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

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Vol. 11   No. 10

This issue is sponsored in loving memory of
He'Chaver Simchah ben he'Chaver Moshe Hain z.l.
by his family
on his sixth Yohrzeit

Parshas Mikeitz

Yehudah's Verdict
(Part 2)
In keeping with the authority that even the Beis-Din of Shem was invested (to decree and punish in accordance with the need of the time), to which we referred earlier in the article, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. ascribes Yehudah's strict verdict to a moral decline of that generation that required harsh measures (see also Sifsei-Chachamim). In fact, he answers with that, how Yehudah could issue the death-sentence, even though there were no witnesses present, nor was Tamar duly warned.


The commentaries also ask how Yehudah was seemingly able to judge matters that involved the death sentence on his own, without the participation of a Beis-Din. And furthermore, if there was a Beis-Din (which the Torah does not find necessary to mention in deference to Yehudah), why was Yehudah the one to suggest the sentence, bearing in mind the principle, that in matters of life and death, the senior Dayan is the last to voice his opinion?

Tosfos (not the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.) therefore explains that not only was there a Beis-Din of three judges, but that Yehudah's co-judges were Yitzchak and Ya'akov. This renders Yehudah the junior member of the Beis-Din, and answers both questions. It does not explain though, how a Beis-Din of three was able to judge a case of adultery, which normally requires twenty-three judges, nor how Yehudah was able to sit in judgement in a case that involved his own daughter-in-law. Another problem that we alluded to earlier (albeit briefly) is how Yehudah seems to have got off scot-free. Not only that, but his own participation in the sin must surely have jeopardized his right to judge Tamar for a sin of which he was equally guilty (no matter that he was not initially aware of his personal involvement with her)?

To answer that question, however, we will need to go to the root of the problem, to understand how Yehudah, a son of Ya'akov Avinu, could degrade himself by getting involved with a prostitute. The sons of Ya'akov were all Tzadikim, and his behaviour must have been most undignified for someone of such high standing, to say the least! And if one considers the added possibility that the woman with whom he was getting involved was a Mamzeres or a Cana'anis, it would make matters even worse!

The Rosh, who poses this question, answers with the Chazal (cited by Rashi a little later), that Yehudah's actions were not of his own choosing. They were orchestrated by G-d, who sent an angel to force Yehudah to do something that he would otherwise never have dreamt of doing. And He did this in order to create in the heart of his descendants, the all-powerful kings of Yehudah, the trait of humility. It would put them in their place, whenever their exalted position went to their head. (This is in keeping with the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos - 'Know from where you came ... !').


In answer to the question that Tamar had done nothing to deserve the death-penalty, the Ba'al ha'Turim cites a novel answer by Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid. He explains that, when Yehudah announced 'Take her out and burn her', he was not referring to the death-penalty at all (because then, points out the Torah Temimah, the Torah ought to have added the word 'ba'eish', as it invariably does in all places where the death-penalty is mentioned). What he meant was, that she should be taken out to be branded on her face, the treatment meted out to prostitutes in those days (see Torah Temimah, who cites various sources for this practice, even up to the times of the Rishonim).

The problem with this explanation is the Gemara in Sotah (10b), which learns from Tamar that one should rather throw oneself into a heated furnace than put someone to shame. According to Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid's explanation, the analogy is out of place, since Tamar was about to be branded, and not burned.

The Torah Temimah suggests that what the Gemara means is that a righteous woman would prefer to die in a furnace, than to display such a permanent mark of shame on her face. But still, that is certainly not what the Gemara appears to mean.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh's commentary on the Chumash)

Two Extra Years

"And it was at the end (mikeitz) of two years" (41:1).

These extra two years in prison, explains the Rosh, were the result of Yosef's efforts to bring about his release. Yosef asked the chief butler to remember him and to mention his predicament to Paroh ("zechartani", "ve'hizkartani").

Corresponding to those two words, he explains, the butler "did not remember him" "and he forgot him", as the Pasuk informs us at the end of Vayeishev. And for the same two words, he adds, he had to sit another two years in jail.


Rashi, quoting Unklus, comments that "mikeitz" means 'at the end of'.

But of course that's what "mikeitz" means, asks the Rosh. Why does Rashi need to quote Targum Unklus to prove it?

Not so simple, he answers. We do find the word "mikeitz" with a slightly different connotation. For example, the Pasuk in Yirmiyah writes "Mikeitz sheva shanim tishlechu ish achiv ... ", a command to set free Jewish servants, not at the termination of the seven-year period, but at the beginning of the seventh year (as is evident from the Pasuk in Mishpatim).That is why Rashi deems it necessary to inform us that here, "Miketz" really means 'at the end'.

