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

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Vol. 11   No. 12

This issue is sponsored by
the Chaitowitz Family in loving memory of
Avraham Shalom ben Shneur z.l.
Meir David ben Shlomoh Eliezer z.l.
Rivkah bas Yonah z.l.

Parshas Vayechi

Three Good Reasons

The Pesukim leading up to Shevi'i tell the story of Yosef's brothers, who, following their father's death, feared that Yosef would avenge the wrong that they had done him. So they sent the sons of Bilhah, with whom he had been particularly close, to present him with a request in the name of their father, that he forgive them (even though their father, who did not suspect Yosef of doing that, had said no such thing before he died).

Rashi explains that what prompted Yosef's brothers to suspect him of planning to harm them, was that during their father's lifetime, Yosef, out of respect for his father, had invited them all to eat at his table. But now that their father was no longer alive, Yosef had discontinued this practice. And they saw this as an indication that Yosef bore them a grudge. They were afraid that without their father to stop him, he would proceed avenge the injustice that they perpetrated against him unhindered. What they did not know, was that his change of plan was motivated by his concern that, whereas until now he had sat at the head of the table at his father's bidding, he was afraid that he would be forced to continue doing so, against his will, since most of his brothers were older than him.

The Ba'al ha'Turim attributes their fear to an event that had occurred in Cana'an, from where they had just returned to bury their father Ya'akov. They had seen Yosef stop by the pit into which they had thrown him, and look inside it, and they suspected him of fanning the flames of hatred and revenge. What they did not know was that he did this in order to recite the B'rachah of ha'Gomel, for the remarkable miracles that he had experienced.


Whatever the case, Yosef's reply was clear and unequivocal - "You have nothing to fear, because I am not G-d's policeman". 'Even assuming that I wanted to do you harm', Rashi explains, 'I would not succeed. After all, ten of you planned to harm me, yet G-d turned your plans into good. How can I, one person, expect my plans to harm you to materialize?'

At first, this argument appears flawed.

G-d had intervened on behalf of Yosef, whom he considered to be in the right, because his brothers had misjudged him. But seeing as the brothers had sinned against Yosef, why was it so obvious to Yosef that G-d would intervene on their behalf, should he set out to do them harm?


This question can be answered in three different ways.

1. It is fair to assume that Yosef ascribed G-d's intervention to the Pasuk in Koheles "G-d always takes the part of the one who is being victimized" (even, Chazal explain, if a Tzadik is chasing a Rasha). In that case, Yosef's argument was flawless. Having taken his part against a community of ten (despite the merits of a community), the communal merit would certainly ensure that G-d would defend that same community against the attack of an individual.


2. The brothers' actions in selling Yosef were not totally without justification. As Rashi explains, he seemed to look for opportunities to speak ill of them, and on the added basis of his dreams (which albeit, they misinterpreted), all the evidence pointed to the fact that he was attempting to eliminate them, or at least to wrest the leadership from Yehudah. As the commentaries explain, they sat in judgement before their decision to kill him (which they subsequently commuted, selling him into slavery), and found him guilty. Yet, in spite of that, G-d interfered with their plans and helped him to achieve what he did (see Seforno).

Yosef on the other hand, could in no way justify planning to harm his brothers. True, they had attempted to cause him suffering, but that was a matter for G-d to judge, and not Yosef. Yosef's only reason for taking such action would be based on a desire to take revenge, which has certainly no justification. So if G-d took his part against his brothers, He would undoubtedly take the part of his brothers against him.


3. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the story of Yosef is that initially it seems to be a question of who is right and who is wrong (as we just explained). And as the story develops, one might be excused for anticipating Yosef to turn out the winner and the brothers, the losers. Yet ultimately, that is not what transpires. Yosef is the winner, yes. But the brothers win, too. In fact, Yosef's rise to power and position as viceroy of Egypt was for the benefit of the brothers, no less than for his own. That is why Yosef added the words 'in order to do today, to sustain many people". And what's more, he utilized his position to improve their lot (as we explained in last week's main article).

That being the case, Yosef's logic is indeed flawless. For if G-d saved him for the express purpose of sustaining his brothers, when the time would arrive, what sense would it make to allow him to destroy them, now that His plans had materialized?


Yosef concluded with the words "And now, don't be afraid, I will sustain you". Not only did he not intend to kill them, he was telling them, but he would not even punish them by withholding their sustenance.

