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

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Vol. 12   No. 9

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Yehudah ben Maimon Kohen z.l.
whose Yahrzeit is on the 22nd Kislev

Parshas Vayeishev

Yosef's Two Dreams
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

The Parshah opens with the accounts of Yosef's two dreams, and how they served to deepen his brothers' hatred towards him. The Torah describes how he related his first dream to his brothers (and not to his father, who was obviously not affected by it), and how he related his second dream to his father Ya'akov as well (because here clearly, it affected him too). And it goes on to inform us how Ya'akov scolded him for repeating it, and that his brothers were jealous of him, but his father waited for the dream to come true.

Why is it that following the second dream, his brothers remained silent on the one hand, and on the other, they were jealous of him? How can one be jealous of someone who walks around with dreams and fantasies? Angry perhaps ... but jealous?


R. Yosef Chayim's son, R. Ya'akov Meir, explained the Pesukim like this ... When Yosef related his first dream to his brothers, he did so in the hope that they would interpret it for him (in keeping with the Gemara in B'rachos [55b], which states that 'all dreams follow their verbal interpretation' and 'a dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not read').

Now when the brothers heard the dream, they became angry and declared 'Will you be king over us? Will you rule over us?' And that is precisely what Yosef really wanted to hear. Without the least intention, his brothers had unwittingly played right into his hands by giving the dream the very interpretation that he had hoped they would (sarcasm notwithstanding).

That is why, when he related to them his second dream, they deliberately opted to remain silent; but his father didn't. He certainly had every intention of interpreting the dream to Yosef's advantage, only in order to deflect the brothers' anger, he presented the interpretation in the form of a rebuke, as the Torah records.

The brothers however, following their earlier experience (of which Ya'akov was possibly not even aware), understood perfectly the implications of Ya'akov's words, and realizing that both dreams were now destined to be fulfilled, they became jealous of Yosef's destined greatness. In similar vein, the Or ha'Chayim explains that the brothers were initially angry with Yosef because they attributed his first dream to a desire to rule over them. The second dream however, convinced them that this was not the case. Even they could hardly accuse Yosef of wishing to rule over his father, in which case the dream must have been a Divine message from above. That is why their anger gave way to jealousy.


Interestingly, in spite of this episode, and the impact that it made on Yosef's brothers, when, twenty-two years later, it came to the crunch, and they prostrated themselves before Yosef, the reality of the situation eluded them. As the Ramban points out, it was because when they bowed down the first time Binyamin was missing, whereas in the dream there were eleven sheaves that prostrated themselves before him, that Yosef devised the plan to have them return with Binyamin. And it was at the time of the second confrontation, when all eleven brothers prostrated themselves before him, that the first dream came true. Yet they were oblivious to the blatantly obvious!

Added to the many other broad hints that the strange Egyptian leader with whom they were dealing, was none other than their brother Yosef, it is truly amazing that they failed to fit the obvious fulfillment of the dream with the dream and its interpretation, of which they were fully aware.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

The Truth and Nothing But the Truth

"She was being taken out, and she sent to her father-in-law saying ... " (38:25). In everyday life situations, one is often faced with crucial choices involving gain and loss, and who is right and who is wrong. To be sure, one wants to act according to the Halachah, but all too often, the Yeitzer-ha'Ra intervenes with his all too popular argument of 'le'Shem Shamayim', especially when one's personal Kavod and excessive loss are involved.

In answer to that, the Torah teaches us the episode of Tamar, from which to take our cue ... Rebbi Yochanan quoting Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai in the Gemara in B'rachos (43b), learns from the above Pasuk that it is better to cast oneself into a fiery furnace than to put a fellow-Jew to shame in public.

Three people's lives were at stake here, Tamar and the twins she knew she was expecting, were about to be put to death. And what's more, the spark of Malchus Beis David was about to be extinguished, before it had even been kindled. The stakes for doing what was wrong, both from a personal point of view and from a nationalist one, were just about as high as could be. And all that was needed was a word from Tamar, divulging who the guilty man was. The advantages of speaking far outweighed the disadvantages of remaining silent. Just one word! Without a shadow of doubt, most people would have succumbed to the temptation and acted 'le'Shem Shamayim'. But not Tamar!

Tamar weighed up the pros and the cons, and came to the conclusion that she must do what is right (rather than what is convenient, no matter how convenient ,'le'Shem Shamayim' notwithstanding). And she knew that 'it is better to cast oneself into a fiery furnace than to put a fellow-Jew to shame in public'. And that is precisely what she did.


One Man's Nisyonos

"And the day arrived when he came to the house to do his work and there was nobody from the household at home" (39:11).

