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

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Vol. 11   No. 9

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Yehudah Leo ben Maimon Kohen z.l.
Whose yohrtzeit was 21 Kisleiv

Parshas Vayeishev
(Shabbos Chanukah)

Yehudah's Verdict
(Part 1)
Rashi, quoting the Medrash in the name of Efrayim Maksha'ah, a Talmid of Rebbi Meir, explains that Yehudah sentenced Tamar to death by burning, because she was the daughter of Shem, the Kohen Gadol (and a bas Kohen who commits adultery, dies by burning).

She was unlikely to have been the actual daughter of Shem, who died (at the age of six hundred) many years earlier, even before Ya'akov arrived in Charan. What he obviously means, the Sifsei Chachamim explains, is that she was of the family of Shem, a great granddaughter perhaps, but not specifically the daughter.


The Ramban queries Rashi's statement. Even the daughter of a Kohen, he asks, only receives the death penalty if she is either betrothed or married, whereas Tamar was single. Even in her capacity as a Yevamah, the Torah prescribes only a plain La'av, but not Miysah. And what's more, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (58a) indicates clearly that the B'nei No'ach are not subject to Yibum (which might otherwise have explained Yehudah's severe verdict).

The Ba'al ha'Turim, who quotes the Ramban in toto, adds two questions of his own. Firstly, he asks, Chazal have taught that the death sentence of a ben No'ach is restricted to death by the sword. And secondly, Yehudah's subsequent proclamation "Tzadkah mimeni" (see Rashi, Pasuk 26), declaring her innocent, is inconsistent. If she deserved the death penalty for committing adultery with a man, why should she be absolved because that man happened to be her father-in-law? As a matter of fact, one may ask the same question as to why Yehudah himself was not guilty of committing adultery with his daughter-in-law?


In answer to the Ramban's question on Rashi, the Ra'am explains that what the Medrash means is (not that Yehudah issued the death sentence because she was the daughter of Shem, but that) having decided that she deserved the death sentence, he chose burning because she was the daughter of Shem (as the Ramban himself will explain).

The Ramban however, proposes that Yehudah's ruling was not based on the Mitzvos B'nei No'ach at all, but on Yehudah's aristocratic standing throughout the land. Tamar was the daughter-in-law of a prince, whom she had disgraced by her immoral conduct. And that is why, when Tamar was brought before Yehudah to deal with as he saw fit, he decided on the death sentence tp protect his own honour. And he chose death by burning because she was the daughter of a Kohen Gadol, whose honour she had degraded alongside his own.


The Chizkuni, citing the Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (36b), attributes Yehudah's ruling to the decree of Beis-Din shel Shem (even though Shem himself was no longer alive, as we already explained). The decree stated that any Jewish woman (married or not) who committed adultery with a gentile was subject to the death penalty. And the Or ha'Chayim explains how, traditionally, they had the authority to issue such decrees and even to punish by death, anyone who contravened them. The Ramban's explanation will suffice to resolve all the difficulties that we presented until now, even that what concerns his own complicity in her 'sin'. The Chizkuni's will too, once we bear in mind the custom of that time to perform Yibum with the next of kin (if there was no brother available to do so), as he himself explains. This will absolve both Tamar and Yehudah from guilt, though, according to Chazal, Yehudah was in any case not accountable for his actions, as we shall see. (cont.)


Parshah Pearls

Ya'akov's Tzaros

"Vayeishev Ya'akov ... (and Ya'akov dwelt)" 37:1.

The Torah ought really to have written "Vayogor Ya'akov", says the Rosh. It only wrote "Vayeishev", because the three basic letters ('Yud' 'Shin' 'Beis') spell the first letters of Ya'akov's tzoros - Yosef, Shimon, Binyamin.

This is particularly apt when we bear in mind that 'Vav' and 'Yud' at the beginning of a word very often (which spell 'Vay') denote tragedy.


Deliberations on Yosef's Special Shirt

"And Yisrael loved Yosef more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age, so he (Ya'akov) made him a coloured (or a fine woolen) shirt" 37:3.

Now if Yosef was the son of Ya'akov's old age, then Binyamin (who was eight years Yosef's junior) certainly was, asks the Rosh? So why did Ya'akov make the special shirt for Yosef, and not for Binyamin?

Binyamin he answers, was still very young (only nine), too small in fact to look after such a precious garment properly. So he made it for Yosef instead.

See also Rashi's interpretation of 'ben Zekunim'.


