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

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Vol. 17   No. 10

This issue is sponsored jointly
in loving memory of
HaRav Simcha ben HeChaver Moshe Hain z"l
on his thirteenth Yohrzeit
and of
HaRav Zalman Yosef ben HaRav Aryeh Leib Sharfman z"l
whose Yohrzeit was 22 Kislev
l'iluy Nishmas
Sheva Gittel bas Levi Lexenburg z"l
L'mishpachas Tzvik

Parshas Mikeitz

Yehudah and Tamar (cont.)
(Through the Eyes of
The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

"And he said 'She (Tamar) is more righteous than I' " (1)

'How the ways of G-d differ from the ways of man!' says the Medrash. When a man comes before a judge and admits that he has sinned, he is sentenced to death. But with G-d, "Someone who confesses and forsakes his evil ways will be granted mercy", as the Pasuk says in Mishlei.

The moment Reuven saw that Yehudah confessed to his sin, he too, stood up and confessed at having switched the beds of Bilhah and his mother Le'ah. And this is what Elifaz was referring to when he said to Iyov "that wise men tell, and they do not withhold it from their fathers" - this refers to Yehudah and Reuven (as we just explained); therefore "to them alone will the land be given, and no stranger will pass between them".

And this latter Pasuk in turn, refers to Moshe Rabeinu, who blessed them in close proximity, when he wrote in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah "Reuven shall live and not die and this is due to Yehudah (33:6/7 see Rashi there), 'with no stranger interrupting between them'.


"And he said 'She (Tamar) is more righteous than I'" (2). The explanation is like Targum Unklus - 'It is from me that she is pregnant'.

But what did Yehudah gain with this, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.? Relations with a father-in-law constitute incest, so in what way did his statement absolve Tamar from the death-penalty?

Apparently, he explains, it was customary in those days, that whenever there was no brother to perform Yibum, the next of kin would take his place. Consequently, Yehudah was saying that Tamar was more righteous than he. Since for some reason, his young son Sheilah was not going to perform Yibum, the onus lay on him to do so. And he had declined to fulfil obligation. Consequently, it was he who was at fault, not she!

When Yehudah uttered those words, Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu told him that, because he had saved four souls - three from fire and one from the deep pit (Gehinom), He would save four of his descendants, three from fire and one from the pit (the lion's den). That explains why the Pasuk in Daniel refers to Daniel, Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah as "sons of Yehudah", and not as 'sons of Chizkiyahu', who was a far more recent ancestor.


Alternatively, "Tzodkoh mimeni" means "She is righteous (because) she is pregnant from me", and what's more, it was only after he had betrothed her that he had had relations with her, and not through an act of adultery, as we explained earlier. But how could that be, asks the author, quoting Rav Moshe. Since when is Kidushin with a daughter-in-law effective? According to the Gemara in Sotah that we quoted earlier, where Tamar described herself as an orphan, he answers, there is no problem. Because, since she must therefore have been married off by her mother or brother, she retained the right to perform Miy'un (to walk out of the [Rabbinical] marriage at any time), thereby nullifying the marriage retroactively. In that case, she was not Yehudah's daughter-in-law, and marrying him was permitted.

This explanation conforms with the opinion of those who permit Miy'un even if the woman's child is 'riding on her shoulders'. It also vindicates those commentaries who translate the Pasuk "ve'Lo yosaf od le'Da'atah" as 'And he did not stop living with her'.


And a third explanation of "Tzodkoh mimeni" (which follows the latter translation) explains that even if she was pregnant, Tamar would not be guilty of the death-penalty. This is because it was the Beis-Din of Shem that forbade a bas Yisrael from having relations with a gentile, and that decree did not incorporate having relations with a Jew, which, as Yehudah had just discovered, was what happened there.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Destiny of Things, Good and Bad

"And it was at the end of two years of days, that Par'oh dreamt " (41:1).

