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

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Vol. 19   No. 10

This issue is sponsored
in loving memory of
Harav Zalman Yosef ben Harav Aryeh Leib Sharfman z"l
whose seventh Yohrzeit is 22 Kislev
Harav Simcha ben Hachaver Moshe Hain z"l
whose fifteenth Yohrzeit is 6 Teves

Parshas Mikeitz

Two Time Frames
(Based on the Rosh & the Riva)

When did the two years mentioned at the beginning of the Parshah (which preceded Par'oh's dream) begin, asks the Rosh? It cannot have been from the time of the chief butler's dream, he explains, since Yosef spent many years in jail (and the Rosh is assuming that the episode with the butler and the baker took place immediately after his incarceration, as we shall explain shortly). Bear in mind that the episode with his master's wife took place soon after his arrival, as is implied in the Pasuk there (40:1) "Vay'hi achar ha'devorim ho'eileh" (And it transpired after these things [with reference to his sale to Potifera])" - since the word "achar" always means close in time.

To understand the author's question, let us see what the Riva writes in Parshas Vayeishev, on the Pasuk that he has just quoted ("Vay'hi achar ha'devorim ho'eileh … "). The Riva, citing Rashi, explains that the episode with the butler and the baker occurred to deflect the minds of the people from the false rumours that 'the wicked woman' was spreading about Yosef, as well as to bring about Yosef's salvation through them. The Riva explains that this conforms to the opinion (cited by Rashi in Parshas Lech-l'cho) that "Achar" always means close in time, as we already explained.

In other words, the episode with the butler and baker took place close to the date that Yosef was due to be set free, many years after his incarceration [though it is difficult to understand Rashi's first point - about stilling the rumours, which, one would have thought, had long been forgotten).

But according to the Seider Olam, which explains that Yosef's incarceration took place a mere year after his arrival, says the Riva, and that he spent twelve years in prison, the butler and baker must have joined him in jail towards the end of his incarceration, in which " … achar ha'devorim ho'eileh" means 'a long time afterwards', and "Acharei", close in time. And Rashi, he concludes, in a number of places, follows the earlier opinion (which is the opinion of the Medrash Rabah) in this matter.


Now we can understand the question posed by the Rosh. If, as he assumes (not like Rashi), Yosef was incarcerated after a year, and if, at the same time, we accept the principle that "Achar" always means a short time afterwards, the butler and the baker joined Yosef twelve years before Par'oh's dream. How will we then understand the Pasuk which informs us that "Par'oh dreamt at the end of two years"? What do the two years signify?

And he gives a most unusual answer. He explains that the word "Mikeitz" can intrinsically apply to a ten-year period (as we find in Lech-l'cho [16:3]). Consequently, when the Torah writes "Mikeitz shenosayim yomim", it means two years after the initial ten-year period inherent in "Mikeitz".

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Having Children
in the Time of Famine

"And Yosef fathered two sons before the years of famine arrived" (41:3).

The Gemara in Ta'anis (11a) learns from here that marital relations is forbidden during a time of famine.

In that case, asks the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, what right did Levi have to contravene that prohibition, seeing as his daughter Yocheved was born as they entered Egypt, during the second year of famine?

Some commentaries, he explains, cite the ruling that permits intimacy in a case where a couple have not yet fulfilled the Mitzvah of having children. And they answer the question by connecting the dispute as to how one fulfils the Mitzvah of "P'ru u'revu". Levi followed the opinion that requires a boy and a girl (which incidentally is the Halachah). Consequently, since, when the famine began, he had only sons and no daughters, the prohibition did not pertain to him. Whereas Yosef concurred with those who say that one fulfils the Mitzvah with two boys, which he already had. So he refrained from marital relations.


The Chizkuni answers the question by pointing out that whereas, on the one hand, Yosef was bound by the prohibition out of sympathy towards his father and brothers, who, he naturally assumed were suffering on account of the famine; Levi, on the other hand, knew that his family had sufficient food on which to subsist, and saw no reason to desist from intimacy.