Money and Clothes

The Gemara in Megilah (16a) asks how it is possible for Yosef, who suffered so much from the favouritism displayed him by his father, could repeat the mistake and give Binyamin more than he gave his other brothers (see Vayigash, 48:22)?

What is the problem, asks the Rosh? Ya'akov displayed favouritism towards one of twelve children, which is asking for trouble; whereas it was natural for Yosef to favour his full brother Binyamin, over his half-brothers?

That would justify the extra money that he gave him, he replies, but not the extra clothes, which are constantly on display (and which, one may perhaps add, are the very same article that resulted in his brothers hatred towards him). In that case he ought to have displayed more sensitivity in this regard. Indeed, he points out, the Gemara makes no attempt at explaining the excess money that Yosef gave Binyamin, only the clothes, which it goes on to justify in a different way.


Two Kinds of Galus

The Rosh asks how Chazal can possibly attribute Galus Mitzrayim to the special shirt that Ya'akov gave Yosef, when Galus was already decreed at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim (in Parshah Lech-Lecha)?

And he answers that, if not for the shirt, Yisrael would indeed have gone into exile, but the sort of exile that the Avos experienced, moving around from one place in Eretz Cana'an to another (after all, G-d only referred to being exiled in 'a land that was not theirs', not to Egypt).

And it was only as a result of the shirt that the Galus switched to 'Galus Mitzrayim'.


Why the Difference?

When Paroh dreamt his dream twice, Yosef explained to him that this was a sign that 'it was right in the eyes of Hashem to carry it out, and that G-d would set it into motion immediately'.

Why is it then, asks the Rosh, that when, at the beginning of the Parshah, he dreamt his own dream twice (once with the sheaves and once with the sun, moon and stars), it took twenty-two years for it to come to materialize?

And he answers that whereas Paroh's dreams both occurred on the same night, Yosef's took place on two different nights.


G-d's Wishes Take Precedence

"And they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words" (37:8).

How is it possible, asks the Rosh, that in spite of Yosef's deep wisdom, he lacked the diplomacy to keep quiet? Surely he must have been aware of the negative impact relating his first dream had on his brothers. So why did he add fuel to the flames by then relating his second dream as well?

Yosef it appears, in his deep wisdom, saw things with a prophetic vision, and the Gemara in Sanhedrin (89a), rules that someone who quashes a prophecy receives the death-penalty (Miysah bi'Yedei Shamayim).

In other words, he acted against his own interests by telling his brothers what G-d had shown him, so as not to transgress the sin of quashing one's prophesy.

Far from acting childishly, Yosef behaved with the maturity of a Tzadik, in placing G-d's wishes before his own safety, and relating the dream with all its implications.


Who Sold Yosef to Potifar

"And they drew Yosef from the pit and they sold him to the Yishme'eilim for twenty silver Shekalim" (37:28).

To accommodate the Yishme'eilim and the Midyanim who are mentioned in connection with the multiple sale, the Rosh offers the following possible explanations.

The Midyanim hurriedly bought Yosef whilst he was still in the pit - because they spied the Yishme'eilim approaching in the distance. So they quickly purchased him from the sons of Ya'akov with the intention of reselling him to the Yishme'eilim at a good profit, because the latter were wealthy merchants who they knew, would offer a good price for him. And that's exactly what happened.

But when the Yishme'eilim arrived with Yosef in Egypt and tried to sell him to Potifar, the latter, who had never heard of black men (the Yishme'eilim) selling a white man, asked them to bring a guarantor that they had not stolen him. They promptly brought the Midyanim, from whom they had purchased Yosef in the first place. That is why the Torah writes that the Medanim sold Yosef to Potifar (because they were the guarantors for the sale).


Alternatively, it was the brothers who spotted the Yishme'eilim approaching in the distance, and, before they arrived, they paid the Midyanim to act as agents to arrange the sale with the Yishme'eilim when they arrived. The Yishme'eilim, in their turn, then paid the Midyanim to accompany them to Egypt, to guarantee on their behalf that they had bought Yosef and paid for him.

Both of these interpretations however, assume that the Midyanim and the Medanim are one and the same. In reality, the Rashbam points out, Medan and Midyan are both listed as two sons of Yishmael. In addition, it transpires that according to both of the two above explanations, Yosef was only sold twice, and not four times, as the Medrash (quoted by Rashi) maintains.

In answer to these Kashyos, the Rashbam explains that the Midyanim, who purchased him from the sons of Ya'akov, sold him to the Yishme'eilim, who sold him to the Medanim, who sold him to Potifar, exactly as the Torah describes it.


For Twenty Silver Shekalim

"And they sold Yosef to the Yishme'eilim for twenty silver Shekalim" (37:28).