In the Gemara in Sotah (36b), Rav and Shmuel argue over whether Yosef really returned to do his work, or whether his intentions were somewhat more devious. In fact, this latter opinion maintains, he would certainly have sinned, had the image of his father not appeared to him at the window and said to him 'Yosef, your brothers' names, and yours, are destined to be written on the stones of the Choshen. Would you like your name to be erased?'

R. Yosef Chayim learned from here that one may not compare the deeds or misdeeds of one person with those of another. One cannot justify (or even minimize) one's sins by looking at somebody else and thinking that, 'compared to so-and-so, I am still a Tzadik'. And there is no better proof for this than Yosef ha'Tzadik.

If one compares the sin that Yosef was about to commit with the sin of the brothers who had sold him, it is obvious that the sin of the brothers per se, was infinitely worse. Add to that the fact that Yosef had been kidnapped from home, and was living alone in a foreign land, in an environment where the people were notorious for their immoral practices. And on top of that, his mistress, using every known trick, including flattery, seduction, and threats, had spent the last year, trying to induce him to comply with her demands. It is difficult to conceive a situation which is closer to 'O'nes', all but totally absolving him from blame.

Now compare this with the sin of his brothers, who sold their own flesh and blood to a group of Yishme'eilim of their own free-will, even though he had done them no harm.

Yet Yosef was the one to be warned that his name would be erased from the Choshen should he sin. No such warning was issued to his brothers.

Clearly then, each person's sins are measured by their own yard-stick, and not by somebody else's. G-d has very specific demands of each and every individual and it is those demands that one is expected to meet, not those that are made on somebody else. In other words, each person's Nisyonos (trials) are tailor-made for him, and the Nisyonos of somebody else, irrespective of their specifications, have nothing to do with him.


To Be Consistent

"And the chief butler did not remember Yosef, and he forgot him" (40:23).

Rashi explains that because Yosef placed his trust in the butler, requesting that he remember him, he had to remain in jail for an additional two years, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (40:5) "How praiseworthy is the man who placed his trust in Hashem ... , and who did not place his trust in the vain ones and in those who turn to falsehoods (the Egyptians)".

R. Yosef Chayim points out that not only is 'Hishtadlus' (making efforts to escape from one's troubles) not considered a sin, or even a breach of faith, it is the correct thing to do. In fact, it is the tool that our leaders have employed throughout the ages to save Yisrael from Tzoros, when they approached kings and princes in their concentrated efforts to nullify evil decrees against their people. In that case, why was Yosef taken to task for enlisting the services of the chief butler, as we just explained?

Let us first see how R. Yosef Chayim himself explains the sin of Nadav and Avihu (which many commentaries, as well as Chazal in various places, discuss at length), and that will help us to solve the problem.

In a letter to an Adam Gadol, he wrote that the sin of these two Tzadikim was based on the fact that, rightly or wrongly, they took their fire-pans and brought strange fire into the Kodesh without having been commanded to do so and without consulting Moshe. Having proved themselves to be men of initiative, the Midas ha'Din now accused them of not taking the initiative by the sin of the Eigel ha'Zahav, to loudly protest the actions of the sinners. They were after all, from the tribe of Levi, who did not participate in the actual sin, but now they were blamed retroactively, for not taking positive action to stop it.

In his introduction to the Pasuk later in the Parshah "And Yosef remembered the dreams ... " (42:9), the Ramban asks why, throughout the years that Yosef spent in Egypt, and especially as the years went by and he rose to the height of power, he never sent his father a letter to inform him of his well-being. After all, he points out, Chevron, where his father lived, was no more than a few days journey from Egypt, so sending a Sheli'ach with the good news would not have posed any problem.

And he explains that when Yosef saw the growing extent of his unnatural success, he anticipated that the fulfillment of his dreams was imminent, and he preferred not to interfere with G-d's plans. Having taken the initiative, so to speak, if G-d wished to inform Ya'akov, He would do so Himself.

We see from here the supreme level of Yosef's Bitachon, that he was willing to curb his natural instinct to alleviate his grieving father's suffering as quickly as possible, in favour of the Divine plan. And this also explains why the Medrash initially cites the first part of the Pasuk in connection with Yosef "How praiseworthy is the man who placed his trust in Hashem" (as we cited earlier, though the current issue concerns only the second phrase).

That was on the one hand.

Yet, on the other, when Yosef had already spent ten years in jail, and a ray of hope of rescue appeared in the form of the chief butler, he seemed to be overcome by despair. Powerful Bitachon notwithstanding, he grabbed at the opportunity, and turned to the chief butler to help him.

