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

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Vol. 15   No. 9

This issue is sponsored by
Leibush and Sarah Hecht
with best wishes for a ηπελδ ωξη

Parshas Vayeishev

Ya'akov's Daughters
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Following the sale of Yosef, and the brothers' subtle suggestion that he had been killed by a wild beast, the Torah (at the end of chapter 37) describes Ya'akov as inconsolable. And it goes on to inform us that 'all his sons and all his daughters attempted, unsuccessfully, to comfort him'.

Now "all his sons" pertains to his eleven sons, but to whom does the Torah refer when it writes "and all his daughters"? Rabeinu Bachye (following in the footsteps of the I'bn Ezra & the Ramban) attributes this term to his daughter (Dinah) and his grand-daughter (Serach bas Asher). This explanation assumes that Ya'akov had no other daughters, and indeed, no direct mention of them appears anywhere in the Chumash.

The problem with it however, is that the word "all" would then be superfluous, seeing as the word "his daughters" would cover the two women. Indeed, we never find the word "all" incorporating less than three.


In resolving the problem, the Medrash cites a dispute as to whom "all" is coming to include. Rebbi Yehudah maintains that it comes to incorporate the twin sister that was born with each son (and whom their own half brothers (from a different mother) subsequently married. Whereas R. Nechemyah maintains that it refers to his daughters-in-law (to whom people tend to refer as daughters). In the latter's opinion, Ya'akov's only daughter was Dinah, as we explained earlier. Unklus, who (three Pesukim later) translates 'the daughter of a Cana'ani man' (whom Yehudah married) as the daughter of a merchant, would appear to follow the opinion of R. Nechemyah, because, now that Avraham warned Eliezer not to take a wife from Cana'an for Yitzchak, and Yitzchak issued Ya'akov with the same instructions, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., how would Yehudah have had the audacity to marry a Cana'anis. R. Nechemyah may well disagree, but that is the opinion of R. Yehudah and it is supported, they add, by the Pasuk in Vayechi, which lists among the children of Shimon who went down to Egypt "Shaul the son of the Cana'anis", implying that none of the other grandchildren of Ya'akov were born to Cana'aniyos (see Targum Yonasan on that Pasuk 46:10 and the Ramban).


The problem with R. Yehudah, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. is, now that Chazal stress how Avraham and his children kept the entire Torah, even the Mitzvah of Yibum (like we find by Yehudah), and even that of Eiruv Tavshilin, which is only mi'de'Rabbanan (as Chazal say in connection with Avraham), how could Ya'akov's children marry their own paternal sisters? Furthermore, the Da'as Zekeinim ask, how could Ya'akov marry two sisters? And, one may add, on what basis did Amram marry his aunt?

Since the Avos were not commanded to keep the Torah, the D.Z. answers, even though they knew about it through Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, they observed only what they wanted to observe, discarding that what suited them. This is in fact, similar to the answer of the Or ha'Chayim, that we discussed some years ago.


The Gemara in Pesachim (119b), discussing who will take the Kos shel B'rachah at the Se'udah shel Livyasan in the time of Mashi'ach, describes how when it will be offered to Ya'akov, he will refuse on the grounds that he married two sisters. This is not because this is forbidden (if it had been, it seems to me, they would not have offered it to him in the first place), but because since the Torah would later forbid it, there was an element, however slight, of having done something that was not quite right.

Then why did he marry them, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.? And he explains that it was because he wanted to marry only Tzadkaniyos, and nowhere was he able to find Tzadkaniyos of their calibre. In addition, he knew that he would not be able to father all twelve tribes from one of them alone.

* * *

Parsha Pearls

(Adapted mainly from the

Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Happy Dreams

"And behold we were making sheaves … " (37:7).

And it was through sheaves of corn that Yosef later rose to power (Da'as Zekeinim M.T.)


To Graze Themselves

"And his brothers went to graze their father's flock in Sh'chem" (37:12). There are dots on the word "es" (of "es tzon avihem"), because they really went to graze themselves, says Rashi, citing the Medrash.

