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

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Vol. 14   No. 9

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the marriage of
Dov Ber ha'Levi and Shoshanah (Teven) Spero n.y.
by their grandparents.
She'yizku li'v'nos bayis ne'eman be'Yisrael

Parshas Vayeishev
(Incorporating Chanukah)

(Based on Targum Yonasan's explanation)

Following the episode with Potifera's wife, Yosef's incarceration and his subsequently finding favour in the eyes of the chief prison-warden and his being placed in charged of the prisoners, the king's chief butler and chief baker were both accused of conspiring to kill their master, the king of Egypt by placing poison in his food and drink.

When the plot was discovered, the King placed them in the prison of the chief executioner, in the very prison where Yosef was being held. The chief executioner promptly placed them in the charge of Yosef, who saw to all their needs. One night, they both had a dream. Each one dreamt his own dream and the interpretation of the other's.


In the morning, Yosef noticed that both his wards looked perplexed (the butcher, because of the negative interpretation of the baker's dream, and the baker, on account of his own dream, which was due to receive a negative interpretation). He queried them about their sullen looks, and upon hearing about their dreams, he offered to interpret them on their behalf, though not before making it clear that the interpretation of dreams lay with G-d and not with him, just as he informed Par'oh prior to interpreting his dream.

So the butler told him how in his dream, he saw a vine. The vine contained three branches, which proceeded to blossom before his very eyes. Then it budded and the buds immediately turned into grapes. Holding the cup of Par'oh in his hand, he squeezed the grapes into it, before placing it in the palm of Par'oh.


The three branches, Yosef explained, represented the three Avos (Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov), whose children were destined to become slaves to the Egyptians, to work in cement, bricks, and all kinds of work in the fields. After that however, they would go free, led by three 'shepherds' (Moshe, Aharon and Miriam). And as for the final part of his dream, Yosef continued, the cup of Par'oh that he filled, represented the cup of punishment, that Par'oh would ultimately be forced to drink.

And because he dreamt a good dream about the Jewish people (one that had a happy ending), he (Yosef) would interpret it accordingly. The three branches would once again refer to three days. In three days' time, he told him, Par'oh would remember him and restore him with honour to his previous position, and he would continue to serve the king wine as he had done before.

At this point however, Yosef tripped up. He forsook his characteristic faith in G-d, to place it instead in the hands of a human being, by asking the butler, when his interpretation would be fulfilled, to mention him to Par'oh, with a request to release him from prison, and to tell him that in the very first instance, he had been abducted from the land of the Ivrim, and that in Egypt too, he had done nothing wrong to deserve imprisonment.


Meanwhile, the baker, taking his cue from the fact that Yosef's interpretation tallied with what he had seen in his dream, began to relate his dream. But he spoke with anger (he was one of four people in T'nach who opened their conversation with the word "Af" - each of whom met his doom almost immediately). He told Yosef how, in his dream, he was carrying three baskets of white-bread on his head, though the top basket contained all kinds of delicious pastries for Par'oh, and birds were eating them from on top of his head.

The baskets, Yosef explained, referred to the three Galuyos, that Yisrael would have to suffer (Egypt, Bavel and Edom [Nos'ei K'lei Yonasan; see also Pirush Yonasan]). And because he dreamt a bad dream about the Jewish people (with no good ending), he would offer him an appropriate interpretation (since the interpreter is free to interpret a dream as he sees fit).

The three baskets, Yosef continued, referred to the three days leading up to his death. In three days time, he told him, Par'oh would behead him, and hang his body on a tree, where the birds would eat his flesh.


Sure enough, on the third day, Paroh's birthday, the king made a party for all his servants, including the chief butler and the chief baker, who were released from jail for the occasion. It was discovered that the butler had not been among the plotters, whereas the baker had. Consequently, the former was set free and restored to his post, whilst the latter was duly hanged, exactly as Yosef had predicted.

And as for Yosef, because he had relinquished his trust in the one Above, and placed it instead in the chief butler, a man of mere flesh and blood, the latter did not remember him then, and went on to forget him until such time as he was due to be set free (two years later).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah and the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Let's Legalise it!

"And the man (the angel Gavriel) said, 'They have traveled from here; because I heard them say 'Let us go to Doyson' ... " (37:17).

'... to seek strategies (Nichlei dosos) by which to kill you' (Rashi).

Strictly speaking, the words 'Nichlei dosos' means 'Halachic strategies'. What they were really looking for, the D'rash ve'ha'Iyun explains, was legal loopholes, by means of which to murder him according to the Halachah.

Perhaps they were the first, but they were certainly not the last, to operate in this manner.


Deviating from G-d's Methodology

"They have traveled from here" (Ibid.)

They have deviated from the Midos of Hashem, Rashi explains.