Based on the Pasuk in Iyov (21:8) "He places an end to darkness ", the Medrash learns that every thing that comes out of the Mouth of G-d has a fixed quota. Even the rain, says the Medrash, which He decides will fall on Rosh Hashanah up until the following Rosh Hashanah, has a fixed quota. That amount will fall in its designated time, to water the plants and the trees, should Yisrael deserve it. If they do not, then the same amount of rain will fall in the desert and in the sea. When Yisrael went down to Egypt, the Galus was destined to last for four hundred and thirty years, and it was precisely four hundred and thirty years after the decree was issued that they went out, as the Pasuk in Bo (12:41) testifies. Here too, from the time of the butler and the baker's dreams (when Yosef's time in jail was extended), he was destined to leave prison two years later, which he did by the day, as the author extrapolates from the extra word "of days".


Depriving Par'oh of his Title


R. Bachye comments on the fact that the Torah calls Par'oh by his name a number of times in the opening Pesukim of the Parshah, omitting the title 'King of Egypt'.

The reason for this, he explains, is because the dream concerned the Nile, which was the tool that G-d intended to use to begin his decline, and because water would cause his ultimate downfall. It would therefore have been inappropriate to mention 'Malchus' at this juncture.

The first time the Torah does give Par'oh his full title in this Parshah is in Pasuk 15, where it writes "And Yosef was thirty years old when he stood before Par'oh, King of Egypt. That is because it was thanks to Yosef that his Malchus remained intact, since, without Yosef's astuteness, the entire land would have been destroyed.


Par'oh and the River Nile

" and behold he was standing on the river." (41:1).

It ought to have said 'on the river bank', as the Pasuk will say just two Pesukim later ("and they stood beside the cows on the river bank"). Moreover, when Par'oh himself repeated the dream to Yosef, he said that he was standing on the bank of the river?

The Torah is revealing to us, says R. Bachye, Par'oh's innermost thoughts. We know that the Egyptians considered the River Nile a god. Par'oh considered himself a greater god than the Nile. So in his dream, he saw that he ruled over the Nile, as the Pasuk in Yechezkel cites him as saying - "The Nile belongs to me and I made it myself!".

Only when relating his dream to Yosef, he did not want to admit these thoughts to him (especially after just having had to confess his own inadequacy in interpreting dreams).


Caught in their Own Net

"And his spirit 'beat' within him" (41:8).

Rashi explains that the Pasuk uses the word "va'tipo'em rucho", whereas in Daniel (regarding Nevuchadnetzar's dream) it writes "va'tispo'em rucho". This is because whereas Par'oh was at least able to recall the actual dream, Nevuchadnetzar was unable to do even that!


Rabeinu cites the episode from the Book of Daniel and the Medrash:

The morning after his dream, the king summoned his wise men and sorcerers, and demanded that they reveal to him the dream and its interpretation.

Their request for Nevuchadnetzar to first reveal to them the dream and then they would interpret it was ignored, and he continued to insist that they repeat the dream as well.

They then protested that there was no human-being on earth that was able to do what the king was asking of them. As long as the Beis-Hamikdash stood, they added, a person could consult a prophet or go to the Kohen Gadol, who would consult the Urim ve'Tumim, and all his questions would be answered. But now that it had been destroyed, this was no longer humanly possible. Upon hearing this, the King grew furious. He reminded them that they (the wise men) were the ones who had advised him to destroy the Beis-Hamikdash, and he gave orders for all of them to be killed.

* * *


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

The Torah uses the very same word when it says (in connection with Avraham Avinu) "And it was at the end of (mi'keitz) ten years".

Just as "Mikeitz" there refers to ten years, so too does it refer to ten years here. So the Torah is telling us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that it was after ten years plus the extra two years in prison, that Par'oh dreamt and Yosef gained his freedom.

And to prove it, the Gematriyah of "Vayehi mikeitz shenosayim yomim" is equivalent to that of 'be'keitz eser shonim (at the end of ten years)'.