What Rashi really means, says the Rosh, is that in reality, that particular journey was a prelude to their own sustenance (albeit many years later), since, it was as a result of what happened there that the Torah will later write "And Yosef sustained his father and his brothers" (47:12).

Yes, the Rosh explains, "their father's flock" referred to by the Pasuk, was themselves, as Hashem (in Yechezkel 34:31) refers to B'nei Yisrael as 'the flock of My pasture'. It seems strange, comments the Rosh, to take the Pasuk out of context in this way, to interpret 'a flock' as Ya'akov's son.

However, he explains, this D'rashah is reinforced by the dots on "es" with which Rashi begins his explanation. Had there been no dots, we would have explained that the sons of Ya'akov went to graze what it is that one normally grazes (as the Gemara at the beginning of Beitzah comments with regard to 'es she'darko limanos' (something that is normally counted). The dots on the word however, consider it to be erased, in which case they went to graze something that is not normally grazed - themselves.


The Sun Must Obey Yosef

"And behold the sun … were prostrating themselves before me" (37:9).

When Yehoshua ordered the sun to be silent in Giv'on', it refused to obey him, until, citing the above Pasuk, he reminded it that it was the servant of Yosef, whose descendant he was. When the sun heard that, it stopped dead in its tracks!


For Money & Shoes

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

Initially, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., the brothers sold Yosef when he was still in the pit, for the paltry sum of twenty silver pieces. That was because terrified at finding himself in a pit full of snakes and scorpions, Yosef's face turned 'green'. But once they began to pull him out of the pit and his natural colour began to return, they retracted and wanted to throw him back into the pit. But the Yishme'eilim compromised with them to add a pair of shoes for each brother to the price of the sale, as the Navi Amos writes (2:6) "because they sold a Tzadik for money and a needy man for shoes". That was when they pulled Yosef out of the pit completely and handed him to the Yishme'eilim.


And They Sent Yosef's Shirt

… or Did They?

"And they sent Yosef's shirt … " (37:32).

That is how many commentaries translate "va'yeshalchu es kesones Yosef" (see Targum Yonasan). Other, points out the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., translate it as "And they dragged Yosef's shirt … " (like we find in Iyov, 33:18, & in Shir ha'Shirim, 4:13). They deliberately reject the more obvious translation, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., based on the premise that the brothers preferred to take the shirt to their father themselves, in order to be able to say to him that 'Yosef had been torn up by a wild beast'.


Yitzchak Knew

"And his father wept for him" (37:35).

Yitzchak, Rashi explains, wept because of Ya'akov's suffering.

But he did not mourn, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. He did not mourn, because he knew that Yosef was still alive, but he did not reveal this to his son, just as the Shechinah did not do so - because of the Cheirem that the brothers placed on whoever would reveal it (indeed, that is one of the reasons given for Yosef's silence over the years).

Later, when the brothers found Yosef alive in Egypt, they released the Cheirem. That is why the Torah writes there (45:27) "And Ya'akov's spirit came to life", with reference to a revelation of the Shechinah. Because throughout the twenty-two intervening years, the Shechinah had not revealed itself to him, as Rashi explains there.


How Old was Sheiloh?

"And it was at that time that Yehudah went down from his brothers … " (38:1).

The Medrash explains that the brothers demoted Yehudah because of the sale of Yosef (see Rashi). The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. cites the Ib'n Ezra, who maintains that this is impossible, since there were twenty-two years between the sale of Yosef and Ya'akov and his sons descent to Egypt (Yosef was seventeen when he was sold, and thirty, when he was appointed viceroy of Egypt; plus the seven years of plenty and two years of famine = twenty-two). Whereas from the time that Yehudah married his wife and the time that they went down to Egypt, at least twenty-five years must have elapsed (though the Ib'n Ezra does not say this)? How is that?

