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

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Vol. 12   No. 10

This issue is co-sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Sol and Sarah Van Gelder.
(Pinchas ben Yosef & Sarah bas Avraham z.l)
by their daughters
Moshe Shimon ben Yitzchak Aharon z.l.
who was Niftar on 27th Kislev 5752

Parshas Mikeitz

Yosef's Strategy
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

Yosef's behaviour towards his brothers appears strange, to say the least. He clearly had no intention of harming them, as is evident from the course of events. Why then, did he cause both them and his father so much anguish, by accusing them initially of being spies, and later, of being thieves?

The Ramban explains that Yosef's actions were centered around his dreams, which he now took upon himself to implement. The K'li Yakar disagrees however. If G-d wanted the dreams to come true, he points out, then He would see to it that they would, with or without Yosef's assistance, in which case, there was no justification for Yosef to behave as he did.


The K'li Yakar therefore, based on the Mahari Avuhav, first explains why Yosef declined to reveal his identity (see main article, Parshas Vayeishev), ascribing it to the fact that G-d did not inform Ya'akov that he was alive. And if G-d did not reveal it, it must be Midah ke'Neged Midah for Ya'akov's failure to return home from Lavan, in which case he knew that the knowledge of his identity would have to remain hidden from Ya'akov for exactly twenty-two years (as Chazal have taught). So he would not reveal it either, until those twenty-two years had elapsed.

And as for the pain he caused his brothers by his base accusation, that he did in order to cleanse them for having sold their brother into slavery. The sin was immense, so he undertook to bring about their atonement measure for measure. It seems to me though that, according to Rashi in Ki Seitzei (22:8), who pronounces guilty someone who does not build a parapet round his roof, even though the man deserved to die, one could pose the same question on the K'li Yakar as he himself posed on the Ramban. For it was no more Yosef's business to act as G-d's policeman than it was to implement his dreams.

Be that as it may, he proceeds to elaborate.


Yosef's accusation came to atone for their having suspected him of coming to spy on them, when, 22 years earlier, his father sent him to find out how they were. They thought that he had come to discover what mischief they were up to, and to report it to their father Ya'akov. And in keeping with the Pasuk in Yechezkel (22:9), which states that spying often leads to killing, they decided to strike first, as the Pasuk writes in Vayeishev "And they planned to kill him".

The words "And behold your sheaves went round my sheaf", in Yosef's first dream, the K'li Yakar continues, is a reference to the spying that he accused them of at his first confrontation, because it is the way of spies to go round the town to discover its most vulnerable points. A proof for that is the fact that they entered Egypt through ten different gates. And as a result, they were brought before Yosef, before whom they prostrated themselves.

This atoned for the sin of accusing him of coming to spy on them. And then, to atone for throwing him into a pit, he had them cast into jail for three days (and 'jail' is synonymous with a pit, as we see from Yosef, who told the chief butler "because they placed me in a pit"). Moreover, even after he set the other brothers free, he kept Shimon in jail, since he was the one who actually threw him into the pit.

In fact, Yosef's strategy seemed to have worked, since the brothers confessed to their sin, when they exclaimed "But we are guilty for what we did to our brother ... ". And they did so when he declared that he was a G-d-fearing man, a claim they believed, because they saw how, in spite of his accusation, he had treated them fairly and compassionately by sending them home with provisions for their family. This was sufficient to convince them that what was happening to them was by the Divine Hand (Midah ke'Neged Midah), and not the work of a wicked despot.


And as for the libel of the goblet, that Yosef engineered in order to negotiate slavery. Indeed, the brothers did volunteer to become his slaves, and this was to atone for their having sold him as a slave and after all, they did not succeed, so the mere threat of slavery sufficed.


And when the brothers, following their return journey home, related their experiences in Egypt, Ya'akov used the word "Eifoh" (43:11) which, based on a Pasuk in Yeshayah (27:8) has connotations of 'Midah', and therefore hinted to the Midah ke'Neged Midah with which G-d was dealing with them. Ya'akov himself, who did not know about the sale, may not have realized what he was saying, but as Chazal say on a number of occasions, he prophesied without realizing that he was prophesying.

And the same applies to when he then instructed them to carry spices down to 'the man', to pacify him. Little did he realize that this was to atone for the brother's sale of Yosef to the Yishme'elim, who were taking spices down to Egypt. And that is why he concluded "And G-d Almighty will give you mercy ... ". To be sure, once they had atoned for their sin, G-d's mercy was assured.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Negating Time

"And the evil-looking, skinny cows ate the good-looking, healthy ones" (41:4).

