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

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Vol. 8   No. 9

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Parshas Vayeishev

Don't Leave Your Roof Unguarded
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

The Gemoro in Shabbos (10b) warns us not to be guilty of the mistake that Ya'akov made in favouring one son over and above the others. Because it wasthe special shirt that Ya'akov made for Yosef more than for the other brothers, says Rav, that sparked off the jealousy that, in turn, caused our fathers to be exiled to Egypt.

But surely, asks Tosfos there, the slavery in Egypt had already been decreed at the Bris bein ha'Besorim, where Hashem said to Avrohom "and they will enslave them and afflict them for four hundred years"?

Tosfos answers that in any event, the four hundred years included many years where there was no slavery, and when they were no more than strangers in a foreign land. How many years out of the four hundred would in fact, turn out to be years of slavery, and how many of deep suffering, Hashem did not fix, but left to circumstances.

The brothers in their jealousy, increased the years of suffering by selling Yosef to Egypt, and Chazal go one step further, by pinning the brunt of the blame on Ya'akov, ascribing to the brothers the role of a catalyst. If Ya'akov had not given Yosef the special shirt, Tosfos assumes, they would have remained longer in Eretz Yisroel, and the years of actual slavery and suffering would have been curtailed (Maharam).


The Torah Temimah answers Tosfos' question with the concept of Chazal (which he does not actually quote) that 'Hashem brings about evil through a bad person'. If Re'uven say, leaves his roof unguarded and Shimon falls off it and dies, then Re'uven is guilty of causing Shimon's death, irrespective of the fact that he was destined to die anyway (see Rashi Devorim 22:8). Likewise, explains the Torah Temimah, it is true that Yisroel were destined to go into golus, but now, through Ya'akov and the brothers' actions, they had to share the guilt with Avrohom Ovinu for the subsequent golus.


In his second answer, which corresponds to that of the Agodos Maharsho, he explains that on the basis of the Bris bein ha'Besorim, it was not yet established in which country the slavery and the affliction would take place. Now, Ya'akov and the brothers made the decision by selling Yosef to Egypt.


All of the above answers appear to conform with the opinion of the Rambam (whose dispute with the Ramban we have discussed before). The Rambam maintains that Par'oh was punished for his maltreatment of the Jewish people - in spite of the fact that Hashem had anyway decreed slavery and affliction on them - because Hashem had not decreed which nation was to maltreat them. Consequently, when Par'oh made the decision to enslave them and torture them, he, like Re'uven in the parable, he was considered guilty and deserved to be punished.

The Ramban questions the Rambam's explanation. If Hashem decreed slavery and affliction on the Jewish people, he asks, then whoever carried this out was doing a mitzvah, not a sin, in which case, Par'oh should have received a reward and not a punishment.

All three answers cited teach us that, if one person sets out to harm another, then the fact that Hashem decreed that the second man must suffer, does not absolve him from blame and he is therefore liable to be punished. Consequently, Par'oh, who of his own accord, set out to harm Yisroel, was no less guilty than Ya'akov and the brothers, whose motives were certainly no more sinister that Par'oh's - vindicating the Rambam.


Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)
Go In Peace

"When his brothers saw that their father loved him over and above all his brothers, they hated him, and they were unable to speak with him peacefully" (37:4).

The word the Torah uses for "peacefully" is 'le'sholom". We can explain this with the Gemoro in B'rochos, says the Gro. Chazal say there (64a) that when someone takes leave of his friend, he should not say 'Lech be'sholom' ('Go with peace') but 'Lech le'sholom' ('Go to peace')! Yisro, to whom Moshe said 'Lech le'sholom!' went and was successful, whereas Avsholom, to whom Dovid said 'Lech be'sholom!' went and was hanged. It is therefore quite understandable that Yosef's brothers, who hated him, could not bring themselves to say to him 'Lech le'sholom!'.


Lo And Behold

"And behold we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood erect, and behold your sheaves surrounded my sheaf and bowed down to it" (37:7).


We need to understand why the Torah uses the expression "and behold" no less than three times in the one posuk, asks the Gro?

There are two kinds of rulers, he explains, one is called a 'melech' (a king), and the other, a 'moshel' (a dictator). The difference between them is that one prostrates oneself before the former, but kneels before the latter; the latter has a free hand to do as he pleases, but the former must consult with his ministers.


In Yosef's dream, the first "and behold" merely introduces the novelty (as it usually does). The second "and behold (my sheaf arose and stood erect)" has connotations of power and dictatorship (like a similar expression used in connection with Doson and Avirom in their defiance of Moshe - se Bamidbar 16:27).

