In This Issue:
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Our Parashah begins with Yehudah’s challenge to Yosef in defense of his brother Binyamin. The Midrash, commenting on the Pasuk, “Ki Hineih HaMelachim No’adu,” “And behold the kings have entered into battle” (Tehillim 48:5), quips, “Zeh Yehudah VeYosef,” “[The kings mentioned in the Pasuk refer to] Yehudah and Yosef. There is no doubt that Yaakov had planned to anoint Yosef as the king of Israel. The Ketonet Pasim, striped coat, given to Yosef was a sign of royalty. Yosef dreamt of his parents and brothers bowing down to him because Yaakov had planted that seed in his mind. Yet Divine Providence decided that ultimately, Yehudah would defeat Yosef and emerge as the undisputed king of Israel. Why is it that Hashem believed that Yehudah would be more fit for Malchut than Yosef?
The Rav once suggested that Yosef and Yehudah represent two opposing personalities. In the words of Rambam in his introduction to the eighth Perek of Masechet Sanhedrin, Yosef is described as the Chasid Me’uleh, one who naturally gravitates to that which is morally sound and correct. When Potifar’s wife tries to seduce him, Yosef repeatedly resists her temptation. When his father Yaakov asks him to check on the welfare of his brothers tending the sheep, he goes without hesitation, despite the fact that he knows fully well that his brothers despise him and wish him harm. As the viceroy in Egypt, he responds to the severe famine by allowing Egyptian citizens to maintain 4/5 of the produce of the land and contribute 1/5 as a tax to the government. The typical sharecropper arrangement features the exact opposite: 4/5 is hoarded by the government and 1/5 kept by the peasant. In each case he acts with ethics, decency, and morality.
Yehudah is the Mosheil BeNefesh, one who stumbles and gives in to temptation but ultimately recovers. He enters into a relationship with Tamar thinking that she is but a prostitute. Later he acknowledges that it is was he who had impregnated her. Yehudah is responsible for selling Yosef into slavery, yet when it comes to sparing Yaakov the grief over losing Binyamin, it is Yehudah who rises to the occasion.
What type of person would be most suited for royalty? What type of person could serve as a role model for each of us to emulate? Yaakov believed it was Yosef, but Hashem insisted that very few people would aspire to reach those heights. Most of us are like Yehudah – we fall, fall again, and are able to correct and learn from our mistakes. It was for this reason that “Lo Yasur Sheivet MiYehudah,” “The seat of authority shall never be away from Yehudah” (BeReishit 49:10), and for this reason we should strive to become kings
In this week’s Parashah, the words “BiMarot HaLilah” “In night visions” (46:2) are used to describe the conversation between Hashem and Yaakov. Why is this Nevuah (prophecy) described as night vision; nowhere else in Torah is a Nevuah depicted this way? Perhaps this reference to night, a time full of darkness and uncertainty, indicates that the Nevuah implies impending bad.
The Meshech Chochmah, however, understands the description differently. He beautifully answers that at this moment, as Yaakov prepares to leave the holy land of Israel and begin a two-hundred and ten year Galut, he fears for the fate of his family. So on the eve of the beginning of that exile, Hashem appears to Yaakov in a night visions, not to show an impending doom, but to promise that although they will be exiled, they will be returned and throughout the long Galut, Hashem will never leave Am Yisrael’s side. Nowadays, with all the difficulties of living in Galut, we must understand that just like Yaakov Avinu, when Hashem was around for the long and hard Galut, Hashem is alongside us, guiding and helping us until the days of Mashiach and our return to Eretz Yisrael.
In this week’s Parashah, we witness one of the most dramatic events in the entire Torah. After many years of separation, Yosef HaTzaddik reveals himself to his brothers, followed by Yosef’s making peace with them. Achai Yosef then return to Eretz Yisrael, break the exhilarating news to Yaakov and then return to Mitzrayim with the entire family, settling in Goshen. This family formed the foundation of what was to become the Jewish people. When reading about this event, it seems quite unrealistic that Yosef would so easily forgive his brothers, in light of the suffering he had experienced because of them.
Yosef reveals himself with a simple statement. The Pasuk states: “Vayomer Yosef El Echav, Ani Yosef” “And Yosef said to his brothers, ‘I am Yosef’ ” (BeReishit 45:3).
The Chofetz Chaim explains that prior to Yosef’s revelation, the brothers were perplexed by their encounters with him. However, the moment Yosef said, “Ani Yosef”- “I am Yosef,” they understood that their seemingly cruel actions against Yosef had a purpose and that they were part of Hashem’s master plan. If so, how do we account for the subsequent Pesukim in which Yosef eases his brothers’ shock by explaining how their actions were justified? It seems that this explanation by Yosef is unnecessary.