"And the gifts of Binyamin exceeded the gifts of the others five-fold" (43;34).

The Riva asks why, considering the terrible consequences of the special shirt that Ya'akov gave Yosef as an extra gift (the Gemara in Shabbos comments that because of the small amount of extra wool that Ya'akov gave Yosef, they all had to go down to Egypt) Yosef seemingly repeated his father's mistake by giving Binyamin that much more than the other brothers?

Citing ha'Rav Elyakim he answers that this was different, in that, having forced his brothers to bring Binyamin all the way from Cana'an, it was only natural for him to receive him kindly and to compensate with a gift.

Moreover, he says, seeing as it was his intention to reveal his identity in the immediate future; and once he did, they would attribute the extra gift to the fact that Binyamin was, after all, Yosef's maternal brother - and this cannot be compared to favouring one son over and above his siblings.

And this will also explain why in Parshas Vayigash, Yosef gave Binyamin three hundred pieces of silver and five new suits, whilst the other brothers he gave only one suit.


The Riva asks further how Ya'akov Avinu himself could later give Yosef an extra portion of land, as the Torah states in Vayechi?

And he explains that, seeing as Yosef was now a king, it was natural to honour him with extra gifts. Consequently, there was no reason to fear that this would elicit the jealousy of his brothers.


The Goblet & its Stand

"Is this not the one which my master uses to drink from?" (44:5).

The goblet was obviously not in front of them, asks the Riva, so how could Yosef tell Menasheh to use the word "this" (zeh), which, according to Chazal, always refers to something visible?

And he cites an answer that he heard, to the effect that Menasheh had brought with him the stand on which the goblet stood, and it was to that stand that he pointed as he spoke, as if to say "Is it not the goblet that sits on this stand from which my master drinks?"


Why Yosef Didn't Tell …
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos remarks on the fact that, in spite of the short distance that separated Yosef from his father and brothers (four or five days journey at most), for twenty-two years nobody from his family discovered where he was. This is even more remarkable considering the various episodes that highlighted Yosef's stay in Egypt and that must have made news throughout Egypt and beyond. One would have thought that the entire world was talking about this youthful slave, who became first a jail-bird and then viceroy, who had only just been sold from Cana'an, and who seemed to capture the headlines time and time again.

Furthermore, he asks, why did Yosef not inform his father of his whereabouts during all those years that he was separated him? And although he does not answer the first question, he offers three answers to the second one:

1. Yosef was included in the Cherem which the brothers placed on anybody who revealed his sale, incorporating even G-d, and even Yosef himself. Indeed, Yitzchak knew about the sale, and was afraid to reveal it to Ya'akov, because, he argued 'If G-d did not divulge the secret, then how could he divulge it', as Rashi informs us in Parshas Mikeitz.

2. Quoting others, he explains that Yosef did not want to reveal his identity as long as he was a slave or in prison, because this would have only increased his father's anguish. And even when he was king, he saw no point in informing him who he was, since he suspected that he would not believe him anyway, as we see when the brothers eventually informed Ya'akov that he was still alive and living in Egypt.

3. And finally, he explains, Yosef was afraid that, the moment he informed his father of his situation, his brothers would flee the scene, one to the north, one to the south … for fear that he would kill them. And this of course, would merely cause his father untold heart-ache (and perhaps even his demise).

Consequently, he decided that it was better to wait for his brothers to come to him (with a little push from him), and to first reveal his identity to them and to appease them, before sending a message that he was alive and viceroy of Egypt.

* * *

Vol. 19   No. 11

This issue is sponsored by
R' Moshe Rubin v'ra'isso
l'iluy Nishmos
Mordechai Meir Chaim ben Yaakov z"l
Sheva Gittel bas Levi z" l

Chanukah Supplement

Subjugation & Salvation
(Adapted from the Mamleches Kohanim)

In order to force the Jews to forsake their religion and their G-d, the Greeks enacted a series of decrees to make life unbearable for them. First of these decrees was that anybody who was found to have a lock or a bolt on the door of his house would be put to death by the sword. This meant that they could neither eat nor sleep in peace, for fear of thieves entering their homes and stealing their food and their possessions. It meant that they could never leave their homes and it deprived them of all privacy and needless to say, intimacy was out of the question, as anyone could enter their houses at any time of day or night.