Is that all, asks the Rosh? Surely the youthful, good-looking Yosef was worth more than that?

Perhaps, he suggests, the Torah is not talking about Shekalim here, but some other far more valuable silver coinage. Or it may well be, that the terrifying experience in the pit caused the colour to drain from Yosef's face, especially if, as Chazal explain, there were snakes and scorpions in it, and this is indeed how Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer explains the situation.

The Da'as Zekeinim (M.T) adds a third answer. It is possible, he explains, that the Yishme'eilim paid the ten brothers twenty silver Shekalim each (a total of two hundred Shekalim).


(Part 9)

The Olah
(The Burnt-Offering)

The Olah, which is Kodesh Kodoshim (the higher level of Kodshim), is Shechted on the north side of the Azarah, and its blood, which is received there in a k'li shareis, requires two Matonos which are four (sprinkling directly from the K'li on the north-east and south-western corners). And it requires skinning and cutting up into pieces, after which it is entirely burnt on the Mizbei'ach.



The Olah: Every Olah has to be specifically a male. An Olas Yachid can consist either of cattle or of sheep (incorporating goats), whereas an Olas Tzibur can never be a goat. If the Korban is a bull, irrespective of age, it requires Semichah and Viduy (confession) on the Asei or the La'av ha'Nitak la'Asei (neither of which receive Malkos, and on account of which an Olah is generally brought) that he transgressed.

The Minchas Nesachim that accompanies the Olah - incorporates one Isaron (a tenth of an Eifah - forty-three and a fifth egg-volumes) of flour mixed with a quarter of a Hin (three Lugin) of oil plus a quarter of a Hin of wine for a lamb or a kid-goat in its first year; two Esronim of flour mixed with a third of a Hin of oil plus a third of a Hin of wine for a ram (in its second year), and three Esronim of flour mixed with half a Hin of oil plus half a Hin of wine for a bull. This Minchas Nesachim requires neither waving, nor being taken to the Mizbei'ach, nor the Levonah (frankincense). The Minchah is salted and burned on the Mizbei'ach ha'Olah, whilst the Nesech is poured into one of the two bowls beside the south-western Keren.

Two Matanos which are four - below the Chut ha'Sikra (the red thread that divides the upper and the lower halves of the Mizbei'ach) like a Greek 'Gamma' (i.e. similar to a 'Daled', so that the blood lands on the two adjacent sides of the corner (to fulfill the concept of "Saviv").

It requires skinning - after the blood has been sprinkled (and the same applies to all Korbanos, which are skinned before the removal of the Eimurim [the parts that have to be burnt]). The skins are distributed among the Kohanim of the group that is serving that week (and the same applies to the skins of all Kodshei Kodshim). The intestines are removed and washed.

Then, after removing the 'Gid ha'Nasheh' (the sciatic nerve) and salting all the pieces, it is entirely burnt on the Mizbei'ach. After it has turned into ashes, it is moved to the 'Tapu'ach', the pile of ashes in the middle of the Mizbei'ach (ready to be taken out to the Beis ha'Deshen).


Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur va'Ashamos

Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur - comprising the two lambs that are brought on Shavu'os together with the Sh'tei ha'Lechem, and the Ashamos. All of these are Kodshei Kodshim.

These are the Ashamos - the Asham Gezeilos, the Asham Me'ilos, the Asham Shifchah Charufah, the Asham Nazir, the Asham Nazir and the Asham Taluy. They are Shechted on the north side of the Azarah, and their blood, which is received there in a K'li Shareis, requires sprinkling (in the same way as that of the Olah).

The body of the Asham is eaten within the curtains of the Azarah, by male Kohanim, prepared as they pleased for the remainder of that day and the following night until midnight.



These are the Ashamos (the Guilt-Offerings):

An Asham Gezeilos - is brought by somebody who steals or withholds money that is not his, and then swears falsely (a Shevu'as ha'Pikadon) that he didn't (even if he did so be'Meizid).

An Asham Me'ilos - is brought by someone who benefited from Hekdesh, be'Shogeg.

An Asham Shifchah Charufah - is brought by someone who has relations (even be'Meizid) with a Shifchah (a slave-girl) who has been set free by one of her two masters, and who has since become 'betrothed' to an Eved Ivri.

All of the above must bring an Asham that is worth two Sela'im. They require Semichah and Viduy.

An Asham Nazir - is brought by a Nazir who became Tamei Meis (even be'Meizid).