Whilst the third "and behold (and prostrated itself to my sheaf)" denotes the sovereignty of a king, because Yosef would later merit both qualities.


And this will also explain why the brothers responded with the double phrase "Will you reign over us? Do you think you will be a dictator?" and it also explains why the Torah writes "And they continued to hate him for his dreams" (in the plural) when really there had only been one dream. The Torah however, is referring to the double connotation of Yosef's dream - Gro.


King and Dictator

In short, a king (a melech) is appointed by the people, whereas a dictator (moshel) is self-appointed. That is why Dovid ha'Melech writes in Tehilim (22:29) "For sovereignty belongs to Hashem and He is a Dictator over the nations". As far as we are concerned, Hashem is our King, and we gladly accept His Sovereignty over us, but the nations of the world have other ideas. They do not recognize Him as their King, so He rules over them by force.

But that is only until Moshi'ach comes. When he does, a spirit of truth and understanding will prevail, and even the nations will accept Hashem as their King. That is why the prophet Zecharyah wrote "Then Hashem will be King over the whole earth" (14:9).


"And that is why the brothers asked Yosef "Do you think you will reign over us? Will you perhaps rule by force?".

'The former is out of the question', they were telling him, because we hate you, and it is inconceivable that we would crown you. Had you dreamt only that you will rule over us by force, we might have reluctantly accepted it as prophetic. But now that you dreamt that you will also be our king, we declare the entire dream to be a fabrication, because just as you cannot be our king, you will not be our dictator either'.


When There is No Torah

"And the pit was empty, there was no water in it" (37:24).

There was no water in the pit, writes the Gemoro in Shabbos (22a), but there were snakes and scorpions in it.


By way of hint, the Gro interprets "water" as Torah (as Chazal interpret the posuk in Yeshayah [55:1] "Hoy, let all those who are thirsty go to water"). What the posuk then means is that when a person is devoid of Torah, he is beset with all sorts of evil characteristics, as the Yeitzer ho'Ra takes complete command over him. It is as Chazal have taught, the only antidote to the Yeitzer ha'Ra is Torah; it iseither the one or the other. There is no middle path.


The Power of Words

"And she grabbed him by his 'jacket' saying, lie with me! But he left his 'jacket' in her hand and he fled and went outside" (39:12).


What does the Torah mean by the word "saying", asks the Gro?

The Ba'alei Musar explain, he replies, that the evil words that a person expresses have a deep effect on him and give impetus to the Yeitzer ho'Ra. That is why Chazal spoke so disparangingly about indecent speech, because speech leads a person to action!


Here too, the wife of Potifar first accosted Yosef with the words "Lie with me" (39:7). And then, when she saw that her request had fallen on deaf ears, she asked him at least to say "Lie with me!", because she knew that once she got him to voice such an expression, she was but a short step away from attaining her objective.

The 'trouble' was that Yosef knew that too. That is why "he fled and went outside" without saying a word.


(Adapted from the Avudraham and the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim)
The Difference Between 'Le' and 'Al'

The reason that the text of the b'rochoh is 'lehadlik ner shel Chanukah' rather than 'al hadlokas ner Chanukah' is because even after having performed the mitzvah (of kindling the lights), they must continue to burn 'until nobody is walking in the main street' (an estimated time period of approximately half an hour). Similarly, the b'rochoh for sitting in a Sukah on Sukos is 'leishev ba'Sukoh' rather than 'al yeshivas Sukah' because the mitzvah extends throughout Sukos, and the same applies to the b'rochoh over Tefilin, 'lehoni'ach Tefilin' rather than 'al hanochas Tefilin', because the mitzvah extends throughout the day.

The loshon 'al' on the other hand, implies that the initial act constitutes the mitzvah. The mitzvah is complete and nothing more is required. That is why we recite 'al mikro Megilah' on Purim and 'al achilas matzoh' on Pesach (Rokei'ach).


Order of Priorities

On erev Shabbos, one kindles the Chanukah lights before the Shabbos lights, since, according to some opinions, the Shabbos lights are synonymous with bringing in the Shabbos (with women, this is certainly the case).

On the other hand, one should take care to daven Minchah first. This is because the concession of lighting after p'lag ha'Minchah is due to the fact that p'lag ha'Minchah (one and a quarter hours before nightfall) can be considered night. Someone who davens Minchah after lighting, clearly indicates that he considers it day, in which case he will have lit too early.



The Gemoro in Shabbos explains that when the Tana of the B'raysa gives the time period for the mitzvah as being until there is nobody walking in the main street (i.e. half an hour), he either means one of two things. He means either that the menorah must burn for at least half an hour, or that one has half an hour starting from nightfall in which to kindle the menorah. So we fulfill both interpretations, by making sure that there is sufficient oil to burn for half an hour after nightfall and by kindling the lights within half an hour of nightfall.