This decree, G-d informed them, was the result of their laxness with regard to the Mitzvah of Mezuzah, and it resulted in the fulfillment of the curse "and you will be afraid by night and by day".

The decree lasted three years, during which time the people remained loyal to G-d.


When the Greeks saw that their efforts had not borne fruit, they issued a new decree - that everybody should write on the horns of their oxen (the source of meat and milk, and inasmuch as it was their sole source of plowing, of the bulk of their food, as well as comprising their main source of travel) that he had no portion in the G-d of Yisrael! The reason for this decree, G-d informed them was on account of their failure a. to travel to Yerushalayim for the three Yamim-Tovim and to bring the relevant Korbanos, and b. to provide the Kohanim with the Matnos Kehunah. And that was why they now had to witness the fulfillment of the Pasuk "Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes".

Once again, the people's faith remained firm. Not willing to dishonor their G-d with such a declaration, they sold all their cattle. To reward them for their steadfastness, a spate of deer, rams and all kinds of Kasher birds, taking advantage of their open homes, entered in droves, providing them with a free and abundant supply of meat. Amazingly, it now transpired that the first decree worked on behalf of the people to alleviate the second decree - as a reward for their loyalty.


When the Greeks saw that they had still not reached their goal, they decreed no woman was permitted to Tovel in a Mikvah, and that any Greek who discovered a Jewish woman doing so was authorized to take her as a wife and her children as slaves. With heavy hearts the people continued to live with their wives claiming that no woman would agree to live with her husband in an ongoing state of celibacy. G-d understood, and because the people were acting against their express wishes, He performed another miracle, and a Mikvah suddenly appeared in every Jewish home, enabling the people to avoid this decree as well. Thus they experienced the Pasuk "And you shall draw water with joy from the fountains of salvation".


And when the Greeks realized that they were still not achieving their goal, they came up with the shocking idea that every Jewish bride was obligated to spend the first night after her marriage with the local Greek general. The Jews responded by simply not getting engaged. The young maidens were ready to become spinsters rather than having to live through such a disgusting and degrading experience. In this way they realized the Pasuk in Eichah "Her (Yerushalayim's) virgins were grief-stricken and she was embittered". Moreover, the Greeks then took to molesting and defiling the Jewish maidens.

This state of affairs continued for almost four years, until the wedding of Matisyahu, Kohen Gadol's daughter to a prominent member of the family. Following the wedding feast, as the bride was being led to the Greek general, she uncovered her hair and tore her clothes, deliberately exposing herself before the many wedding guests. When Yehudah hafMaccabi and his brothers, angry over their sisterfs brazen Chutzpah, ordered her to be taken out and burned, she retorted that if they were so concerned about her shame before her own people, why were they not equally concerned about her shame of being exposed to the Areil ve'Tamei to whom they were about to take her?


Aroused by the truth of the girl's words, Yehudah and his friends decided there and then to take action.

Dressing her in royal robes, they constructed a Chupah of myrtles, and, with musical accompaniment, they danced her to the general's palace. When he saw them approaching, he proudly pointed out to his officers and servants how even the leading Kohanim from the children of Aharon rejoiced at carrying out his commands. Meanwhile, Yehudah and his troop entered the general's palace together with their sister. Without a moment's hesitation, they severed the unsuspecting general's head, and destroyed his entire garrison, taking all the spoil they could find for themselves.

A Heavenly Voice, emanating from the Kodesh Kodshim was heard, corroborating their act.


It seems that this source maintains that the above act sparked off the Jewish rebellion, and served as the catalyst that caused the Emperor Antiochus to gather an army and march on Yerushalayim

* * *

Thoughts on Chanukah
(Adapted from the Mofadim bafHalachah)

The Menorah &
Eight Days of Chanukah

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (24b) prohibits making a replica of the Menorah of the Beis-Hamikdash. The Shulchan Aruch in Yorei De'ah cites this Gemara, adding 'even if it is made of other kinds of metal (besides gold) and even without the goblets, the knobs and the flowers'.