" Ya'aseh Par'oh ve'yafkeid pekidim" (41:34).

In Megilas Esther too, the Pasuk writes (in connection with the gathering of all the girls) "Va'yafkeid ha'Melech pekidim". Achashverosh appointed officers to gather all the virgins. That is why he became poor, in keeping with the Pasuk in Mishlei "Do not give your strength (incorporating wealth) to women!'.

As the Pasuk writes at the end of Megilas Esther "And the King levied a tax" (to counter the poverty that had struck him). Yosef, on the other hand, appointed officers to gather all the corn. That is why he collected all the money and became wealthy.


"And to Yosef (u'le'Yosef) were born two sons before the years of famine arrived" (41:50).

The Torah stresses that Yosef's two sons were born before the famine began, because once the years of famine arrived, he refrained from having children (See Rashi).

According to this piece of information, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, we can better understand as to why Moshe Rabeinu used the same word (u'le'Yosef) in Va'Zos ha'B'rachah, where, when blessing the tribes, he stated "And to Yosef he said 'his land is blessed by Hashem' ".

It was because Yosef ha'Tzadik refrained from being intimate with his wife during the years of famine that he merited the above blessing. For so Chazal have said 'Whoever empathizes with the community in their time of suffering will merit to see their consolation.


" ... and Par'oh said to all of Egypt 'Go to Yosef; Do whatever he tells you (lochem ta'asu)' " (41:55).

The Medrash tells us what Yosef told them to do. His instructions are hinted in the Gematriyah of 'lochem ta'asu', which is equivalent to 'she'tzifv'ah osam lo'mul (that he commanded them to circumcise)'.


"And Yosef saw his brothers and he recognized them, and he acted like a stranger (vayisnaker) towards them" (42:6).

His initial intention was to greet them cordially, says the Ba'al ha'Turim. But the angel who had met him straying in the field in last week's Parshah (see 37:16), reminded him of that episode and what his brothers had done to him, so he acted like a stranger and spoke to them harshly.

And who was that angel?

The Gematriyah of "vayisnaker" is equivalent to 'al-yedei ha'mal'ach Gavriel', the Ba'al ha'Turim points out.

Oh and by the way, the Gematriyah of "vayish'aleihu ho'ish" (in the Pasuk in Vayeishev) is equivalent to 'mal'ach Gavriel sha'alo' (the Angel Gavriel asked him).

* * *


S'feika de'Yoma

The Avudraham, citing the Ba'al ha'Itim, asks why the Chachamim did not institute 'S'feika de'Yoma' (a ninth day Yom-Tov) in Chutz la'Aretz, like they did on the three major Chagim (for some reason the Seifer ha'Itim only mentions Succos)? One could answer simply, that they only added Sfeika de'Yoma on the Yamim-Tovim which are min ha'Torah, but not those which are mi'de'Rabbanan, where the Chachamim were not so stringent (like some commentaries answer with regard to Sefiras ha'Omer).

The Seifer ha'Itim however, adds that the reason Chazal decreed on the major Chagim is because they are supposed to be fixed according to the sighting of the new moon, but are not (so the Chachamim were stringent in the case of a Safek [doubt]); Chanukah on the other hand, was fixed by the Chachamim, and so is the Cheshbon of the Molad. Consequently, there is no room for doubt.


I wonder how the Mehadrin min ha'Mehadrin would be lighting the Chanukah lights in Chutz la'Aretz if they had instituted S'feika de'Yoma. On the second night say, would they have lit two Menoros, one of one lamp, and one of two?

The Ba'al ha'Itim's question too, I found difficult to understand, seeing as Chanukah takes place on the twenty-fifth of the month, by which time everybody would have known when Rosh Chodesh was proclaimed. So why should there be any question of S'feika de'Yoma in the first place?