"And the thin ears of corn swallowed the seven fat ears" (41:7).

Yosef went on to inform Paroh that each set of seven cows and each set of ears of corn represented seven years, and that the seven years of famine would be so severe that they would cause the seven good years to be completely forgotten - as if they had never taken place.

The problem with this, asks R. Yosef Chayim, is that whereas it may be possible to remove seven fat cows and seven ears of corn in a manner that they are completely forgotten, how can one do this with time that undeniably existed? How can bad years retroactively obliterate good years as if they had never taken place?

And he explains that this question would be justified if the seven bad years would have unexpectedly occurred after the termination of the good ones. But that was not the case in Egypt, where the people were forewarned about the devastating famine that would follow the good years. Consequently, the fear and the worry of what would happen later would have deprived them of gaining any real benefit from their bountiful situation even whilst it was in full force. And this is evident from the harsh measures that Yosef took, in keeping all the corn under lock and key.

The knowledge of what was in store for them ensured that all the years of plenty were well and truly 'forgotten', even whilst they were in progress.


A Genuine Dream

"I never saw such cows in all the land of Egypt" (41:19).

People's dreams are often based on their thoughts during the day, which in turn, depend upon something that they saw that day, particularly if that something was extraordinarily unusual. Such dreams are meaningless, and do not beg interpretation. Indeed, Yosef's brothers suspected Yosef of 'carrying his daydreams on to his bed', which explains the anger and hatred that followed the relating of his dreams to them.

That explains why Paroh hastened to assure Yosef that he had never in his life seen such cows in Egypt, the K'li Yakar explains. Consequently, his dream could not have belonged to that category. It could only have been a prophetic dream that required interpretation.


All for the Sake of Yosef

"And now let Paroh seek out an understanding and wise man" (41:33).

The commentaries all ask who gave Yosef the authority to offer the king advice? He was asked to interpret the dream, and not to instruct the king how to solve any problems connected with it!

The Sha'ar bas Rabim tells the story of two neighbours who once came before the Noda bi'Yehudah with a most unusual dispute. It seems that a minstrel had composed a new song in the courtyard adjoining both their houses, and each one claimed that he had composed it in his honour. Now they wanted the Rav to decide in whose honour the song had been composed. The men, who were both extremely wealthy, each handed him a large sum of money to settle the dispute. Which he did, but hardly in the way that they anticipated.

'It seems to me', he concluded, picking up the money from the table, 'that the minstrel did not compose the song in your honour at all, but in mine!'

Likewise here, Paroh believed that if he dreamed such a significant dream, it must be because he was very important in Heaven; the Egyptians, on the other hand, thought that since the dream was dreamt on their behalf, it was they who had found favour in Heaven. But Yosef was quick to correct them. The purpose of the dream, he informed Paroh, was on account of neither of them. It was so that he should rise to power, in order that his dreams should come to fruition.

Paroh got the message and responded accordingly, by promptly appointing him viceroy of Egypt.


Placing the Blame

"And one (brother) said to the other "The truth of the matter is that we are guilty ... " (42:21).

A group of Avreichem paid R. Yosef Chayim's a visit, shortly after the Chevron massacre of 1927. The speech turned to the current sufferings of Jews in general, and the blood that was being spilt in Eretz Yisrael in particular.

One of the Avreichim remarked that this was the result of those lax Jews who played soccer on Shabbos.

R. Yosef Chayim arose from his chair, and as he was wont to do when he got excited, he planted the palms of his two hands firmly on the table, declaring in a voice charged with emotion, that he disagreed with the Avreich.

After all, he explained, who were these 'terrible sinners'? The vast majority of them were discharged soldiers who had fought in the first world war. Doubtlessly, he said, they had been forced to eat non-Kasher food and to desecrate the Shabbos. And in that situation, he continued, they probably went on to transgress severe sins which time and circumstances brought upon them. Then when they were discharged and returned to their homes in Russia and the Ukraine, they suffered the pogroms initiated by Petlora and his hoodlums, who murdered, with unspeakable cruelty, men women and children. Many of them witnessed first-hand, their own fathers, wearing Tallis and Tefilin, slaughtered before their very eyes.

'Now I ask you', he concluded, 'What do you expect of these people, who went through so much hardship and suffering? Do you really believe that their sins are so terrible that K'lal Yisrael are forced to pay for them?'

'Who then is responsible', asked the Avreich?

'The truth of the matter is that "we are guilty" ', replied R. Yosef Chayim (mimicking the above Pasuk).'Nobody forced us to eat T'reifos or to desecrate the Shabbos. Nor were our parents slaughtered before our eyes.

