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

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Vol. 17   No. 9

This issue is sponsored
in honour of
R' Leibush ben Chaya Miriam n"y
May Hashem grant him
a speedy refuah sheleima

Parshas Vayeishev

Yehudah & Tamar
(through the eyes of
The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

"She went and sat 'be'Pesach Einayim' (by the cross-road) ."

According to the Gemara in Sotah (10a), 'be'Pesach Einayim' means that Tamar gave an opening (an eye-opener) to her actions, by declaring that she was an orphan (since her father had died long before), and that she had annulled her marriage to Yehudah's sons (as will be explained later). Consequently, she was available to Yehudah. And in answer to the question why Yehudah (after his second son Onan's death) then said to her "Remain a widow in your father's house", the author explains later (to answer the question how the Pasuk can refer to "her father's house", when in fact, he had died many years earlier), the term 'father's house' refers specifically to where the father has already died.


"And he thought she was a harlot". Consequently, being the son of Ya'akov, he had no interest in her, and he quickly began to walk away. Tamar, who desperately wanted to have children from this Tzadik, turned her eyes heavenwards and begged Hashem to intervene. And intervene He did. He sent His angel Micha'el, who induced him to return. (This the Medrash learns from a Gezeirah-Shavah - It says here "va'yeit Eilehah" [and he turned to her], and it says by Bil'am's ass "va'teit Lefanai"; just as there it was through an angel, so too, here).

"And she said 'Provided you leave me a security until you send it' ". Some commentaries explain that Tamar wanted to know with what Yehudah intended to betroth her; to which he replied that he would send her a kid-goat from the herd. She then requested a security, which she subsequently specified as his signet-ring, his cloak and his staff. And it was with the signet-ring that he then (temporarily) betrothed her.

Initially, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. has a problem with the two witnesses without whom Kidushin cannot take effect (even if both parties subsequently agree that it took place). But he resolves it by pointing out that an important man like Yehudah would not have traveled without assistants (just like Chazal say with regard to Talmidei-Chachamim); and they would have served as witnesses.

He then queries the validity of the Kidushin, based on the Gemara in Kidushin, which declares invalid a Kidushin where a security is given to the bride, in lieu of the actual object with which he intended to redeem the security later. And he answers that he actually gave her the ring to keep (not merely as a security), only on the understanding that when he would subsequently send her the kid-goat, she would return it.


"Tamar your daughter-in-law has committed adultery, and she has also conceived by harlotry". To explain the second, seemingly superfluous, phrase, the Da'as Zekeinim suggests that perhaps it was customary in those days not to judge a woman on adultery or incest unless the woman was pregnant, or unless she had relations with two different men.


"Take her out and have her burned".

She was the daughter of Shem, Efrayim Maksha'ah explains. Shem was a Kohen, and S'reifah (burning) is the punishment due to a bas Kohen who commits adultery.

But there were no witnesses and no warning, asks the Da'as Zekeinim? That is correct, answers ha'Rav Yosef from Eretz Yisrael. However, that generation was lax in this particular issue. Consequently, based on the principle that Beis-Din have the authority to give lashes and even to pass the death-sentence under any circumstances, wherever necessary, in order to repair the laxness, Yehudah sentenced Tamar to death.


* * *

Parshas Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Generations of Ya'akov - Yosef

"These are the generations of Ya'akov, Yosef " (37:2).

Surely, asks R. Bachye, the Pasuk ought to have listed here all Ya'akov's twelve sons, and not just Yosef?

The Torah is teaching us here, he answers, that Yosef was the embodiment of all the Midos of all twelve brothers. And so the Medrash says - He possessed 1. the Bechorah of Reuven; 2. the kingship of Yehudah; 3. the prophecy of Levi and 4. the wisdom of Yisachar. As the Pasuk testifies 1. "And when he (Reuven) desecrated the bed of his father, the Bechorah was given to the sons of Yosef (Divrei Hayamim 5:1); 2. "And Yosef ruled over the land" (Vayigash 42:6); 3. "And it came to pass that just as he interpreted it, so it was" (Ibid; 41:13); 4. "There is nobody as understanding and as wise as you" (Ibid. 41:40).


The Kesones Pasim (1)

"And Yisrael loved Yosef more than all his (other) sons, so he made him a Kesones Pasim" (37:3).

This was a valuable shirt, R. Bachye explains (like the Kesones Tashbeitz which the Kohanim wore), which explains why the brothers were jealous of Yosef.

The Gemara in Shabbos (10b) learns from here that a father should never display favouritism to one child over his siblings. For this shirt sparked off a string of events that ended in tragedy. The first of these tragedies was Galus Mitzrayim (the enslavement of their bodies in Egypt [see Ba'al ha'Turim]). The second, which took place many hundreds of years later, was the physical torture to which the ten martyrs (who were reincarnations of the ten sons of Ya'akov [excluding Reuven and Binyamin]) were subjected at the time of the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash.