If, immediately following Yehudah's marriage to bas-Shu'a, we allow a year for the birth of Er, a year for the birth of Onan and a year for the birth of Sheiloh, (three years), then add the thirteen years of Sheiloh, at which the Pasuk writes "because she saw that Sheiloh had grown-up, and she had not been given to him as a wife" (16), one year for the birth of Peretz (17). If we assume that Peretz was seven when he fathered Chetzron, and add another year for the birth of Chamul, who is listed among those who went down to Egypt, that will give us twenty-five years between Yehudah's marriage to bas-Shua and the descent to Egypt. In that case, the I'bn Ezra concludes, Yehudah's going down from his brothers, must have preceded the sale of Yosef by three years.


The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. however, refutes the I'bn Ezra's proof by interpreting the phrase "because she saw that Sheiloh had grown-up" to mean (not that he turned thirteen, but) that he had attained the age of intimacy (which the Gemara in Nidah gives as nine). In that case, Yehudah's demotion did indeed follow the sale of Yosef, and there was a period of twenty-one years between it and the descent to Egypt.


And the Da'as Zekeinim concludes by citing the Gemara in Sanhedrin (69b) which states that in the early times, it was possible for a boy of seven to father a child, as is evident from the above (thereby resolving another problem that bothers the I'bn Ezra).

* * *


"And it was at that time, that following a major setback in his finances, Yehudah separated from his brothers … " (38:1).


"When Tamar was being taken out to be burned, she searched for the three items that Yehudah had given her as a security, but she couldn't find them. So she raised her eyes heavenwards and, praying for mercy to Hashem she said 'Answer me at this moment, in this time of trouble. Open my eyes and let me find the three items of testimony, and I will produce for you from my loins three holy men who will sanctify Your Name, by going down into the burning furnace in the valley of Dura'. At that moment, Hashem hinted to Micha'el, who opened her eyes and she found them. Taking them in her hands, she threw them at the feet of the Dayanim, saying 'The man to whom this security belongs is the one from whom I am pregnant!. I refuse to divulge his name even if, as a result, I am burned to death. However, I pray that the Master of the World puts into his heart to recognize them and save me from the death-penalty'. And when Yehudah saw them, he recognized them, and said to himself 'It is better that I suffer shame in this passing world, rather than be ashamed before my righteous fathers in the World to Come; Better I should be burned in this world in a fire that is extinguishable, than be burned in the World to Come, in a fire that consumes a fire. It is a matter of measure for measure - because I declared to my father "*Recognize now* the shirt of your son!", that is why I now have to hear in Beis-Din "*Recognize now*, to whom this signet-ring, Tzitzis and staff" " (38:25).


" … Yosef was brought down to Egypt.. And when Potifar saw his good looks, he purchased him in order to abuse him sexually. But it was decreed upon him to become castrated; he was a courtier of Par'oh, chief executioner, an Egyptian, (and he bought him from the Midyanim) with a guarantee from the Arabs who had brought him there" (39:1).


"And she placed the white of an egg on the bed, and she called out to the men of the house, and said to them 'Come and see what that fellow did, whom your master brought to us to 'play' with us … " (39:14).


"And the master of Yosef asked advice from the priests, who examined and discovered that it was the white of an egg. So he did not kill him … " (39:20).

* * *


(Adapted from Kol Agados Yisrael)

Among the Greek soldiers fighting against Yisrael, there was one by the name of Nikanor, whom the King had appointed officer over one of his divisions. He was a seasoned warrior, brave and fearless, one who reveled in killing. When the Greek army approached the walls of Yerushalayim, he waved his hands and declared in a loud voice: 'Wait until this nation falls into my hand, I will massacre them'. He did this day in, day out, angering Yisrael, the city and the Beis-Hamikdash.

When Yehudah ha'Maccabi heard this, he became extremely vexed about it, and he said 'Who is this dog who insults the ranks of Yisrael, and who dares to speak against Hashem and His holy house? Be strong, my brave brothers, and break through to the camp of the enemy, and avenge our shame!' When they heard this, twelve strong youths who were zealous for the honour of Yisrael, left the walls of the city and ran towards the enemy camp at whose head there stood Nikanor, slaying all who stood in their path to the right and to the left. Siezing Nikanor alive, they cut off his hands and feet, and hung him on the gates of Yerushalayim, saying: 'This is the fitting revenge that will be dealt to the one whose mouth spoke with conceit and whose hands waved over Yehudah and Yerushalayim; they will be food for the birds of the heaven, and his body will be for the animals of the land to trample on'.

