Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 6 No. 10

Parshas Miketz

(based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)

"Trust Hashem with all your heart, and don't rely on your own wisdom." (Mishlei 3:5). Shlomoh ha'Melech is warning us here to strengthen our faith, which is one of the fundamentals of Torah and mitzvos. What he means is that one should ignore the dictates of his heart, which advises him to rely on his wealth or on his strength, but should instead, place his entire trust in G-d, who "turns the wise men back, and makes them stupid" (Yeshayah 44:25). Because all of his deeds and plans are worth nothing, unless G-d decrees it, as the possuk writes in Mishlei (19:21) "Many are the thoughts in the heart of man, but it is the plans of G-d that will materialise".


Even if a person gathers riches galore, he cannot ascribe his success to himself, since his riches did not come to him through his own efforts or talents. Indeed, Shlomoh has already said "For it is not the fleet-footed who win the race, nor the strong who are victorious; it is not those who are clever who have bread, not those who are astute who are wealthy, nor do those who are knowledgeable have 'chein', for in the end, everyone goes the same way" (Koheles 9:11). Furthermore, he said in Mishlei (16:1) "Man may arrange his words in his heart, but the manner in which they emerge from his mouth is governed by Hashem". Even man's words lie not in his own hands but in G-d's - how much more so his deeds - a sufficiently good reason for him not to rely on his own wisdom, nor to place his hope in his own efforts, but in G-d - and G-d alone.


It is well-known that man's faith is divided into eight parts (Rabeinu Bachye quotes the Chovas ha'Levovos, written by his namesake, Rabeinu Bachye ben Pekudah):

1. When a baby is born, he trusts entirely in his mother's breasts, for it is from there that he receives his sustenance.

2. He then trusts in his mother to provide him with the foods that he enjoys, and which are sweet to his palate.

3. Later, his trust switches to his father, when he grows a little older and it dawns on him that he and his mother both depend on his father, because he is the one who sustains and protects them both.

4. When he develops and learns a trade, he no longer trusts in his father, but in his own ability to fend for himself.

5. Then he matures and, seeing the shortcomings of people who are forced to come on to the kindness of Hashem, he arrives at the conclusion that his own capabilities too, are limited. He stops trusting in himself, and takes to trusting in G-d - at least in those matters which he realises are outside the orbit of his control (such as rain in the sowing season, or a storm that is brewing whilst he is at sea). This is a good level of faith, but it is imperfect, like the Novi Yirmiyah writes (2:27) "and when things go wrong, they say 'Get up and help us' ".

6. Later still, he places his trust in G-d, even in matters that are within his control, such as livelihood, but only where, through back-breaking work, he is able to fend for himself; there, he takes to trusting that Hashem will sustain him more comfortably. But when his livelihood comes easily, he continues to trust in his own efforts.

7. He trusts in Hashem in all circumstances, irrespective of how easy or difficult he finds it to look after himself, but always in the hope that He will alleviate all his sufferings. 8. He places his full faith implicitly in Hashem, accepting joyfully whatever He sends him, whether it is good health or illness, wealth or poverty, freedom or captivity, because that is the Will of Hashem. He understands that, should he make the least effort to alleviate the situation in which he is, then to that extent he will be placing his trust in that effort and not in Hashem.


Someone who is complete in the trait of faith, must trust in G-d to such an extent that he believes with all his heart that He who is the Master of all resources will provide him with all the means that are good for him.

And it seems to me, he continues, that this explains why Shlomoh wrote here "Betach el Hashem" and not "Betach ba'Hashem" - to teach us that genuine faith comprises turning all one's thoughts towards G-d, as the possuk says "My eyes are always towards Hashem" (Tehillim 28:15). It is not befitting for a tzadik whose faith is complete, to make even the least attempt to improve his personal situation. The proof for this lies with Eliyohu ha'Novi, for whom the ravens brought bread and water each morning and each evening - and that only because G-d prepared it for him, not because he asked for it. This is the highest level of faith.


Yosef ha'Tzadik trusted in G-d. However, by asking the butler to help him secure his release from prison, he fell short of this supreme level of faith. That is why he was punished, having to remain two years longer in jail, corresponding to the two (Hebrew) words "and you will mention me" and "and you will take me out" (40:14).