Reb Yoshi Ber from Brisk, however, gives a different twist to the Pasuk. It was enough that they were being punished by the fact that they had to receive their sustenance from him (which Chazal consider a curse). They did not need to be afraid, he was telling them, that he would punish them further.


Parshah Pearls

A Discrepancy of One

"Efrayim and Menasheh will be to me like Reuven and Shimon" (48:5).

The numerical value of "Efrayim u'Menasheh" is equivalent to that of "Reuven ve'Shimon" plus one, the Rosh points out. The B'nei Yisaschar cites this as the source for the accepted rule in Gematriyos that a discrepancy of one is not considered a discrepancy.


Chesed and Emes

"And do with me kindness and truth, do not bury me in Egypt" (47:29).

It is true, says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, that Yosef was obligated to bury his father. He was not however, obligated to go to the huge trouble of burying him in Eretz Yisrael. That would be an act of kindness and this explains why Ya'akov mentioned both kindness and truth.

See also Rashi.


Ya'akov and the Ten Plagues

"Please do not bury me in Egypt (ibid.)

Rashi ascribes this in part, to Ya'akov's fear that when the plague of lice would later strike the Egyptians, the earth was destined to turn into lice, which would then crawl under his body.

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. however, queries this on the basis of the Medrash that after Binyamin's death, his body remained unaffected by worms. Now if that was true of Binyamin, Ya'akov's son, it is inconceivable that it would not be equally true of Ya'akov (unless we say that Ya'akov was unaware of what happened to Binyamin after his death).


The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. therefore suggests that what he was afraid of was that, due to the merit of having Ya'akov buried among them, the Egyptians might be spared from the plagues altogether, a relief that they did not deserve. After all, the Torah refers to Ya'akov as 'Yisrael', and the Egyptians, as 'a donkey', and the Torah writes in Bo "And the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb".

This speaks volumes of the power of the burial place of a Tzadik.


Pakod Yifkod

"And he (Yosef) said, 'I will do like your words" (47:30).

The Medrash interprets this to mean that Yosef would emulate his father and use the same words when taking leave of his brothers prior to his death. And Yosef used the expression "Pokod Yifkod Elokim eschem" (see Da'as Zekeinim M.T. there, who translates this as 'G-d will deduct a hundred and ninety years [corresponding to the numerical value of "Pokod"]) before he died. Evidently, Ya'akov used this expression, too (even though, it is not recorded in the Torah).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. bears this out with the Rashi in Sh'mos, who says that Yisrael believed Moshe when he first appeared to them with the news of the redemption, because they had a tradition from Ya'akov and from Yosef, that they would be redeemed with the words "Pakod yifkod ... " (which is precisely the expression that Moshe used). And he explains that Rashi mentions Ya'akov (even though we do not find Ya'akov saying that, as we just explained), based on the above-mentioned Medrash.


Keeping His Distance

"And he said to Yosef, behold your father is sick" (48:1).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. cites the Medrash Tanchuma, who ascribes this statement to Efrayim (see also Rashi). Indeed, he says, if one changes the 'Vav' in "va'yomer" for a 'Fey' (in keeping with the rules of Gematriyos), it turns out to have the same numerical value as 'Efrayim'.

In any event, one gathers the impression that Yosef did not spend much time with his father, and this is borne out by the fact that Ya'akov had to call for him when he wanted to bless his children.

Considering the close bond that existed between them, this would be strange under any circumstances. But now that they had been forcibly separated for twenty-two years, one would have expected them to spend as much time together as possible. The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. therefore ascribes Yosef's strange behaviour (in keeping his distance from his father) to his fear that the latter would perhaps ask him how he landed up in Egypt. He recalled what happened to his mother Rachel, when his father cursed her inadvertently. He imagined what he would do if he (Yosef) was compelled to relate the events that led to his sale, and he shuddered to think what would happen to his brothers, should his father curse them deliberately. In that case, he thought, the less his father saw of him, the better.


In Deference to Menasheh

" ... and his left hand on the head of Menasheh; he guided his hands, because Menasheh was the firstborn" (48:14).

What reason is that for guiding his hands, asks the Rosh?

And he answers that it was due to the fact that Menasheh was the firstborn, that he only switched his hands. Had Efrayim been the firstborn, he explains, Yosef would have switched the positions of Reuven and Shimon. But now that Menasheh was, he left them as they were. Menasheh was older, and it was only correct that he stand on Ya'akov's right. True, he was now appointing Efrayim as the Bechor. Neevrtheless, in deference to Menasheh, he switched his hands, leaving the boys as they were.