That was when the Midas ha'Din accused him of inconsistency. 'When it concerned your poor grieving father' it said to him, 'you gave your Bitachon precedence over your desire to cut short his suffering, allowing him to suffer for a little longer. Yet when it came to your own suffering, your patience ran out, and you preferred to employ Hishtadlus to curb your Bitachon. And so, at the first opportunity, you asked 'a vain liar' (as the Pasuk in Tehilim describes the chief butler in particular, and the Egyptians in general) to help you secure your release.'


No Inconsistency

The Chazal that we just cited appears at first a little inconsistent, in that one moment it quotes the first half of the Pasuk "How praiseworthy is the man who placed his trust in Hashem ... " in praise of Yosef, and the next, it quotes the second half "and who did not place his trust in the vain ones and in those who turn to falsehoods", which proclaims him guilty for placing his trust in the chief butler. We just presented one answer to the question. Here is another by the same author.

In fact, the Chochmas Chayim explains, the two are interdependent. One must first appreciate the incredible level of Bitachon in Hashem that Yosef attained; one has to fathom the extent of his realization that everything that happened to him was the result of the Divine will. And it was that realization that guided every step that he took. Because it is only a man of such strong faith on the one hand, that G-d will punish so severely for the slightest lapse of faith under dire circumstances, on the other.


Sequel to last week's main article

Protecting One's Fellow-Jews

When the incident of the youths reached the ears of the police, they sent an officer to question R. Yosef Chayim, with a view of apprehending the rogues. When, in reply to the officer's question, R. Chayim Yosef claimed that he did not know whether the youths were Jewish or not, the officer looked puzzled. 'But did they not speak Ivrit?' he asked him. 'Indeed they did', R. Chayim replied, 'But I believe that many Arabs speak Ivrit too'.

* * *

The Thirteen Decrees

(Adapted from the Seifer Mamleches Kohanim)

The Seifer Mamleches Kohanim lists fourteen specific decrees that the Greeks issued in their efforts to stop Yisrael from observing Torah and Mitzvos -

1. To desecrate Shabbos.

2. To annul Rosh Chodesh (which seems to mean the Takanah of Kidush ha'Chodesh, though it could possibly refer to the nullification of the Musaf Korban of Rosh Chodesh, the entire institution of the Yamim-Tovim, the Rabbinical decree of not performing work on the day that the Musaf was brought (to enable them to gather together and study Torah), Kidush Lavanah or Tevilas Nidah.

3. To annul the B'ris Milah. Note, that these three decrees are commonly listed as if they were the only three. Presumably, according to some commentaries, they are.

4. That whoever owns an ox, must engrave on its horn that he has no portion in the G-d of Yisrael (and so they had to write on the front doors of their houses and on their clothes).

5. Not to ever mention any of G-d's Names.

6. That whoever got married, must take his newly-wed wife to the Greek mayor, with whom she would spend the first night.

7. That no woman was permitted to Tovel from her Nidus.

8. That any man who wrote his wife a Kesubah would have his fingers cut off.

9. Not to bring the Korban Tamid shel Shachar or shel Bein ha'Arbayim.

10. Not to kindle the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash.

11. Not to observe the Yom-Tov of Succos.

12. Not to study Torah.

13. That every Jew was obligated to eat Chazir.

14. That no Jew was permitted to have a bolt on the front door of his house.


Midah ke'Neged Midah

Interestingly, virtually all of these decrees are reflected in the way Chazal subsequently instituted Chanukah. They instituted ...

1. ... eight days of Chanukah to counter the Greeks' decree to annul B'ris Milah on the eighth day and the eight days of Succos.

2. ... that both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh should always fall on Chanukah, because the Greeks tried to abolish Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.

3. ... that women should be included in the Mitzvah of Chanukah, due to the decrees forcing married women to spend their first night with the Greek mayor, and prohibiting a woman who was Tamei from going to Mikvah.

4. ... kindling lights to counter the prohibition of lighting the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash.

5. ... kindling those lights at the entrance of one's home, corresponding to the decree to write on the doors of their houses (and oxen and clothes) that they have no portion in the G-d of Yisrael, and to have no bolts on their front doors (to prevent them from contravening any of the other decrees behind locked doors).

6. ... kindling thirty-six lamps on Chanukah corresponding to the thirty-six Masechtos of Shas that have Gemara, which the Greeks forbade to learn.

7. ... that one should publicize the miracle, just as they obligated them to publicize their denial of any connection with G-d.

8. ... the recital of Hallel to counter the Greeks' decree not to mention the Name of G-d. Above all, the Mamleches Kohanim concludes, in their great efforts to publicize their denial of G-d, the Greeks left us with the legacy of Chanukah, the very antithesis of what they were trying to achieve.

There are some half-dozen other decrees that are cited in various sources, and which the author omits for one of a variety of reasons.

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