Perhaps Rashi is coming to stress what the Rosh himself wrote earlier - that Yosef's prolonged stay in jail was for the two words "zechartani" and "ve'hizkartani". For that, he had to remain two full years in prison and not a day less.

Consequently, Rashi needs to stress that "Mikeitz" must mean at the end of the two year period, and not at the beginning of the second year.


Only in a Dream

"And Paroh awoke and behold it was a dream" (41:7).

Why does the Torah refer to the dream of the stalks as 'a dream', and not to that of the cows, asks the Rosh (see also Rashi)?

It is because this is something that could only happen in a dream, he answers. Cows do eat, and they do swallow - sometimes bigger mouthfuls, sometimes smaller ones. But who's ever heard of a stalk of corn swallowing anything at all, big or small?


Paroh and Nevuchadnetzar

"Va'tipo'em rucho (and his spirit banged within him)" 41:8.

Rashi explains why, in connection with Paroh, the Pasuk writes "va'ti'po'em rucho", whereas by Nevuchadnetzar, it writes "va'tispo'em rucho" (with a 'Sof'). It is because the latter was not only unable to interpret the dream, but he also forgot its contents; whereas the former at least remembered the dream.

In that case, comments the Rosh, it is surprising that on the one hand, Nevuchadnetzar was furious with his courtiers for not supplying him with the interpretation of the dream, seeing as he could not even tell them what the dream was. Whilst on the other, Paroh displayed no anger at all towards his astrologers, even though they had been informed of the dream's contents.

And he replied that it was not the courtiers' inability to interpret the dream that aroused Nevuchadnetzar's wrath, but the dialogue between him and them. When the courtiers told him that he could have received the desired information at the hands of the Kohen Gadol, via the Urim ve'Tumim, had they been available, he reminded them that it was following their advice that he destroyed the Beis-Hamikdash, together with the institution of the Kehunah Gedolah and of the Urim ve'Tumim. That is when he gave vent to his rage and had them killed.


He Could Not Have Known

"And he (Paroh) placed me in prison, me and the chief baker" (41:10).

Why, asks the Rosh, did the chief butler need to repeat the word "me" twice?

This was necessary, he explains, because otherwise, Paroh may have thought that Yosef's good interpretation was due to the preferential treatment that he (the chief butler) had received in jail. So he added "me and the chief baker", equating his treatment in prison with that of the chief baker, so there was nothing to indicate that he would go free and the chief baker would be hanged.

Yet Yosef knew!


The Fall Before the Pride

"And Paroh sent messengers to call Yosef, and they rushed him out of the pit" (41:14).

'From deep darkness straight into the light', comments Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi.' Tzadikim tend to fall before they are elevated, as the Pasuk says in Mishlei (30:32). See how ... Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah were publicly denigrated before attaining greatness, how ... one moment Mordechai was wearing sack-cloth and ashes, the next "And Mordechai went out from before the king wearing royal robes".


G-d created day and night; He created this world and He created the next. The nations of the world begin with the day and end with the night; K'lal Yisrael reverse the order; they begin with the night. The Resha'im first enjoy this world, and suffer in the next; with the Tzadikim, the order is again reversed. By the same token it seems, the Resha'im experience pride before the fall, whereas with the Tzadikim, the fall comes first!


Who is This Man?

And they sat down before him, in order of age. And the men were most surprised" (43:33).

Rashi, citing the Tanchuma, describes how Yosef banged his goblet, and called out 'Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yisachar and Zevulun are all sons of the same mother ... ', and proceeded to place them in groups, according to their mothers.

Finally, he placed Binyamin beside him, because neither he nor Binyamin had a mother, as he explained to them.


The brothers' surprise, the Rosh explains, was not due to the way they were seated, seeing as it was the brothers who seated themselves, as is evident from the wording of the Pasuk. Their surprise goes back to the previous Pasuk, where the Torah related how the table had been set with separate seating for the Egyptians and the brothers, because the former would not eat together with the Ivrim. What baffled them was the fact that Yosef sat at a separate table, neither with the Egyptians nor with them, as if he belonged neither to the one group, nor to the other.

It is not surprising that the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., who does not cite the Medrash Tanchuma quoted by the Rosh, explains the Pasuk in this way. The Rosh however, does. In that case, it is baffling why he needs to refer to an earlier Pasuk, when the answer quite clearly lies in the same Pasuk which expresses the brothers' consternation. Firstly, having explained how Yosef seems to have not only known each one by name, but even who was a maternal brother with whom, that in itself, provides ample reason for amazement.