Parshah Pearls
Wise Fools

"And Par'oh related to them his dreams, but nobody could interpret it for Par'oh." Sure, there were interpreters, explains Rashi, but not 'for Par'oh' - i.e. to his satisfaction. He would give birth to seven daughters, they said, but he would bury them all.

How amazing, that in a country so full of sorcery as Egypt, there was nobody who could put two and two together, to connect the cows (a symbol of plowing - Ramban) and the corn, to the success and the failure of the harvests over the next few years!

It is incomprehensible how a country full of wise men could ignore this obvious link, to compare them instead to daughters, with which they have not the least connection.


The answer of course, lies in the very opening words of Yosef: "It is not I, but G-d who will calm the peace of Par'oh" - a concept that he would stress a number of times in the course of his interpretation.

Wisdom is no more than a Divine gift, for which the wise man must be constantly grateful. He must never take it for granted, because the Donor reserves the right to deprive him of this gift, if and when He sees fit, sometimes in the long term, sometimes in the short.

In our Parshah, Hashem blocked the wisdom of all the wise men of Egypt, to enable Yosef to ascend the throne of Egypt. That is what the Novi meant when he said "He turns the wise men back and makes them stupid" (Yeshayah 44:25).


A Fall Comes before Pride

Rabeinu Bachye cites a Medrash Tanchuma, which points out how often tzadikim rise to power after they have fallen to the lowest depths: 'From trouble, breathing space, from darkness, light, and from disgrace, rulership'.

Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah were thrown into the furnace, from which the king took them out and favoured them; Daniel was thrown to the lions, and from there he rose to power; Mordechai dressed in sack-cloth and ashes, following which he wore the royal robes and became highly esteemed.


Also Yosef, rose to the position of viceroy from the status of prisoner, as the possuk says in Koheles (4:14) "Because from prison he rose to the throne". And so our sages have said "And they (Yisroel) will go up from the land" - when Yisroel are at their lowest ebb, that is when they ascend to the greatest heights.

This too, is what the Ba'al Hagodoh means when he says 'He took us out from slavery to freedom, from grief to joy, from mourning to Yom-tov, from darkness to a great light and from subservience to redemption'.


Hashem’s Salvation

"And Par'oh sent messengers to call Yosef, and they rushed him from prison ...".

Yosef had just spent ten years in jail and an extra two for his trust in the butler. Why the sudden hurry, to rush him out of jail a few minutes earlier?

However, the Seforno points out, this is the method that Hashem employs when it comes to salvation. Once the time for redemption arrives, there is no delay. It all happens swiftly, as the Novi Yeshayah writes "For My salvation is close to arrive" (Yeshayah 56:1).

This is what happened in Egypt, where Yisroel were driven out of the country, once the time of the redemption had arrived, until even the dough did not have time to rise.

And this is what will happen in the days of Moshi'ach, as the Novi Mal'achi writes "And suddenly He, the Master, will arrive in His Temple" (Mal'achi 3:1). Salvation is such a wonderful thing, that Hashem will not delay it, even for one moment.


Why in Binyomin's Sack?

From Yosef's handling of his brothers, there emerges the picture of a master-strategist, a supreme psychologist, who possessed a remarkable power of exercising full control, not only over himself, but also over others. Everything that he did to them, everything that he said to them, displayed the mark of genius - from the moment they arrived in Egypt, and even prior to that - albeit often with hindsight.

One thing however, appears puzzling: Why did Yosef choose to have the goblet placed in Binyomin's sack? Why hide the goblet there in the first place, and why, of all people, in Binyomin's sack - Binyomin, who had no hand at all in his sale? Binyomin, his full brother, for whom he felt nothing but love?


The Or ha'Chayim explains Yosef's motive in three different ways:

1. To atone for the sin of theft of which the brothers were guilty, to embarrass them, measure for measure, for having sold him.

2. To test them, to see whether they were willing to risk their lives to save Binyomin (a son of Rochel), and that too, would serve as an atonement for their lack of brotherly behaviour towards him.