The Shach extrapolates from this that making a replica of gold is permitted without the patterned ornaments. And the reason, he explains, is because, unlike a Menorah made of other kinds of metal (which is Kasher even without the goblets, the knobs and the flowers), a Menorah made of gold is Pasul (in the Beis-Hamikdash) if they are missing.

The B'chor Shor, however, disagrees, forbidding even a Menorah of gold without the ornaments (despite the fact that the Menorah would be Pasul in the Beis-Hamikdash).


Incidentally, the Mo'adim ba'Halachah adds, R. Kook uses the basic prohibition (of constructing a replica of the Menorah) to answer the well-known Beis Yosef's Kashya, as to why, seeing as there was enough oil in the newly found crucible to burn for one night, the Chachamim instituted eight nights and not seven.

Had the Chachamim instituted seven days, he explains, that would have entailed using a Menorah of seven branches to perform the Mitzvah, and a seven-branch Menorah is forbidden.

According to the above Shach, one might ask, we could always have used a golden Menorah minus the goblets, the knobs and the flowers. That may well be; but since most people cannot afford a Menorah made of gold, the Chachamim declined to impose such a financial burden on them.


Chanukah on the Twenty-Fifth?

The question is asked as to why, if 'They rested on the twenty-fifth', in accordance with the acronym of Chanukah ('chonu "Chaf-Hey" '), the Chachamim did not fix Chanukah on the twenty-sixth, which would have been the first time that they kindled the Menorah after the great victory?

(See last year's edition, Parshas Mikeitz, page 1 'They rested on the twenty-fifth').

The Mo'adim ba'Halachah discusses the Machlokes between the Rambam and many other commentaries regarding the Mitzvah of 'Hatavos Neiros' that the Torah commands during the day, whether it comprises simply cleaning out the lights and preparing them (the commentaries) or lighting them as an extension of lighting them in the evening (the Rambam).

Citing the Gadol from Minsk, he now explains that according to the Rambam, the above question is automatically answered, seeing as they lit the first time on the actual day of the twenty-fifth.

Incidentally, the author answers the apparent contradiction between the Pasuk of Hatavas Neiros (by day) and the Pasuk of Hadlakas Neiros (in the evening) - (according to the Rambam). The latter, he explains, pertains to the Ner Mafaravi (the second lamp, which they were forbidden to extinguish during the day), whereas the former pertains to the other lamps, which the Kohen would extinguish before re-kindling them during the day.

The problem with this, however, is why the Torah then writes (in connection with the latter) gWhen you kindle the lamps (es hafNeirosh) in the plural, seeing as the Mitzvah entailed lighting only one lamp?


Which Comes First?

The Poskim argue over which comes first, Ner Shabbos or Ner Chanukah. On the one hand, Ner Shabbos ought to take precedence, based on the principle, eTodir vefshefEino Todir, Todir Kodemf (i.e. Shabbos lights are more common that Chanukah lights). Nor is there any problem regarding breaking Shabbos, since lighting the Shabbos lights does not constitute Kabolas Shabbos. Others however, maintain that lighting the Shabbos lights does constitute Kabolas Shabbos, in which case, the Chanukah lights must be lit first - and this is the opinion cites lefHalachah in the Shulchan Aruch.

Interestingly, the same two opinions exist with regard to Havdalah and Ner Chanukah (though the reasoning is slightly different). Again, some say that Havdalah comes first, and they base their argument on the principle, 'Todir ve'she'Eino Todir, Todir Kodem'; whereas others give preference to Ner Chanukah, because of a. 'Pirsumei Nisa' (publicizing the miracle - which is seems, is not an issue when it comes to Ner Shabbos - and by postponing the termination of Shabbos for as long as possible.

In most communities, the Minhag is to make Havdalah first at home, but to light Ner Chanukah first in Shul.

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