An Asham Metzora - is brought by a Metzora on the eighth day of his Taharah process. It requires Semichah, though not immediately prior to the Shechitah (as is usually the case), since he stands outside the Azarah placing his hands inside whilst performing it). The animal requires Tenufah (waving) alive (which is unique to this Korban) together with one Lug of oil. During the Tenufah, the Kohen places his hands below those of the Metzora.

Two Kohanim receive the blood of the Asham Metzora, one in a K'li Shareis, the other, in his right hand. The former sprinkles the blood on the walls of the Mizbei'ach, (like the other Ashamos); the latter, after pouring the blood into his left hand, sprinkles it with his right hand on to the middle section of the Metzora's right ear, and on to his right thumb and right big toe. The Asham Metzora, which comes in the form of a lamb, requires Nesachim and Semichah.

An Asham Taluy - is brought for a Safek Shigegas Kareis, which would require a Chatas if one was certain of having sinned. It comprises a ram worth at least two Sela'im and requires Semichah (and presumably Viduy as well, seeing as the Torah refers to the perpetrator as 'a sinner').


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Chanukah Supplement

The Menorah and Yosef's Pit

The Gemara in Shabbos (21b) juxtaposes two statements of Rebbi Tanchum. He rules that a Ner Chanukah that is placed higher than twenty Amos from street level is Pasul. And he extrapolates from the wording of a Pasuk in Vayeishev that, although there was no water in the pit into which Yosef was thrown, there were snakes and scorpions.

Despite the fact that the two quotations are both by Rebbi Tanchum, quoted by Rav Kahana, who in turn, is quoting Rav Nasan bar Munyumi, which would normally be considered ample justification in juxtaposing the two statements, the Meshech Chochmah nevertheless finds a deeper connection between them.


He bases his explanation on the Avudraham, who maintains that when Chazal obligate someone who sees the spot where a miracle occurred to him, to recite a B'rachah, they are referring specifically to an open miracle.

Consequently, the reason that we recite a B'rachah over Ner Chanukah, is because the miracle that occurred in connection with the oil was indeed an open one.

In fact, the major miracle was that of the victory over the Greeks, which enabled Yisrael to regain the sovereignty for more than another two hundred years. To commemorate that, it would have been necessary to kindle lights. However, for that, no further miracle would have been necessary. The open miracle that occurred then was to enable us to recite a B'rachah when we light them. In addition to that, it would also have been sufficient for the lights to have been visible, and no more. But now that the lights represent an independent miracle, and require a B'rachah, it is not enough just to see them. They must also be clearly visible. And that is why a Menorah that is more than twenty Amos from street level, is Pasul.


The Medrash Tanchuma states that when Yosef returned from the burial of his father, he passed the pit into which he had been cast. He stopped, peered into the pit and recited the B'rachah 'she'Osoh li nes ba'Makom ha'zeh'. The gist of the miracle was the fact that he was withdrawn from the pit and as a result, went on to become ruler of Egypt. But because one only recites a B'rachah over an open miracle, Rebbi Tanchum finds it necessary to comment here, that there were snakes and scorpions in the pit (perhaps that was why Yosef saw fit to actually peer into the pit before reciting the B'rachah, rather than to recite it upon seeing the pit from a distance).

The connection between the two statements is not clear. In both cases, the purpose of the miracle was to enable Yisrael on the one hand, and Yosef on the other, to attain sovereignty, and in both cases, no open miracle was needed to attain this end, and it was only in order to recite a B'rachah, that such a miracle occurred.



(Adapted from the Seifer Mo'adim le'Halachah)

We all know the story of the solitary jar of oil that was found with the stamp of the Kohen Gadol, to prove that it was Tahor. That jar, of course, formed the basis of the miracle of Chanukah. Regarding this, the Mo'adim ba'Halachah discusses six queries discussed by the commentaries.

Tum'ah Hutrah be'Tzibur

Question 1: Bearing in mind the principle 'Tum'ah Hutrah be'Tzibur' (in case of emergency, Tum'ah is permitted when it comes to communal Korbanos), why was the miracle of the oil necessary? Lighting the Menorah after all, was a communal Avodah, so why could they not just use oil that was not stamped with the Kohen Gadol's seal?

The Mo'adim be'Halachah cites an answer that, if they had not found Tahor oil, they would indeed have lit Tamei oil. However, G-d wanted to show Yisrael His love for them, so He prompted them to make a supreme effort and to search for Tahor oil, so as to perform the Mitzvah in the most ideal manner possible (in keeping with the concept of 'Hidur Mitzvah').