We merited to live in Yerushalayim in a frum environment, and it is therefore from us that the Midas ha'Din makes demands. If we are lax in our observance of Torah and Mitzvos - on our level - then who knows that it is not because of our sins that K'lal Yisrael suffers'.


This was the way of R. Yosef Chayim, to object in no uncertain terms, against those who spoke ill of other Jews. In fact, when someone did so, he would compare it to a son who insulted or even cursed his father. Whoever would repeat this shameful act to others, would only serve to increase the father's disgrace.


The Partners Dish

"Why do you all look at one another" (42:1).

See Rashi.

The Seforno, who translates the Pasuk as above, explains it with Chazal who have said that 'a dish belonging to partners is neither hot nor cold', meaning that a job that needs to be done by partners never gets done, since each partner expects the other one to perform it.

And that is precisely what Ya'akov meant when he said to his sons 'Why are you looking at each other (in anticipation)? Get on with it!'


Keeping Body and Soul Together

"... purchase from their corn, so that we shall live and not die" (42:2).

In time of famine, says the P'ninei Torah, it is forbidden, even for someone who is wealthy, to eat luxuriously, as that will evoke bitterness on the part of the starving people.

That is why Ya'akov said 'We will purchase food in sufficient quantity to keep ourselves alive, and no more'.


Yosef's Chochmah

"And he took from them Shimon" (42:24).

R.Yosef Chayim suggests that Yosef's keeping one of the brothers demonstrates once again his astuteness. There was always a chance, he explains, that Ya'akov would refuse their request to send Binyamin, in which case the brothers might well return with somebody else in Binyamin's place, and claim that he was Binyamin.

However, now that Shimon had remained in Egypt, he would be able to ascertain whether it really was Binyamin or not. What R. Yosef Chayim presumably means is that without letting Shimon see the fellow they had brought with him, he would be able to determine whether it was Binyamin or not, by matching the man with the detailed description that he would receive from Shimon.

Rashi explains that Yosef chose Shimon, in order to separate him from Levi, with whom he might otherwise have conspired to kill him. This will also explain why he chose specifically Shimon.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 28:
Not To Prostrate Oneself Before an Avodah-Zarah

It is prohibited to prostrate oneself before an Avodah-Zarah, incorporating anything to which one renders oneself subservient other than G-d, blessed be He, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:5) "Do not prostrate yourself to them and do not worship them". This cannot mean that prostrating oneself in order to worship the god is forbidden, but to do so not with that intention is permitted, since elsewhere the Torah writes "for you shall not prostrate yourself before another g-d", specifically forbidding it under all circumstances. And the reason that the Torah adds "and do not worship them" is to teach us that prostrating oneself before a god is considered a form of Avodah (even if that particular god is not generally worshipped in that way). And Chazal learn from here, in conjunction with other Pesukim, that one is Chayav for employing any of the four specific Avodos (Shechting, burning sacrifices or incense on the altar, pouring wine or sprinkling the blood of sacrifices and prostrating oneself) by all Avodah-Zaros, irrespective of whether they are worshipped that way or not.

The reason for this Mitzvah is obvious.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as whether 'Hishtachavayah' requires stretching out one's hands and feet, or whether one is already Chayav from the moment one presses one's head to the ground ... and Chazal's decrees, such as the prohibition to bow to the ground in front of the idol, to remove a splinter from one's foot or to retrieve money that scattered at that spot, since it conveys the impression that one is in fact, prostrating oneself before the idol ... and other details pertaining to it, are explained in Maseches Avodah-Zarah.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it and prostrates oneself before any god, or who Shechts, burns sacrifices or incense, or sprinkles the blood of sacrifices to it be'Meizid, is Chayav Kareis, and if there are witnesses, stoning; be'Shogeg, he is Chayav to bring a Chatas. The interpretation of the punishments is discussed in the seventh Perek of Sanhedrin.


Mitzvah 29:
Not To Worship Idols in the Conventional Manner

It is forbidden to worship any form of Avodah-Zarah in the way that its adherents generally worship it. Even if it does not conform with one of the four major Avodos (with which one worships Hashem in the Beis-Hamikdash and) which the author has already discussed (in Mitzvah 26). The moment one serves it in a way that it is normally served, one is Chayav (Kareis or a Chatas), even if it involves doing something that appears denigrating (such as defecating in front or Pe'or, throwing stones at Markulis or bringing one's child to K'mosh).

The reason for the Mitzvah is obvious.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as someone who worships it with the express intention of denigrating it ... and other details are discussed in Maseches Avodah-Zarah.

The Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women. Someone who contravenes it deliberately in front of witnesses who warned him, is stoned to death, and this is explained in the seventh Perek of Sanhedrin.

This Mitzvah, together with the previous one (the prohibition of prostrating oneself before an image), which the Rambam lists as two independent Mitzvos, the Ramban incorporates in the La'av of "Lo yih'yeh lecho", as the author already explained (in Mitzvah 27). By doing so, he removes them from the list of Taryag Mitzvos.

* * *

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Chanukah Supplement

The Hidden Light
(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)

The Parshah of the Menorah in Emor (24:1-4) begins with the words "Tzav es B'nei Yisrael", which, the B'nei Yisaschar observes, has the same numerical value as 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan' (which we say in Birchas ha'Mazon and in the Amidah) plus one.

This discrepancy of one ('Aleph' as we will now explain) teaches us he says, that the light that shone during the days of Matisyahu was a derivative of the light that G-d created on the first day of the creation, and which He subsequently hid. That hidden light, the Zohar explains, was placed in the Torah, and those who study it diligently, benefit from its magical properties. That is why Or and Ner (light and lamp respectively) hint at Torah, which stems from 'Chochmah' (the first of the ten S'firos [after Da'as]).

And the reason that the miracle of Chanukah took place with Or and Ner is because it is the Chochmas ha'Torah that the Greeks set out to destroy, and Chochmas ha'Torah is the antithesis of Hellenism (Greek culture), and the symbol of our victory over the Greeks.

Chazal have also said that wherever there is olive oil there is Chochmah (and they derive this from the Pasuk in Shmuel 2, where Yo'av sent to Teko'ah, the prime oil-producing olives area, to fetch a wise woman).

The miracle took place with the Menorah, which was placed on the south side of the Azarah, and the Gemara explains in Bava Basra (25b) that someone who wants wisdom, should turn to the south. Interestingly, it is the south that remains bright throughout the year, summer and winter, because that is where the sun (our main source of light) reaches its zenith. With this we can understand the discrepancy of one between 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan' and "Tzav es B'nei Yisrael". Because, bearing in mind that 'Aleph' represents Chochmah (as in the Pasuk in Iyov "ve'a'alafcha chochmah"), it is 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan' together with the 'Aleph'' (with the illumination of Chochmah that took place at that time) that equals "Tzav es B'nei Yisrael", the Mitzvah of taking pure olive oil and kindling the Menorah.


And this will help us understand the Gemara in Shabbos (23b) which, in answer to the question 'Where did G-d command us (to kindle the Menorah, as we recite in the B'rachah)?', gives two answers - from "Lo Sasur ... " (Rav Ivya) and from "She'al ovicho ve'yagedcho ... " (Rav Nechemyah). Why, the commentaries ask, does the Gemara pose this question specifically with regard to lighting the Menorah on Chanukah (and not to any other Mitzvah mi'de'Rabbanan)? And what is the bone of contention between the two answers?

To answer the two questions, the B'nei Yisaschar first cites the Roke'ach, that the Mitzvah of Chanukah is hinted in Parshas Emor (by way of the juxtaposition of the Parshah of the Menorah beside that of the Yamim-Tovim, and the Mitzvah inherent in the above hint of the equivalent numerical value of "Tzav es B'nei Yisrael", and 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan').

Only the Gemara was puzzled in that "Tzav es B'nei Yisrael" is missing one, and it is therefore necessary to add the 'Kolel' to make up the numbers. What the Gemara really means to ask therefore, is from where we know that a discrepancy of one is acceptable in Gematriyos?

And it is in this regard that the Amora'im argue. Rav Ivya quotes the Pasuk "Lo sosur ... ", which continues "mi'kol asher yagidu lecho yomin u's'mol", with reference to Ya'kaov's blessing of Yosef's sons, where he switched his right and left hands. Because there he said, "Ephrayim u'Menasheh ki'Reuven ve'Shimon yih'yu li", and the numerical value of "Ephrayim u'Menasheh" is equal to that of "Reuven ve'Shimon"; well almost! It is actually one more, and is therefore the source for the permitted discrepancy of one in Gematriyos.

Rav Nechemyah on the other hand, quotes the Pasuk "She'al ovicho ve'yagedcho ... ", and this hints at the second explanation, which we discussed earlier. We wrote that the extra one in 'bi'Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan', serves as a hint to the Chochmas ha'Torah which the Greeks attempted to abolish, and which Yisrael regained as a result of the extra illumination of light that shone from the hidden light which in turn, derives from 'Chochmah'. Now, in Kabalah, Chochmah is known as 'Aba' (as well as being called 'Aleph', as we explained earlier). Consequently, the Pasuk "She'al ovicho ... , zekeinecha ve'Yomru lach", refers to 'Aleph' (denoting Chochmah [indeed, even the end of the Pasuk hints to that, for Chazal have said that 'a Zakein' is one who has acquired wisdom]).