Secondly, placing Binyamin next to him was surely more cause for eyebrow-raising than the original place settings, which in any event had now become irrelevant (see also Parshah Pearls in next week's issue).


Incidentally, the commentaries speak of many hints that Yosef dropped along the way as to his true identity, and this is one of them. The brothers came close to deciphering the clue, but just missed the mark.


All About Chanukah

Hilchos Chanukah in a Nutshell

The P'ninei Torah (quoting the Rebbe from Ziditshev) finds all the basic Halachos of Chanukah hinted in the Pasuk in Naso (that appears in the Chanukah Leining) "Kaf achas asoroh zohov me'lei'oh Ketores".

"Kaf" spells the first letters of 'Pochos Kaf' (less than twenty Amos).

"Achas" is the acronym of 'Achas - Ches Timneh' (count eight).

"Asoroh" is the acronym of 'Ad She'tichleh Regel Ha'shuk' (until there is nobody walking in the street).

"Zohov" is the acronym of 'Z'manah Bein Hashemoshos' (the time to light is at dusk).

"Melei'oh" is the acronym of 'Mitzvosoh Lehadlik Eitzel Ha'pesach' (the place to light is next to the door of the house).

"Ketores" is the acronym of 'Korov Tefach, Rochav Tadlik' (within a Tefach [of the doorpost] across the width you shall light it).


The Thirty-six Lights

The B'nei Yisaschar (based largely on the Rokei'ach) explains how the miracle of the Menorah that took place on Chanukah was connected with the light that G-d created in the beginning, but then hid for the Tzadikim to use in the time of Mashi'ach. Tradition has it that He hid it in the Torah. (Presumably, that explains the connection of Chanukah to the oral Torah, as the commentaries explain).

In any event, that is why the words 'or', 'ner' and 'me'oros' between them, appear thirty-six times in the Torah. Neither is it a coincidence that the original light shone for thirty-six hours, setting only on the Motza'ei Shabbos after Adam's creation.

It is hardly surprising therefore, that on Chanukah, we kindle thirty-six lights all in all.

And finally, it also explains the name of the month 'Kislev' - which is the acronym of 'Kes 'Lamed-Vav' (cover thirty-six), a hint that the thirty-six lights which were hidden became revealed in this month.


Chanukah in the Torah

The Parshah of Mo'adim in Emor ends with Sukos and is followed by that of preparing pure olive for the Menorah. A broad hint, says the Rokei'ach, that Succos will be followed by the Yom-Tov de'Rabbanan of Chanukah. Not only that, he says, but it also hints at the eight days of Chanukah, as the juxtaposition of Chanukah to Succos hints that just as Succos has eight days, so too, does Chanukah.

The Parshah of the olive oil, he says, begins with the words "Tzav es B'nei Yisrael". Believe it or not, these words have the same numerical value as 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan'.

This Parshah also hints that the Halachah is like Beis Hillel, who maintains that on the first night of Chanukah we kindle one light, on the second night, two and so on; whereas, according to Beis Shamai, we begin with eight, and then seven, and so on. So the Pasuk first writes "leha'alos ner" and then "ya'aroch es ha'neiros", first "ner" and then "neiros", like Beis Hillel.


How Many Words in 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu'

There are ninety-two words in 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu', says the B'nei Yisaschar, corresponding to the numerical value of 'Hallel ve'Hodo'ah', which as the Gemara in Shabbos explains, is the very essence of Chanukah - 'be'Hallel ve'hodo'oh' (praising and thanking G-d for the miracles that He performed on our behalf).


Olive Oil or Miracler Oil?

With regard to the Beis Yosef's question, as to why Chazal fixed eight days Chanukah (and not seven), since there was anyway sufficient oil to last for one day, Rebbi Chayim (Soloveitchik) z.l. gives the following answer.

He first of all asks how they were able to use oil that burned as a result of the miracle? The oil for the Menorah is specified as pure olive oil, whereas the oil that burned excessively was not olive oil, but miracle oil. Indeed, the Redak explains, the miracle oil produced by Elisha for the wife of the Navi Ovadyah, was exempt from Ma'asros for this very reason.

The answer to this lies in the fact that the oil did not increase in quantity, but in quality. What actually happened was that only one eighth of the oil burned up each night. In that case, the oil was indeed olive oil, whose burning power had increased eight-fold.

That being the case, the same miracle occurred on the first night as on the subsequent nights (Mo'adim ba'Halachah).


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