If you don’t see this week’s issue by the end of the week, check http://parshapotpourri.blogspot.com which may be more up-to-date
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parshas Mikeitz - Vol. 4,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
V’sham itanu na’ar Ivri eved l’sar hatabachim (41:12)
Rashi writes that even when he was forced to mention Yosef’s remarkable ability to interpret dreams, the evil cupbearer attempted to disparage him by referring to him as a young and foolish person who didn’t know the Egyptian language and who was unfit for a position of power because he had once been a slave. What did the cupbearer hope to accomplish with his slander, as moments later Yosef appeared and immediately stole the spotlight, amazing Pharaoh with his talents and wisdom in interpreting the dream and recommending a prudent course of action to deal with its implications?
Rav Pesach Eliyahu Falk explains that the cupbearer was well aware of the maxim that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In his wickedness, he decided to make Yosef’s first impression for him. He hoped that by making it a negative one, Pharaoh would view Yosef and everything he said through that lens, thereby depriving him of a fair chance to demonstrate his talents.
From the actions and motivation of the cupbearer, we may derive the potent power of lashon hara. If it is believed and accepted as fact, it renders it virtually impossible for the victim to subsequently prove himself and uproot the maliciously-planted first impressions. Human nature is such that upon recognizing the discrepancy between what we were told and what we later see in reality, we will sooner resolve the contradiction by assuming that the person is temporarily on guard and masking his true ways rather than question the accuracy of our erroneous and premature first impressions. As a result, it behooves us to extend a clean slate to every person we encounter and to greet them with open minds.
Vayomer Paroh el Yosef acharei hodi’ah Elokem es kol zos ein navon v’chochom kamocha (41:39)
After Yosef was freed from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he explained that they foretold 7 years of abundance to be followed by 7 years of famine. Therefore, he recommended the appointment of a wise advisor to oversee the project of storing for the famine during the years of plenty. Upon hearing this proposal, Pharaoh responded that there was nobody more fitting for the role than Yosef himself, who demonstrated great insight by suggesting this idea. Rav Eliyahu Lopian asks an obvious question: what intelligence do we see on the part of Yosef? Any rational person should realize that if one anticipates good years followed by bad years, the obvious solution is to save for the future during the good years.
Rav Lopian explains that from the fact that Yosef is praised for his wisdom, the Torah is revealing to us a deep insight into human nature: the prevalence of short-sightedness. Even though our minds recognize the need to prepare for the future, we have great difficulty looking past the affluent present, assuming that it will continue forever. Therefore, Chazal tell us (Tamid 32a) Eizehu chochom ha’roeh es ha’nolad – a wise person is one who sees the future – and plans for it accordingly.
The time we have in this world is analogous to the years of plenty. When we are young, the time we have left in this world seems abundant, almost infinite, and it is easy to let it go to waste. Americans even have a concept called “killing time.” However, there inevitably comes a time when we must leave this world and enter the next. In that world, we won’t have any more time available to perform mitzvos and continue our growth. Let us learn from Yosef what it means to be wise and “save” by doing mitzvos during our time in this world so that we will have them to take with us when we pass on to the next world.
Ul’Yosef yulad shnei banim b’terem tavo she’nas hara’av
The Torah records that two sons were born to Yosef before the years of famine began. Rashi quotes the Gemora in Taanis (11a), which derives from this seemingly extraneous information that it is forbidden to engage in marital relations during a time of famine. Tosefos in Taanis questions how this can be reconciled with the Gemora in Bava Basra (123b), which states that Levi’s daughter Yocheved was born between the walls just as Yaakov and his family arrived in Egypt to be reunited with Yosef. As the famine was still in full force at this time, how was Levi permitted to engage in marital relations?
The Daas Z’keinim gives a fascinating answer. The Gemora in Taanis (11a) rules that a person who hasn’t yet fulfilled his obligation to have children is permitted to have marital relations even during a time of famine. However, there is a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai (Yevamos 61b) regarding the fulfillment of this obligation. Beis Hillel is of the opinion that the requirement is to have at least one son and one daughter, while Beis Shammai requires two males.
The Daas Z’keinim suggests that this dispute actually began centuries earlier, with Yosef and Levi disagreeing about this very issue. Yosef agreed with the opinion of Beis Shammai and maintained that after giving birth to two sons, he had fulfilled the mitzvah and was forbidden to have relations during the famine. Levi, on the other hand, agreed with Beis Hillel. Because he hadn’t yet given birth to a daughter, he maintained that he was permitted to continue engaging in relations until he had a daughter and fulfilled the mitzvah. As a result, his daughter Yocheved was born just as they reached Egypt!