Thirty-Six Lights

We light thirty-six lights on Chanukah corresponding to the thirty-six hours that the original light shone for Odom ho'Rishon before it was hidden (Rokei'ach).

And it also corresponds to the thirty-six Masechtos of Shas that have explanatory Gemoros, and Shlomoh ha'Melech wrote in Mishlei "Ki ner mitzvah, ve'Torah or" (B'nei Yisoschor).


No Lights on the Table

The miracle of Chanukah took place in a receptacle, and that is how one should perform the mitzvah, not candles or holders containing oil placed loose on the table or on a tray - Sha'arei Teshuvah.


Leining from Parshas Noso

We lein from Parshos Noso throughout Chanukah, because it deals with the Korbonos brought by the twelve princes at the inauguration of the Mishkon. As a matter of fact, the Mishkon was completed on Chanukah (only G-d postponed its actual construction to enable the inauguration to be completed in Nisan, the month in which Yitzchok was born).

The miracle of Chanukah was a form of inauguration of the Beis ha'Mikdosh which had been defiled by the Greeks, and was therefore similar in character to the inauguration of the Mishkon (Levush).


The reason for the minhag to begin the leining with 'birchas Kohanim' is because the miracle was brought about by the Kohanim (Avudraham).


To Light in the Morning

The minhag that many shuls have to light the Menorah in the morning as well as at night is based on the opinion of the Rambam. The Rambam rules that if, whilst preparing the lights of the Menorah in the morning, the Kohanim discovered that they were no longer burning, it was a mitzvah to rekindle them (Orchas Chayim).

As for lighting in Shul at all, the Ateres Z'keinim cites the Rosh, who states that it is fitting to kindle the Menorah in Shul, which Chazal sometimes refer to as a miniature Beis ha'Mikdosh, because that is where the miracle took place.


The Women's Edge

Chazal did not prohibit working on Chanukah (which is why it is not called a Yom-tov). Nevertheless, to commemorate the role that the women played in the defeat of the Greeks - in the form of Yehudis' slaying of Aliporni, and 2. the particularly gruesome decree (that every newly-wed woman must spend the first night with the Greek mayor of the town), which was anulled when the Greeks were defeated, they have their minhag not to work whilst the Chanukah-lights are burning (for the first half an hour).

Nor may this minhag be revoked, as is the case with every minhag that is well-founded.


No Nine Days Chanukah

The reason that Chazal did not fix a ninth day nowadays, like they added an extra day on to the Sholosh Regolim, is because Chanukah is only mi'de'Rabbonon, and they only added an extra day to Yomim-tovim which are min ha'Torah - Ba'al ho'Itim.

The Rishonim give a similar answer in reply to the same question with regard to Sefiras ho'Omer. Others answer there that the counting must be clear - meaning that one would not have performed the mitzvah if one were to say 'Maybe it is the third day, maybe it is the second'. And one might perhaps, present the same answer here: on the fourth night say, one must light four lights (with reference of course, to the mehadrin or the mehadrin min ha'mehadrin, who add one light per night). How on earth would we light, if we were to contend with 'S'feika de'yoma'?


The very kashya however, is puzzling. Chanukah begins on the twenty-fifth of the month, unlike all the other Yomim-tovim which fall much earlier in the month. Consequently, the messengers who rode out to Bovel to inform them when Rosh Chodesh Kislev had been announced, would always arrive well on time (within the fifteen days that it normally took to travel from Eretz Yisroel to Bovel). So the Jews in Bovel would never have been in doubt as to when Chanukah really was.


Twenty's the Limit

Three things have a maximum height of twenty amos: the beam marking the entrance to a movuy (a cul-de-sac in connection with the four domains on Shabbos); a Chanukah-menorah; and a Sukah. All of them are hinted in the Torah, says theAvudraham.

1. "Ki al-kein bo'u be'tzeil korosi" ('Because that is why they came in the shadow of my beam' - Bereishis 19:5). The beam may be as high as 'tzeil' tefochim, "tzeil" being the numerical of a hundred and twenty, and a hundred and twenty tefochim is twenty amos.

2. "Ve'Sukah tihyeh le'tzeil yomom me'Choreiv" ('and a Sukah will be for shade'). Again "tzeil" is the numerical value of a hundred and twenty.

3. "Zos Chanukas ha'Mizbei'ach be'yom ... " ('This is the inauguration of the Mizbei'ach on the day ... '). This time, the hint lies in the words "ha'Mizbei'ach be'yom" whose numerical value is a hundred and twenty.


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