This is because the body is the 'shirt of the soul', and so the two above punishments were 'Midah k'neged Midah'.


The Kesones Pasim (2)

Among other explanations, R' Bachye translates "Pasim" as 'lots' (from the word 'Payas'). This is because they twice drew lots regarding the way they dealt with Yosef during the sale and afterwards. Firstly, they drew lots (as to which form of death to employ when killing him ) only, thanks to Reuven's intervention, they mitigated his punishement. Then, in the aftermath of the sale, they again drew lots as to who would take the shirt to their father. The lot fell on Yehudah, who declared to Ya'akov "Haker no!"('Recognize now whose shirt this is') That is why Tamar would later throw the same words back at him "Haker no " ('Recognize now to whom this signet-ring, cloak and staff belong!'). And because, when he uttered these words to his father, the latter's heart died within him, his two sons would subsequently die at a young age.


Two Kinds of Jealousy

"And his brothers were jealous of him" (37:11).

The Torah has already informed us, (in Pasuk 4) that Yosef's brothers hated him, and hatred as we know, generally stems from jealousy, and that was certainly the case here. In that case, asks Rabeinu Bachye, why does the Torah see fit to repeat here that the brothers were jealous of Yosef?


Initially, R. Bachye explains, their jealousy was rooted in the special shirt that their father gave Yosef, but not in any Ma'alah (superior status) that they saw in him. He was after all, younger than them, and a person is not generally jealous of someone whose status is lower than one's own. Consequently, their jealousy was temporary and would pass.

But now that they had heard his dream, from which they understood that he was destined to reign, their jealousy knew no bounds. That explains why the Torah writes, not "vayekan'u oso" (and they were jealous of him) but "va'yekan'u bo" (and they were jealous of the Ma'alah that they saw in him).

* * *


" and he made him a shirt of fine wool (ve'osoh lo kesones Pasim)" 37:3.

The word "Pasim" is spelt 'Pey', 'Samech', 'Yud', 'Mem', says the Ba'al ha'Turim, hinting at the eighty years ('Pey') that Yosef was destined to become king, out of a life-span of a hundred and ten ('Samech' + 'Yud' + 'Mem').


(Ibid) The Gematriyah of the words "ve'osoh lo kesones Pasim" is equivalent to that of 'Mishkal sh'nei sela'im milas' (a shirt of fine wool that weighed two sela'im), in keeping with the Gemara in Shabbos, which states that for a mere shirt weighing two sela'im that Ya'akov gave Yosef over and above his brothers, a series of events led to our forefathers going down to Egypt (See Parshah Pearls).

"And his father scolded him (*Vayig'ar* bo oviv )" 37:10:

The same word appears in Tehilim (106:9) "*Vyig'ar*be'Yam-Suf vayecherav" (And he scolded the Reed Sea and it dried up). There, like here, Ya'kov Avinu was involved. To teach us that it was on the merit of Ya'akov that the sea split. When the Pasuk writes there "And Yisrael saw the Great Hand that G-d displayed against Egypt" it is referring to Yisrael Saba (Ya'akov).

"And they took him (Vayikochuhu), and they threw him into the pit (37:24).

The word "Vayikochuhu", comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, is missing a 'Vav', so that it reads 'vayikocheihu' (and he took him). The one to take Yosef and throw him into the pit, he explains, was Shimon. That is why the Torah records later (in Parshas Mikeitz) that Yosef took Shimon and placed him in jail.

"And the pit was empty (ve'ha'bor Reik), it contained no water (ein bo *Mayim*)" (Ibid.)

The same word "Reik", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, occurs in Vateilech (in connection with Torah) "for it is not something that is empty ". This teaches us that the pit was not totally empty. It may have been empty of water, but it did contain snakes and scorpions.

Alternatively, we can learn the same thing from the Pasuk in Eikev (8:15 ["Mayim" here from "Mayim" there]) "snakes and serpents scorpions and thirst, (a place) where there is no water (sh'ein bo *Mayim*)".

* * *

Mehadrin, Mehadrin min ha'Mehadrin

By No other Mitzvah do we find the concept of 'Mehadrin' (in this sense), other than by that of Chanukah lights.


The Beis Halevi attributes this to the fact that the whole purpose of the miracle was only a matter of 'Hidur Mitzvah' (seeing as they were able to kindle the Menorah anyway - despite the shortage of oil). How come?

The jar that they found cotained sufficient oil to burn for one night. Correct?

In that case, bearing in mind that there was no fixed Shi'ur for the wicks of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, all they needed to do was to prepare extra thin wicks (one eighth of the normal thickness), and to pour in only one eighth of the oil. In that way, the oil would have lasted for eight days, and they would have fulfilled the basic Mitzvah. True, the lights would not have burned as brightly as normal, but that was purely a matter of 'Hidur Mitzvah'.