* * *

(Part 2)

I Have No Portion in the G-d of Yisrael!
(Adapted from the 'Mamleches Kohanim')

Besides the Three Mitzvos (Shabbos, Chodesh & Milah, which we discussed last week) against which the Greeks decreed, they also issued a decree that whoever owned an ox, had to carve out on its horn that he had no portion in the G-d of Yisrael. The author quotes the Medrash, which explains that this was in order a). to deprive the Jews of their source of meat, milk and cheese (though it is not clear why they did not then incorporate sheep and goats in the decree), and b). to prevent them from ploughing their land.

The fact is that the decree went even further than that. It resulted in the hapless Jews selling their entire stocks of animals, in order not to publicly deny their G-d, with the result that they had no means of transport, and had to travel everywhere on foot (including to Yerushalayim for Yom-Tov). Moreover, they were no longer able to bring most of the Korbanos to the Beis-Hamikdash or to perform the Mitzvah of Matnos Kehunah. Indeed, this terrible punishment was most likely due to the fact that they were lax in the Avodah, as the Bach explains in a different context.

Megilas Ta'anis adds that the decree incorporated their donkeys - noting that this decree is similar to the decree issued by the P'lishtim in Shmuel (1, 13:19-21).


The Ya'avatz elaborates on the reason that we cited earlier, that the Greeks' intention was to prevent the Jews from ploughing their land. They knew, he explains, that a Jew would never plough with an ox that had the denial of G-d engraved on its horns, and so they would all soon die of starvation. And in the event that they would succumb and plough, then they would have achieved their desired aim of forcing the Jews to denounce their G-d, in which case it would no longer be necessary to kill them.


Incidentally, the author ascribes the Rambam's statement in Hilchos Chanukah that the Greeks also stretched out their hands against their money to this decree (as there seems to be no other source for it).


Interestingly enough, the Rokei'ach (and other major commentaries), explains that the decree was meant to recall the sin of the Golden Calf; it was a hint that, on account of it, the Jewish people had lost favour with their G-d, and that they no longer had anything to do with Him.


According to the Korban Eidah on the Yerushalmi, the decree was in no way confined to oxen; in fact, the Greeks ordered them to engrave these blasphemous words on the doorposts of their houses and to stitch them on to their clothes. This would ensure that their denial of their G-d would be duly publicized to all and sundry. Perhaps, the author suggests, that is why Chazal subsequently made such an issue of 'Pirsumei Nisa' (publicizing the miracle) when performing the Mitzvah of Hadlokas Neiros - to kindle the Chanukah Lights at every front door for all to see.


The Medrash refers to this decree as darkness, and it is as a result of its nullification, that we kindle the Chanukah Lights. The commentaries have indeed pointed out that the twenty-fifth word in the Torah is 'Or' (light ), which, with reference to the previous Pasuk, was created to illuminate "the darkness on the face of the deep". And as the Medrash explains, "the darkness on the face of the deep" hints at the Greeks in general, and at the current decree in particular - a beautiful hint at Chanukah.

Maybe, the author suggests, this explains the term 'Maccabi'. The Rokei'ach writes that 'Maccabi' comprises the first letters of "Mi Chomocho Bo'eilim Hashem', and according to the Seider ha'Doros, these words were written on Yehudah ha'Maccabi's flag. Perhaps this was his response to the Greeks' attempt at forcing Yisrael to publicly denounce G-d as their leader. Perhaps it was his way of publicly announcing that there is nobody who can compare to G-d. A classical case of light dispelling the darkness.

And he cites a precedent for this concept from Megilas Ta'anis, which describes how the Greeks once issued a decree not to mention G-d's Name. The moment the Chashmona'im defeated the Greeks, and the decree was cancelled, they instituted that G-d's Name should appear even on documents, inserting the date according to the year of 'Yochanan Kohen Gadol, who served the elevated G-d'.

This too, was the light that dispelled the darkness.

* * *

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