According to Rav Nechemyah then, an extra number is not generally acceptable in Gematriyos, only here, due to the implication of the 'Aleph'.

* * *

All About Chanukah

What Sort of Oil Was It?
(Adapted from the Mo'adim ba'Halachah)

R. Chayim Soloveichik asks how the Chashmona'im could have fulfilled their obligation with the self-increasing oil in the Beis-Hamikdash on the subsequent seven nights. The Torah's obligation is to light olive oil, whereas what burned in the Menorah from the second night and onwards was miracle oil (since the olive oil was used up already on the first night). The Mo'adim ba'Halachah cites the Redak in Melachion 2 (4:7), who exempted the miracle oil of Elisha (in the episode of the wife of Ovadyahu) from Ma'asros for exactly the same reason.

R. Chayim therefore explains that the miracle of the Chanukah oil was not a quantitative miracle, but a qualitative one. In other words, there was no visible increase in oil (like there was with Elisha). What happened was that the oil that was already in the lamps simply increased in quality and burned longer.

R. Chayim also uses this explanation to answer the Beis-Yosef's Kashya, why we celebrate the first night of Chanukah, seeing as the jar contained sufficient oil to last for one day anyway, so that the miracle only began on the second night? According to his description of the miracle however, the Kashya falls away. Since already on the first night, each lamp contained only sufficient oil to burn for one night. The fact that it did not decrease at the regular rate was already a miracle.

And the Mo'adim ba'Halachah uses R. Chayim's explanation to clarify the Machlokes between Beis Shamai, who hold 'Pochsin ve'holchin' (that one kindles eight lights on the first night, seven on the second and so on), and Beis Hillel, who holds 'Mosifin ve'holchin' (one light on the first night, two on the second and so on).

If, as R. Chayim maintains, all the oil that was placed in the Menorah on the first night simply increased in quality, then it transpires that potentially, there was sufficient oil in the lamp to burn miraculously for eight days; on the second night, there was sufficient oil for seven days ... , forming the basis of Beis Shamai's opinion. Beis Hillel, on the other hand, do not go after the potential, but after the factual, and factually, one day's miracle took place on the first night, two on the second and three on the third (see also, note 13, p.158 in the Mo'adim ba'Halachah).


From One to Eight

In spite of the principle that with few exceptions, we always rule like Beis Hillel, there is a well-known hint that is brought by the commentaries, that the Halachah is like Beis-Hillel with regard to the progression of the Chanukah lights (from one to eight). The hint actually lies in the word 'Chanukah', which is the acronym of 'Ches Neiros, Ve'Halacah Ke'Beis Hillel', whose first letters it spells.

The Mo'adim ba'Halachah cites commentaries who use this acronym to answer two famous questions regarding Chanukah: 1) Why Chazal instituted Chanukah for eight days and not seven (see above "What Sort of Oil Was It', paragraphs 4 and 5)? and 2) Why they did not institute a ninth day as S'feika d'Yoma like they did on Pesach, Shavu'os and Succos? Had there been seven days of Chanukah, they explain, then on the fourth day we would kindle four lights, both according to Beis Hillel and according to Beis Shammai, and there would be nothing to demonstrate that the halachah is like Beis Hillel; and the same problem would arise on the fifth day, had they instituted a ninth day.

A perhaps not so well-known hint for the same Halachah is presented by the Roke'ach (cited by the B'nei Yisaschar) who observes in Parshas Emor (24:2 and 4), that the Torah first writes "Leha'alos ner tamid" (singular) and then "Ya'aroch es ha'neiros" (plural), proving that we kindle one light on the first night, and progress on the second night to two (like Beis Hillel), rather that beginning with eight lights on the first night, and ending with one on the last (like Beis Shamai).


A Hint for Chanukah in the Torah

The B'nei Yisaschar also cites the Roke'ach with regard to a hint in the Torah for Chanukah, based on Nevuchadnetzar's dream, where he dreamt of an image, part of gold, part of silver and part of copper, and which, according to Daniel's interpretation, referred to Bavel, Madai and Yavan (Greece), respectively.

It can hardly be a coincidence therefore, that the last word in Terumah is 'Nechoshes' (copper), which is followed by the Parshah of the Menorah, as the Roke'ach points out.

* * *

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