The Rebbi R. Heshel explains this with the Medrash, which ascribes the brothers' decision to eliminate Yosef, to the fact that they foresaw how Yeravam, the despicable idolater, was destined to descend from him.

That is not the way of Hashem however, who judges people the way they are at present, as Chazal teach us with regard to Yishmael, and not by what they or their descendants will do at some later stage. And that is what the Angel Gavriel was telling Yosef.


What's the Point?

"What is to be gained by killing our brother and hiding his blood?" (37:26).

The Torah stresses in a number of places that the purpose of a punishment is for people to learn that evil does not pay, and so to avoid sinning and ending up the same way as the sinner.

The brothers on the other hand, were planning to kill Yosef and to hide his death, so that their father would not get to hear about it.

That is why Yehudah made this statement. What is the point of sentencing Yosef to death, if we are then going to hide our decision from the public, preventing anyone from learning a lesson from Yosef's misdeeds?


Just say 'No'!

"And he refused, and he said to his master's wife, 'Behold my master does not check on me regarding any matter concerning the house ... nor has he withheld anything from me, except for you because you are his wife ... " (39:8).

When a person finds himself tempted to sin, says the S'fas Emes, his immediate reaction must be to refuse, reason notwithstanding. Only then, is one permitted to give a reason for one's refusal, just as Yosef did.


How Can G-d Approve?

" ... and he did not withhold from me anything except for you, because you are his wife; so how can I do this terribly evil thing and sin to G-d" (39:9).

The question arises that after describing the sin she was pressing for as a sin against her husband, why does Yosef conclude by referring to it as a sin against G-d?

According to the Medrash however, the wife of Potifera claimed that she had seen by means of astrology, that in Heaven, they wanted her to have children from him (nor was this so far removed from the truth, as Yosef was destined to marry her (step)daughter Osnas, who would bear him two sons [see Rashi, Pasuk 1]).

And it was to counter this argument that Yosef made his statement. Considering the degree of faith Potifera placed in Yosef, he pointed out to her, it would have been a betrayal of his master's trust to commit adultery with her. And if it was wrong from the point of view of bein adam la'chaveiro (inter-human relationships), then it was impossible for it to have been the will of G-d (R. Yankele Raz'iminer).


Yosef's Preparatory Trial

"And he came to the house to do his work" (39:11).

Rashi cites one of two opinions (Rav and Shmuel) that he actually returned home with the intention of capitulating to his mistress' advances, only the image of his father appeared before him, negating his intentions.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that Yosef was confronted with an awesome test, which at the end of the day he passed with flying colours.

This test was necessary, says the Ma'ayanah shel Torah, because Yosef was destined to rule over Egypt, in all its promiscuity. He therefore had to first prove that he was a Tzadik who had full control over his faculties, to make sure that he would rule over the Egyptians, and not they over him.

* * *


'These are the generations of Ya'akov, Yosef was seventeen years old when he left the Beis-ha'Medrash, a young man who grew up with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; And Yosef brought a bad report, after he saw them eating meat - the ears and the tail - that had been removed from a live animal, (see Pirush Yonasan), and he came and told his father' (37:2).


'And it was a short while later, that Yisrael said to Yosef "Your brothers are grazing the sheep in Sh'chem; I'm afraid that the Chivi will come and smite them because they killed Chamor and Sh'chem together with the inhabitants of the town. Come now; let me send you to them". And he said "Here I am!" ' (37:13).


'And he said to him "Go now and see how your brothers and the sheep are doing and bring me back word". So he sent him, to set in motion the deep plan that was made with Avraham in Chevron. And it was on that day that Galus Mitzrayim began. Yosef arose and came to Sh'chem' (37:14).


'And the man (Gavriel) said "They have moved from here because I heard from behind the curtain that the servitude in Egypt began as from today, and it was told to them in the form of a prophecy that the Chivi intended to attack them. That is why they decided to go to Doyson" ... ' (37:17).


'Just then some Midyonite merchants passed, so they pulled Yosef out of the pit and sold him to the Arabs for twenty silver ma'ah, for which they bought themselves shoes, and they (the Midyonites) brought him to Egypt' (33:28).


' ... they sent the coloured shirt with the sons of Bilhah and of Zilpah, who brought it to their father and said "This is what we found ... " ' (37:32).


'And he recognized it and said "It is my son's shirt, but no wild animal devoured him, nor did a human being kill him; I see however, with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh that a wicked woman is confronting him" ' (37:33).


'And she (Yehudah's wife) became pregnant and she bore a son, whom he (Yehudah) called Er, because he was destined to die childless' (38:3).


'And she became pregnant again, and she bore a son, whom he called Onan, because his father was destined to mourn for him' (38:4).


'And she bore yet another son, and (this time) she called him Sheilah, because her husband forgot her; for he was in Paskas (Ch'ziv) when she bore him' (38:5).