Consequently, since the miracle was needed only to enhance the Mitzvah ('Hidur Mitzvah'), the Chachamim added the concept of Hidur Mitzvah to Hadlakas Ner Chanukah.


Eight Days

The reason that the miracle lasted eight days, the Avudraham explains, is due to the fact that the oil had to come from Teko'a, which was in the territory of Asher. as is hinted in Ve'zos Ha'b'rachah ("And he dips his feet in oil"). However, from Yerushalayim to Teko'a was a journey that took four days, so that to obtain fresh oil would take them eight days, four days there and four days back.


Perhaps we can also adapt the Avudraham's explanation to explain the concept of Mehadrin (using the Beis Halevi's explanation cited above).

There was no Halachah obligating them to use oil from Teko'a for the Beis-Hamikdash. They could have obtained oil from a location closer to Yerushalayim; Only then, the quality of the oil would have been inferior. Consequently, the purpose of the miracle was to enable them to use the best quality oil - a Hidur Mitzvah.


There is however, a problem with both explanations. Seeing as they could have performed the Mitzvah as it was, who authorised them to rely on a miracle?

* * *

(Part 1)

(Adapted from 'Mamleches Kohanim')

The Medrash tells us that the Greeks set out to negate the three above Mitzvos from K'lal Yisrael.

The B'nei Yisaschar, citing the Chida, points out that the eight days of Chanukah are reminiscent of these three decrees, seeing as that, besides the fact that the number eight automatically hints at the Mitzvah of Milah, eight days always contains at least one Shabbos, and Rosh Chodesh always falls on Chanukah.


The author of the Seifer Mamleches Kohanim cites the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (19a), which informs us that the Romans forbade the Jews to study Torah, to keep Shabbos and to perform the B'ris Milah. And he refers to the Maharsha, who attributes their choice of these Mitzvos to the fact that they divide Yisrael from all the nations. About Torah, the Pasuk in Va'eschanan writes "For it is your wisdom and your understanding before the eyes of the nations".

Whereas the Pasuk describes Shabbos and B'ris Milah, (in Sh'mos 31:13, and Bereishis 17:11 respectively) as "a sign between Me and you". Indeed, Chazal have said that a gentile who keeps Shabbos or who studies Torah is Chayav Miysah.

Regarding Chanukah, where the Medrash switches Torah for 'Chodesh', the author refers to the uniqueness of K'lal Yisrael, who fix their calendar according to the moon's orbit (which also reflects their destiny and their eternal survival), as opposed to the nations of the world, who fix theirs by that of the sun.

Bearing in mind the Gemara in Shabbos, which learns from the very same Pasuk that the Maharsha quotes for 'Torah' ("For it is your wisdom and your understanding before the eyes of the nations") the obligation to learn how to reckon the months and seasons and the Mazalos (in order to fix the calendar), I would suggest that one might quote the very same Pasuk for 'Chodesh' .

In any event, whether it is Greeks or the Romans, in their quest to turn Yisrael into a nation that is no different than any other nation, they issued the three above decrees to achieve their goal.


The Decree of Chodesh

With reference to the Gezeirah of 'Chodesh', the author, summing up his detailed definition of the decree, lists the following six explanations:

1. The prohibition of the monthly Mitzvah of 'Kidush ha'Chodesh'.

2. The nullification of the Korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh.

3. The nullification of the Chagim (whose dates are determined by the declaration of Rosh Chodesh).

4. The nullification of the groups of people who would gather together on Rosh Chodesh to study Torah.

5. The nullification of Kidush Levanah.

6. The nullification of Tevilas Nidah, which Chazal term as 'Veses', which is translated in Greek and Latin as 'Chodesh'.


The Decree of B'ris Milah

When the Chachamim saw the terrible decree against the 'B'ris Milah', they initiated a way of circumventing it. What did they do? They fixed 'Simanim' (signs) for the Jews to know when a B'ris was about to take place, they would kindle new lamps at the entrance of that courtyard where the B'ris was to take place. The B'ris would quickly take place, and the lights would be extinguished, without the Greeks being any the wiser. The author also cites a Yerushalmi that the Minhag to kindle lights at a B'ris stems from there. Although the decree was cancelled, says the Yerushalmi, the Minhag prevailed. Perhaps the reason for the choice of that particular sign was because of the Pasuk in Mishlei "For a lamp is Mitzvah!"


The Medrash also gives the sign that they employed to inform the Jews of a wedding (on which the Greeks issued harsh decrees too) as grinding spices. The author cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin which reverses the signs - grinding spices for a B'ris Milah and kindling lights for a wedding.


Interestingly, the Eliyah Rabah quoting the Ba'al ha'Itim, ascribes the duration of Chanukah (eight days) to the fact that the terrible decree of B'ris Milah was annulled as a result of the Chashmona'im's victory. And with that he answers the famous Kashya of the Beis Yosef as to why the Chachamim fixed eight days of Chanukah, and not just seven (which would have sufficed to commemorate the miracle).

* * *

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