Hashem Plus Four

"Yehudah, your brothers will thank you" (49:8).

The name Yehudah, remarks the Rosh, contains the four letters of G-d's Name plus a 'Daled', a hint that he was the fourth son of Ya'akov. Furthermore, it was on the fourth day that G-d fixed the sun and moon in the sky, and in connection with Mashi'ach, a descendant of David, the Pasuk in Tehilim writes "his throne is like the sun beside Me". Perhaps we may add, the kings of Yehudah are also compared to the moon (as Rabeinu Bachye explains at great length in Parshas Vayeishev). In addition, four of his descendents were destined to be saved, Daniel from the lions' den and Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah from the furnace, in return for his having saved Yosef from the pit, and Tamar and her two sons from being burned.


(Part 12)
(Excerpts from the first three chapters of Mishnayos Yuma dealing with the daily routine in the Beis-Hamikdash )

The T'rumas ha'Deshen

Every day, the Kohanim would perform the T'rumas ha'Deshen (removing a shovelful of ashes from the Mizbei'ach) at dawn (when the cock crowed) or thereabouts. On Yom Kipur (when the entire Avodah of Yom Kipur rested on the shoulders of the Kohen Gadol) he would perform it at midnight (to give him more time to get through his grueling day). Whereas on Yom-Tov, they would already begin at the time of the first watch (two hours before midnight). By the time the cock crowed on Yom-tov morning, the Azarah was already full of people.


Initially, any Kohen who wished to perform the Terumas ha'Deshen, could go ahead and do so. If many candidates turned up, they would form a line and race up the ramp. The first to arrive within four Amos of the Mizbei'ach would merit the Mitzvah. In the event that the race ended in a tie, they would form a circle and extend one finger, or two (if they were weak and unable to extend only one). They were not however, permitted to stick out their thumbs. Then the appointee (to avoid the sin of counting Jews) would remove one of the Kohen's turbans, a signal that the counting would begin with him. After announcing a random number (75 or 93) he would count the extended fingers, beginning with the Kohen who stood with his head uncovered (and the 75th or 93rd Kohen would merit the Mitzvah).

This method was abolished after one Kohen once pushed another Kohen off the ramp as they were racing up it, and the poor fellow fell to the ground and broke his leg. That was when Beis-Din instituted tossing up in the way that we described earlier (known as Payas) lehatchilah (at the outset). In fact, there were four Payasos. This was the first. The same Kohen who performed the Terumas ha'Deshen would also arrange the Ma'arachah (which included carrying two fresh blocks of wood on to the Mizbei'ach). And according to the Rambam, he was also the one to take a shovelful of burning coals from the Mizbei'ach ha'Chitzon to the Mizbei'ach ha'Penimi (though the Bartenura ascribes this to the Kohen who merited the Ketores [in the next Payas], who would ask his friend to accompany him to the Mizbei'ach ha'Penimi with the shovelful of coals.


The Second Payas

The second Payas determined which Kohen would Shecht the Korban Tamid shel Shachar as well as the Tamid shel bein ha'Arbayim (though he could offer the honour of Shechting it to someone else, even to a Zar, if he so wished), who would receive the blood and sprinkle it (the Kohen who stood next to the Shochet), who would clean the Mizbei'ach ha'Penimi (the Kohen who stood two down the line, and so on), who would clean out the Menorah, and the nine Kohanim who would carry the limbs from the Beis ha'Mitbachayim (the Shecht-house) to the ramp, as we will now explain.


Carrying the Limbs on to the Kevesh (the Ramp)

After the lamb pf the Tamid had been Shechted, skinned and cut into pieces, nine Kohanim would carry its limbs to the Kevesh, from where they would later be transported on to the Mizbei'ach. This is what each Kohen carried.

1. the head and the right hind-leg.

2. the two forelegs.

3. the tail and the left hind-leg.

4. the chest and the neck (incorporating the lung, the liver and the heart).

5. the two flanks.

6. the innards (the stomach plus the intestines).

7. the flour (one Isaron [a tenth of an Eifah] mixed with thee Lugin of oil) for the Minchah.

8. the Chavitin (six Chalos comprising half an Isaron of flour mixed with one and a half Lugin of oil, plus half a handful of Levonah [frankincense], the first half of the Kohen Gadol's bi-daily Minchah).

9. the Nesech (three Lugin of wine, for the drink-offering that accompanied the Minchah).


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