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei h'Minhagim)

Kindling the Lights on Erev Shabbos

On Erev Shabbos, one should light the Chanukah lights first and then the Shabbos lights (particularly women, who bring in Shabbos when they light Shabbos lights [see Mishnah Berurah 679:1]). One should preferably Daven Minchah beforehand, to avoid 'Tarti de'Sasri' (since Minchah belongs to Friday, whereas the Chanukah lights belong to Shabbos), or, as the Birchei Yosef explains, because Minchah corresponds to the afternoon Tamid, which preceded the kindling of the Menorah (Toeas Chayim, 54:49).


Sufficient Oil

One must take care to place sufficient oil to burn for half an hour after nightfall (Tzeis ha'Kochavim), and the same applies to candles, which must be able to burn for the same half-hour period. Otherwise, one has not fulfilled the Mitzvah. This can be compared to someone who placed the Menorah in a location where the wind is bound to blow out the lamps, in which case he is obliged to re-kindle them. And since in this case, it will not be possible to rekindle them when they eventually go out, one will also have recited a B'rachah le'vatoloh (a B'rachah in vain [See Be'er Heitev, 673:11]).


Lighting on Motza'ei Shabbos

The reason that at home, one first recites Havdalah before lighting Ner Chanukah, even though in Shul (due to Pirsumei Nisa), one lights Ner Chanukah first, says the Ba'er Heitev, is in case one forgot to recite Havdalah in the Amidah, in which case, one will need to make Havdalah before lighting.

In fact, one could simply recite the phrase '(Baruch) ha'Mavdil bein Kodesh le'chol'. But since there are anyway those who give Havdalah precedence (seeing as it is more common - 'Tadir ve'she'eino todir, tadir kodem'), the Minhag has evolved to follow their opinion at home. In Shul, on the other hand, the Minhag has already been established to give Ner Chanukah precedence, and one may not change a Minhag that pertains to the Shul.


Fresh Wicks

It is not necessary to use fresh wicks each night, nor is it a 'Bizuy Mitvah' (belittling the Mitzvah) to use the old ones, since, quite to the contrary, burnt wicks tend to burn better than fresh ones. And this is borne out by Maseches Sofrim (Chapter 20) which issues the same ruling (Levush).

The Kolbo disagrees. He maintains that one should use fresh wicks each night, in keeping with the miracle, which was renewed each night, and also to commemorate Hadlakas Neiros in the Beis-Hamikdash, where the Kohanim would replace the wicks every night.


Not to Benefit from the Chanukah Lights

The reason that the Chachamim prohibited benefiting from the Chanukah lights is so that it should be clear to one and all, that they have been lit for the sake of the Mitzvah (to spread the miracle), and not for one's own personal use (Levush). From the text of 'Haneiros Halalu' however, the reason for the prohibition would appear to be connected with the sanctity of the lights.


The Leining

We Lein from Parshas Naso (which deals with the consecration (Chanukah) of the Mishkan, because of the tradition that the Mishkan was completed on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the same date as the consecration of the Beis-Hamikdash, after the Greeks had defiled it. The Leining is therefore closely connected with the event that we are celebrating (Levush). And we begin with Birchas Kohanim (that precedes it) because the miracle came about through the Chashmona'im, who were Kohanim (Avudraham).


B'rachah Achas Me'ein Shalosh

The reason that no mention of either Chanukah or Purim is made in 'Al ha'Michyah (Eitz or Gefen)' is because they are not min ha'Torah (Machtzis ha'Shekel) ...


S'feika de'Yoma

... by the same token we do not observe a ninth day ('S'feika de'Yoma') on Chanukah and Purim (like we do on other Yamim-Tovim) because they are de'Rabbanan.

If (in keeping with the general principle) the Chachamim were strict by a S'feika d'Oraysa, they were not strict by a S'feika de'Rabbanan, where the principle 'Heim omru, ve'heim omru' applies. They, who initiated the institution of Chanukah and Purim, said to observe eight days, and they were the ones who fixed the calendar (Avudraham).


Sealed on Chanukah

The commentaries say that the conclusion of Hashem's P'sak-Din (on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur) stretches right up to Chanukah.

As is well-known, Hashem has seventy-two three-letter names (that emerge from the three Pesukim in Beshalach "Va'yisa, Vayovo, Va'yet" [14:19-21]), and the name of Hashem that denotes Parnasah is 'Chatach'.

Based on this information, says the Or Yesha, we find an interesting hint in the last letters of 'Bereishit, No'ach, Lech-Lecha', which spell 'Chatach', as do the first three letters of 'Tishri, Cheshvan, Kislev' - hinting to the termination of the previous year's P'sak-Din and the beginning of next year's.

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