Chalila li me’asos zos ha’ish asher nimtza ha’gaviah b’yado hu yihyeh li aved v’atem alu l’shalom el avichem (44:17)
Rav Zev Leff questions how Parshas Mikeitz could end at this dramatic point in the action. Yaakov had been terrified to send Binyomin to Egypt as Yosef demanded, as he represented the last vestige of his beloved wife Rochel. As the food supply began to be depleted, Yaakov had no alternative but to rely on Yehuda’s personal guarantee to ensure Binyomin’s safe return. Although the brothers were confused and frightened by Yosef’s accusation that they were spies and his subsequent invitation for them to be his guests at a banquet, they thought that the coast was clear when they were finally able to depart on their return journey, armed with Binyomin, Shimon, and a new supply of food.
Much to their chagrin, shortly after setting out on their return trip, the brothers were accosted and Binyomin was “discovered” to have stolen Yosef’s divining goblet, which would presumably require the brothers to leave him in Egypt and return empty-handed to their heart-broken father. Could there be a worse place in the plot line to interrupt with “To be continued” than at this climactic moment?
The Darkei Mussar relates a profound story about a Chassidic Rebbe – the Yaroslover – who merited to live until well past the age of 100. When he was once asked in what merit he had enjoyed such a long and healthy life, he responded with words packed with wisdom: “Don’t think that I’ve had an easy life. I’ve had my share of difficulties and pain just like everybody else. If anything, because I’ve lived longer, I’ve had more occasions and opportunities to suffer. It would have been very easy and natural to complain to Hashem, ‘Why did this have to happen? And why couldn’t that have turned out differently?’
“But I was afraid that if I began demanding a justification and explanation of Hashem’s ways, the Heavenly Court would say, ‘If this Rabbi wants answers so badly, let’s call him up here and give them to him!’ So I never asked any of these types of questions. I didn’t have any more answers than anybody else, but because I never asked, they let me stay down here for quite some time!”
Rav Leff answers that Parshas Mikeitz intentionally stopped at this point to teach that no matter how bad things may seem, we must always remember that there is another chapter waiting to be turned just around the corner. However long it may take us to ultimately realize it, there will finally come a time when we will be able to retroactively understand the Divine Providence and the good which were germinating in what seemed to be life’s darkest moments.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) There are numerous discrepancies between the actual dream of Pharaoh and the way in which he related it to Yosef. For example, in his dream he saw himself actually standing on the river, while in telling it to Yosef he claimed to have been standing on the banks of the river (41:17). Why did he change this detail when recounting his dream to Yosef? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Imrei Daas)
2) Yosef told Pharaoh that his two dreams were really only one, but it was repeated to indicate that its fulfillment will begin immediately (41:32). As Yosef’s dream about his brothers bowing down to him was also repeated (37:9), why did it take 22 years to realize its fulfillment? (Rashbam, Riva, Mishmeres Ariel Parshas Vayeishev, Chavatzeles HaSharon 37:7)
3) What set of twins was born in this week’s parsha? (Seder HaDoros, HaK’sav V’HaKabbalah)
4) The Gemora in Pesachim (7b) derives from 44:12 the obligation of bedikas Chometz. In reference to chometz on Pesach, the Torah commands (Shemos 12:19) ùàåø ìà éîöà (leavened bread shall not be found), a similar expression to that used here in reference to Yosef’s goblet (åéîöà). Just as the Torah mentions that the goblet was looked for, so too must we search for any chometz that may remain in our property before Pesach. Why doesn’t the Gemora derive this point from an earlier verse (31:35), which uses the same expression in reference to Lavan’s search for his idols in Rochel’s tent? (Maharsha Pesachim 7b, Taam V’Daas)
5) In the song “Maoz Tzur,” we sing regarding Haman: Rov banav v’kinyanav al ha’eitz talisa – the majority of his sons and possessions You hung on the tree. Since the Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer (49) teaches that Haman had 40 sons and only 10 of them were hung with him, in what way were the majority of his sons hanged? (Seder Hadlakos Neiros Chanukah by Rav Yehuda Aryeh Dunner pg. 20-21)
© 2008 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Shema Yisrael Torah Network