I once heard that this explains why specifically on Chanukah, the Mitzvah is intrinsically connected with Hidur Mitzvah, in that the way the Mitzvah is performed differs when it is performed by Mehadrin, and differs again by Mehadrin min ha'Mehadrin (a concept that is unique to Chanukah). And the reason for this is because, to begin with, the very miracle was the result of a Hidur Mitzvah on the part of Yisrael, as we just explained.

However, the Mo'adim be'Halachah then connects this answer with the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos in Shemini. The Da'as Zekeinim explains that in spite of the principle 'Tum'ah Hutrah be'Tzibur', on the eighth day of the Milu'im, Aharon burned the Korban Rosh Chodesh that had become Tamei, because the principle only applies when the Avodah is running smoothly, and Tum'ah occurs in the process. But to consecrate the Mizbei'ach with Tum'ah, that is another matter. Consecration of the Mizbei'ach can only take place be'Taharah. And they base this on the Pasuk in Acharei-Mos " the Ohel Mo'ed which dwells with them (even) when they are Tamei", implying that as long as the Shechinah is dwelling in Yisrael, He will tolerate Tum'ah (but not that He will descend when they are already Tamei).

Likewise on Chanukah, he explains, the Chashmona'im were coming to consecrate the Beis-Hamikdash afresh, and to do so be'Tum'ah was out of the question.

From the fact that Aharon actually burned the Korban Rosh Chodesh, it appears that this was no mere Hidur, but a Halachah pertaining to a Korban that comes to consecrate. If so, the Mo'adim ba'Halachah appears to have fused two conflicting answers into one.


Safek Tum'ah
bi'Reshus ha'Rabim

Question 2: Why was all the oil assumed to be Tamei anyway, seeing as we have another principle 'Safek Tum'ah bi'Reshus ha'Rabim, Tahor'?

And surely, the Beis-Hamikdash was considered a public domain?

Indeed, he quotes one answer, the Azarah was a Reshus ha'Rabim, but not the Heichal, which had walls and a roof, and was therefore considered a Reshus ha'Yachid. For it was in the Heichal that the jar of oil was found, as the Beraisa states. And we have another principle 'Safek Tum'ah bi'Reshus ha'Yachid, Tamei.


A Gentile is Not
Subject to Tum'ah

Question 3: Since when does a live gentile transmit Tum'ah anyway, asks the Mo'adim ba'Halachah? Never mind how many Greeks handled the jars of oil, a live gentile (like a live animal) is neither Tamei, nor can he render what he touches Tamei. So what was the problem?

In answer to the question, he explains that problem there was not a Tum'ah d'Oraysa, but the Tum'as Zavin that the Chachamim decreed on all gentiles. At first glance, this answer is problematic, seeing as this was one of the eighteen decrees instituted by Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai, who lived more than a hundred years later.

In one of his answers, he points out that it was common, during wartime, for passing caravans to transport the skin of a dead man's face (like for example, that of Rebbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol, as described in the story of the ten martyrs). And a dead gentile renders Tamei by touching no less than a dead Jew.


The Liquids of the
are Tahor

Question 4: How could the liquid become Tamei in the first place, considering the principle that the liquids of the Beis-Hamikdash are not subject to Tum'ah?

Here too, the Mo'adim ba'Halachah, based on the Sugyos of the Gemara in Pesachim, gives two answers. According to those who learn the principle with regard to the liquids that were brought on the Mizbei'ach (including oil), he explains that although the liquids may not have had the power to transmit Tum'ah, they were able to receive Tum'ah.

Whereas those who preclude the liquids from any Tum'ah at all, confine the principle to the liquids of the slaughterhouse, incorporating the blood and the water that were there in abundance, but the wine and the oil that went on the Mizbei'ach, were subject to Tum'ah like their Chulin counterparts.


But the Oil and even
the Menorah
were Tamei Anyway?

Question 5 & 6: What was the point of the miracle, considering that all the Kohanim, who had all had contact, with dead Greeks or with those who had, were Tamei Meis to begin with, and whoever lit the Menorah, would subsequently render the oil Tamei anyway?

And by the same token, the metal Menorah would unavoidably have become Tamei, and would automatically render the oil Tamei as well?

Not at all, he answers. To begin with, the new Menorah that they manufactured was made of wood, as the Gemara explains in Avodah-Zarah (43a), and a wooden vessel that is meant to remain in one place without being moved is not subject to Tum'ah. And as for the kindling of the Menorah, they were careful to do so using a long wooden taper, and as is well-known, a wooden vessel that is not a receptacle, is not subject to Tum'ah either.

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