef depended on him to remember him, he was obliged to be imprisoned for two years.” It also explains why Rashi, uncharacteristically, also quoted the first half of the verse (“Happy is the man who makes G‑d his trust”): Rashi wanted to contrast that kind of trust with Yosef’s request.