3. To remind them of their previous theft - how they had stolen him from his parental home and sold him into slavery. Perhaps this would open their eyes to the fact that there was someone in the palace who knew about their past (indeed, he dropped a number of hints to that effect, in the course of their meetings).

Two of the Or ha'Chayim's answers however, seem to ignore the fact that Binyomin was totally innocent, and our question at least, remains - Why particularly Binyomin's sack?


In his second answer, he explains that Yosef was testing his brothers' reaction, to see how far they would go to save Binyomin from a similar fate to that which befell him.

But, one might well ask, why should they not defend him? After all, it was Yosef they hated (not just because he was the son of Rochel, but on account of the various factors listed at the beginning of Va'Yeishev), not Binyomin!

It seems to me that that is precisely why Yosef, with his uncanny foresight, put the goblet in Binyomin's sack. He knew that his brothers would accuse Binyomin of being a thief, as indeed the Medrash explains, when it describes how the brothers struck him between his shoulder-blades, calling him a thief, the son of a thief (Rochel, who stole her father's images). This would, in turn, lower his esteem in their eyes. He had just done something despicable, stigmatizing the entire family, and shaming them all. This, in turn, would create a hatred comparable to that of the brothers towards Yosef. Now the test was a real one.


(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim)
The Thirty-Six Lights

The B'nei Yisochor gives two reasons as to why we light thirty-six lights on Chanukah: firstly, he explains, because, as the Rokei'ach writes, the original light that shone at the creation and which was later hidden, to be used by the tzadikim in the World to Come, shone for thirty-six hours (until Motzo'ei Shabbos), before it was hidden.

Secondly, they correspond to the thirty-six Masechtos of Shas which have the explanation of the Gemoro Bavli ("Ki ner mitzvoh ve'Torah or" - Mishlei 6:23).


Bearing in mind what the commentaries say, that Hashem hid the original light in the Torah for tzadikim to use already in this world, the two explanations merge.


The Shammes

The Maharil found a hint for the minhag to leave the shammes burning together with the other lights, but slightly higher than them, in the possuk in Yeshayah (6:2) "Serofim omdim mi'ma'al lo", which, when translated literally, means "the Serafim were standing above him", but metaphorically can be interpreted: 'the burning (candles) were standing above the 36'.


Why Birchas Cohanim?

The reason that (according to some opinions) the leining on Chanukah begins with Birchas Cohanim (even though that has nothing to do with the inauguration of the Mizbei'ach, which the leining otherwise comprises), is because the miracle of Chanukah came about through the Chashmono'im, who were Cohanim (Avudraham).


Why in Shul?

The Ateres Zekeinim quotes the Rosh, who writes that it is befitting to kindle the Chanukah lights in Shul (known as 'the small Mikdosh') to commemorate the miracle of the lights which took place in the Beis ha'Mikdosh.


Why Kindle the Lights in the Morning?

The reason for the custom to kindle the Lights in Shul each morning, as well as in the evening, says the Binyan Shlomoh, is in order to accommodate the opinion of the Rambam, who maintains that the Cohanim would kindle the Menorah each morning in the Beis ha'Mikdosh, whenever they found the lights extinguished.



'... And they discovered just one jar of oil, that was lying with the seal of the Cohen Godol' (Shabbos 21b).

Of what use would the Cohen Godol's seal have been, had any of the Greeks have moved the jar in the course of their rampage, bearing in mind that Chazal decreed the Tum'ah of a zov (a man who has had three consecutive emissions) on all gentiles, and a zov who moves an earthenware jar (even if it is sealed shut) renders it tomei?

Tosfos answers that, assuming that the above decree had already been issued (and they are not at all sure that it had), the jar must have been found buried underground, and could therefore, not have been moved by the Greeks.


Tosfos' doubt is based on the Gemoro in the first chapter of Shabbos (17b), which states that they decreed on young gentile children, tum'as zivah. Tosfos is uncertain, explains the Maharsho, whether that decree incorporated grown-up gentiles too (i.e. Chazal issued just one decree covering all gentiles, issued in the time of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel - some 200 years after the Greek era), in which case gentiles in the days of the Chasmono'im could not possibly have rendered the sealed jar of oil tomei through moving; or perhaps, that was a second decree, to include small children who could not really become zovin, but, as far as the decree on grown-ups is concerned, that had already been issued many years earlier - before the era of the Chashmono'im. In that case, assuming that the Greeks had moved the jar, they would indeed have rendered it tomei.