From that time on, the gates of Yerushalayim became known as 'the gates of Nikanor' up until the time they were replaced by new ones.


The End of a Traitor

When Lysias, the Greek General, returned to Greece and reported to King Jupiter all that had transpired in his battles with the Jews, the latter was furious. He gathered all his generals for a parley, and they were joined by Menela'us, the Jewish turncoat who had incited the Greeks against his own people. Asking the generals for a strategy to defeat the Jews, they replied that, despite the fact that the Jews were not a strong people, they had nevertheless wrought havoc with the Greek army, and had killed many of their best soldiers. They therefore suggested that the King gather a vast army 'like the sand by the seashore', and, accompanied by trained war-elephants, initiate a surprise attack against the Jews, to kill men, women and children, without showing mercy to young or old. In this way, they would be certain to destroy the Jewish nation once and for all, and capture their land.

Menela'us seconded the generals' suggestion, adding that he had made a similar proposal to Jupiter's father, King Anti'ochus, but that he had vetoed it, claiming that he was not a man of war and that he knew little about these matters. He agreed wholeheartedly with the plan, and was even willing to accompany the Greek army and to act as scout on their behalf, seeing as he knew the land of Yehudah intimately, its mountains, its valleys, its rivers and all its hiding-places. Accepting his offer, Jupiter gathered a vast army and accompanied by trained war-elephants, he set out for the land of Yehudah, together with his general Lysias and Menela'us, and they laid siege to Beitar.

When Yehudah ha'Maccabi heard that Jupiter had entered the land of Yehudah, he gathered the elders of Yisrael, who responded to the news by citing the Pasuk in Tehilim "These come with chariots, and these with horses, but we mention the Name of Hashem our G-d!" And they cried out to Hashem on that day, both young and old, pleading with him for salvation. Meanwhile, a spirit of might rested on Yehudah. Imbued with a surge of boldness, he led his army on a sudden attack against that of Jupiter and Lysias that very night. Catching them by surprise, they killed four thousand warriors, destroying many of the Greek war-elephants in the process.

In the morning however, the Greek recovered. Jupiter reassured his men that they were in the majority and were bound to win, and they began to counterattack. Meanwhile, Yehudah spotted a man sitting atop a particularly large elephant wearing a golden coat of mail, whom he assumed to be the king.

* * *

Chanukah Supplement

This section is sponsored
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Sol and Sarah Van Gelder
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by their daughters

The Menorah

(Adapted from the Mo'adim ba'Halachah)

The Torah specifically writes in Terumah "And you shall make a Menorah of pure gold" (just as it writes with regard to the other Vessels of the Mishkan). Nevertheless, the Rambam and many other commentaries, including the 'Chinuch', do not list constructing a Menorah (Shulchan or Mizbei'ach … ) as an independent Mitzvah, but as part of the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan.

The Ramban however, disagrees. In his opinion, there are two Mitzvos: One to construct a Mishkan, the other, to construct its Keilim; in fact, he explains, the Mitzvah of building a Menorah is part and parcel of the Mitzvah of kindling the lights, and the Mitzvah of building the Mizbei'ach is part and parcel of that of the Lechem ha'Panim. What's more, he says, the one, does not obstruct the other, as Chazal have said 'One may offer Korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash, even though it contains none of the holy vessels' (like the Chachamim cited in the Yerushalmi, who maintain that it is only the Kiyor and its stand that are crucial to the bringing of the Korbanos ( though R. Meir maintains that all the Keilim are).

On the other hand, the Tosefta, which states that the Shulchan, the Menorah, the Mizb'chos and the Paroches obstruct one another; in which case, if one of them is missing, the others may not be placed in the Beis-Hamikdash.


There is no question that, as long as pure gold is available, that is what the Menorah must be made of. In the event that there is not, the Tana'im argue over whether the Menorah may be made of other materials, and if so, which ones.

