Maase Avot Siman La'Banim
The story of Yosef and his brothers can serve as a reminder that lofty spiritual goals can often blind us to the most basic principles of moral behavior. Certainly, this lesson that we can learn from the story of "mechirat Yosef" applies especially to our own generation, at both the national and the individual levels.
Based on this week's discussion, one could suggest that the "piyut" that we recite on Yom Kippur about the Ten Martyrs (who were killed by the Romans during the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and the Bar Kochba revolt) reflects this same message. In that piyut, Chazal connect those tragedies to the brothers' selling of Yosef. Even though that event had taken place over a thousand years earlier, Chazal consider the behavior of Am Yisrael during that time period similar to that of Yosef and his brothers. The reason is rather obvious. Recall that Chazal cite "sinat chinam" [petty hatred of one another] as the primary sin of that generation (even though Torah study was at an all time high - see Mesechet Gittin 55b with regard to the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza). Hence, that piyut may be making that same statement in a poetic manner. The generation of "churban bayit sheni" had repeated the sins of an earlier generation, and therefore deserved punishment. God may project the sins of an earlier generation on a later one, but only if the latter continues in the same pattern of sin.