In evaluating this issue, we must examine the brothers’ jealousy resulting from Yaakov’s special affection for Yosef. This jealousy was fueled by Yaakov’s gift to Yosef of the Ketonet Pasim (colorful coat) and Yosef’s dreams in which his brothers bow down to him. There is, though, another possible motivation for the brothers’ sale of Yosef. The brothers were aware of their grandfather, Yitzchak’s, favoring of Eisav over Yaakov, and of the catastrophic results of this preference, had it not been for Rivka. With this in mind, the brothers used the principle of Maaseh Avot Siman Lebanim - the actions of the father predict the actions of the son. They thought that just as Yitzchak favored the wrong son, Yaakov was favoring the wrong son as well. Therefore, the brothers sold Yosef because they thought that he was a Rashah, a wicked person, and that, like Eisav, he was a threat to their family. Based on this theory, the brothers thought they were doing the right thing, and their intentions were pure.
We return to our original question. Why, if the brothers already understood that everything that had previously occurred was part of Hashem’s plan, did Yosef put additional stress on it? The answer is that he wanted them to know that he realized that their intentions were good and that their actions turned out for the best.
It is always difficult, if not impossible, to understand the long term implications of unfolding events as they happen. A recent example of this is the Holocaust and its connection to the founding of the State of Israel. Although the reason for the Holocaust is beyond human comprehension, it can be attributed to part of a series of unfolding events which ultimately led to the creation of Israel. On a more personal level, we all experience success, as well as adversity in our lives. Our goal must be to view our adversity as part of Hashem’s world design and understand that everything is meant to be. It is only through this that we will be able to “make peace” with our situation, just as the brothers and Yosef made peace with one another.
When Yaakov Avinu travels to Mitzrayim see his son Yosef, the Pasuk states that there were seventy people who went with him to Mitzrayim. “Kol HaNefesh LeVeit Yaakov HaBa’ah Mitzrayma Shivim” “All the individuals in the house of Yaakov who came to Mitzrayim were seventy” (46:27). Chazal note that if one counts the people specifically named by the Torah as going down with Yaakov to Mitzrayim, one does not find that seventy people descended to Mitzrayim, but rather sixty-nine. To resolve this discrepancy, Chazal explain that Yocheved, Moshe’s mother, was born right in between the borders of Canaan and Mitzrayim.
The Rosh, based on a Gemarah in Masechet Pesachim, explains that there were only sixty-nine people who descended to Mitzrayim, but the Torah approximates the number to seventy. While similar approximations exist in other counting scenarios, such as by the census of Klal Yisrael in Sefer BeMidbar, this understanding is not as compelling because of the small number of people in this count.
However, an interesting point begs itself to be presented within Chazal’s answer. Klal Yisrael was in Mitzrayim for 210 years, and upon leaving Mitzrayim, Moshe Rabbeinu was 80 years old. Thus, Yocheved, upon giving birth to Moshe, was 130 years old. The Ramban (46:15) asks why the Torah makes no mention of this incredible miracle of a woman giving birth at such an old age. He points out that this omission is in stark contrast to the emphasis placed on the story of Sarah giving birth at age 90. Perhaps the answer to this question can be found in a Ramban at the end of Parashat Bo. The Ramban says that, in fact, there is no significant difference between Nissim (miracles) and Teva (natural events). He explains that really all events are miracles and one’s ability to do anything is life is a result of an unbelievable miracle from Hashem. If this is true, it may be the solution to our question. Fundamentally, anything that happens in life, including a woman of young or old age giving birth, is a great miracle. As such, perhaps the Torah demonstrates miracles to show that even birth at an elderly age can be within the Derech HaTevah (the natural order of things). If so, it is unnecessary for the Torah to describe an elderly woman giving birth more than once; after recounting that Sarah gave birth at an old age, it should not be shocking to learn that Yocheved did as well.
A similar example of this can be found in the Midrash, which states that when the Yam Suf split during Klal Yisrael’s exodus from Mitzrayim, not only did that sea split, but every sea in the world split as well. Why was this information provided by a Midrash and not by the Torah itself? Perhaps it is for this very reason, that after telling us once that Hashem performed the miracle of splitting the sea, it is not hard to believe that Hashem performed it additional times across the globe. Even in the time of Yehoshua, when the Torah specifies that the Yarden split to allow Klal Yisrael to cross into Canaan, the splitting may have been repeated to renew Klal Yisrael’s faith in Hashem and his continuance to perform miracles even after the death of Moshe Rabbenu.
In these times of war within Eretz Yisrael, we must remember the miracles that were performed in earlier wars in the life of the State of Israel, such as the Six Day War in 1967. We must also remember that any victory or (Chas ViShalom) loss that Israel may ever sustain is directly from Hashem and serves as a message to all of us regarding our behavior and observance of Mitzvot.
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