The Rambam incidentally, adopts the first explanation, in which case, the decree had not yet been issued, and Tosfos' question falls away,.


A third explanation is offered by the Ran. He assumes, like the other side of Tosfos' Sha'leh; namely, that Chazal had indeed decreed on grown-up gentiles to be like zovin before the era of the Greeks.

Then why were they not afraid that a gentile may have moved the jar of oil? The answer is that that is highly improbable. Why is that?

Because if they had, says the Ran, they would have broken the jar. A jar with the Cohen Godol's seal, they would have figured, must be precious, and if it is precious, it must contain something precious - like silver, gold or jewels. Consequently, if the jar remained intact, it can only be because, for some reason or other, it had escaped their attention altogether.



The Chochmas Shlomoh (Si'man 677:2) is uncertain whether a child who becomes bar-mitzvah during Chanukah, is obliged to light the Chanukah-lights for the rest of Chanukah or not.

He does not state the two sides to the sha'leh, but presumably, this sha'leh is based on the logic of the ruling of the Halachah quoted in the Sha'rei Teshuvah (490:20) - that a child who becomes bar-mitzvah during the Sefiras ho'Omer counts the subsequent days without a b'rochoh (note - both Poskim equate the Din of a child who becomes bar-mitzvah vis a vis the respective days, to a gentile who converts then). The reason for that ruling is because, according to some opinions, the mitzvah of counting forty-nine days is one continuous mitzvah, and not forty-nine independent ones.

Consequently, someone who was not obliged to count the first days, even if he did, will not fulfill his mitzvah if he starts in the middle (just like someone who was obliged to count, but failed to do so until then).

On Chanukah too, the Chochmas Shlomoh contends, the obligation to light for eight days may well comprise one mitzvah lasting eight days, in which case, someone who is not obligated to light on the first night, cannot possibly fulfill the mitzvah, and will not therefore be obliged to light on subsequent nights.


It is noteworthy that, although the Chochmas Shlomoh himself does not resolve the Sha'leh, he goes on to discuss at length what the halochoh would be if a gentile were to convert after the initial time of kindling the Chanukah lights had terminated (half an hour after nightfall), whether he (or a child who became bar mitzvah then - according to those who require thirteen full years by the time on the clock - which is not halochoh) will still be able to light with a b'rochoh on that night. As he himself writes, this second sha'leh presumes that, in the first sha'leh, they are obliged to light on subsequent nights.

It seems to me that there are two strong reasons to accept this as the halochoh:

1. The Sha'rei Teshuvah, commenting on the Birkei Yosef (who quoted the ruling with regard to Sefiras ho'Omer from the P'ri ho'Oretz), points out that, whereas his ruling is acceptable with regard to a gentile who converted during the Omer-time, it is not acceptable with regard to a child who turned bar-mitzvah then - according to our minhag that a child counts the Omer with a b'rochoh. Presumably, what he means is that, since the child counted the days of the Omer until his bar-mitzvah with a b'rochoh, it is illogical to say that, after his bar-mitzvah, he continues to count without one.

2. The contention that the mitzvah of Sefiras ho'Omer is one mitzvah lasting forty-nine days, is well-founded, since there, the mitzvah is to count, and by definition, counting days means all the days that require counting. Leave one out, and the counting is incomplete. On Chanukah, on the other hand, the mitzvah is to kindle the lights for eight days. What indication is there that it is one mitzvah (any more than taking the lulav on Succos for eight days is one mitzvah)? Nor does the fact that we light progressively from one to eight lights prove that it is one mitzvah, since that is only a hidur mitzvah (of symbolical significance); according to the din, one only needs to light only one light nightly. Consequently, there seems to be no reason why someone who was either not obliged to light on the first nights, or who failed to do so, should not become obliged during Chanukah to light with a b'rochoh.


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