According to Rebbi in one B'raysa, the Menorah is kasher if it is made of silver, but not of tin, lead or any other metal; whereas R. Yossi b'R. Yehudah permits all metals. The Tana Kama in another Beraisa, permits all metals Bedieved, whereas R. Yossi b'R. Yehudah permits even a Menorah of wood, disqualifying only one that is made of earthenware.

R. Yossi b'R. Yehudah in the latter B'raysa proves his point from the Chashmona'im, who dedicated the Beis-Hamikdash using a wooden Menorah; whereas the Chachamim maintain that they actually used metal rods which they overlaid with tin. Then, they say, as they became more affluent, they changed, first to silver, and finally to gold.

The Rambam rules that the Menorah must be made of metal, and that one that is made of wood, bone, stone or glass is invalid.

The commentaries pose the question as to what point there was of the miracle of the oil, seeing as all the Kohanim were Tamei Meis anyway. According to R. Yossi b'R. Yehudah in the latter B'raisa, says the Mo'adim ba'Halachah, the problem is solved, since a wooden vessel that is meant to remain in one fixed location is not subject to Tum'ah (as Chazal say in the third Perek of Chagigah).

* * *

Chart of the Hasmonean Kings:

(Adapted from the Seider ha'Doros ha'Katzer')

Shimon ha'Tzadik


Yochanan Kohen Gadol

Matisyahu ben Yochanan


Yehudah Shimon Yochanan Yonasan Elazar

(1st king) 3622 (3rd king) 3642 . (2nd king) 3628

Hurkenus Yochanan

(4th king) 3642.

Aristobulus Alexander (Yanai) - Queen Alexandra

(5th king) 3668. (6th king) 3670 (7th monarch) 3688

Hurkenus (2nd) Aristobulus (2nd)

(9th king) 3700 (8th king) 3697

Alexander Antignos Antipater

(10th king) 3721

Merimi ­­­­ ------ Hurdus(Herod)

(Miriam) (1st king of Beis Hurdus)


Yehudah ha'Maccabi, the first of the Maccabean kings, reigned for six years (from 3622-3628). Upon his death, he was succeeded by his brother Yehonasan. He too, reigned for six years (from 3628-3634). He was succeeded by his brother Shimon. Following a reign lasting eight years (from 3634-3642), he was murdered by his own son-in-law, P'tolomy, king of Egypt, to be succeeded by his son, Yochanan. He reigned for eleven (some say twenty-six) years, becoming a Tzedoki after serving as Kohen Gadol for eighty years.

Next to ascend the throne (in 3668) was his son Aristobilus, who died in the second year of his reign, to be succeeded by his brother Alexander (Yanai) 3670. He reigned for nineteen (some say 27) years, and was succeeded by his wife, the righteous Alexandra (Sh'lomtzion ha'Malkah [3688-3697]), the sister of Shimon ben Shetach. She reigned for nine years, at which point her son, Aristobulus, ascended the throne (3697-3700), still during his mother's lifetime, whereas his brother, Hurkanus, was appointed Kohen Gadol, an agreement that was arbitrated by the Chachamim. However, after a long, drawn-out conflict, Hurkenus invited Pompey the Roman general, to Yerushalayim. Pompey promptly deposed Aristobulus and sent him in chains to Rome, appointing Hurkenus in his place (3700-3721). That was the Roman's first foothold in Eretz Yisrael. From that time on, the Roman control of the country intensified, until they destroyed the Beis-Hamikdash (almost a hundred and thirty years later).

After arranging for his uncle, Hurkenus, to be led in chains into exile by the King of Persia, Antignos, son of Aristobulus (3721-3724) the last of the Hasmonean kings, took over the throne. He in turn, was murdered by the Hasmonean slave, Herod, who wiped out every remnant of the Hasmonean family. Anybody who claimed to be a descendant of the Hasmoneans, Chazal said, was either a slave or a Mamzer.

The Hasmonean kingdom lasted a hundred and three, and that of Hurdus was destined to last a hundred and three years, too.

* * *

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