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

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Vol. 19   No. 9

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Meir Mottel ben Moshe Halevi z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 21 Kislev

Parshas Vayeishev

Let Her Be Burned
Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

On the Pasuk "Take her (Tamar) out and let her be burned", Rashi explains that Yehudah issued this ruling because Tamar was the daughter of Shem, who was a Kohen, and a bas-Kohen who commits adultery is punishable by burning.

The Ba'al ha'Turim, citing the Ramban, queries Rashi in that the above ruling is confined to a bas Kohen who is either married or betrothed (depending on a Machlokes Tana'im). It does not pertain to a Shomeres Yavam, which is a plain La'av, and is therefore subject to Malkos (lashes) and no more?

And in answer to the suggestion that Yibum applies to b'nei No'ach, by whom every La'av is subject to the death penalty, he cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin, which plainly states that Yibum does not apply to b'nei No'ach, and besides, the death penalty by the b'nei No'ach is by the sword, exclusively?


He (the Ramban) therefore explains that Yehudah's position was not a regular one. Yehudah was the all-powerful ruler of the land, he says. When his daughter-in-law committed adultery, she was guilty of causing dishonour to the king as it were, and deserved to be punished accordingly, irrespective of the punishment meted out to regular prostitutes. That is why they brought her before Yehudah, it was up to him to decide upon the appropriate punishment, and he chose that of burning (perhaps because she was the daughter of a Kohen) to protect his Kavod.


Alternatively, it may well have been the custom in those days, to hand over a woman who had commited adultery (which they believed she had done) to her husband, and he would be the one to judge her, and to decide whether she would receive the death penalty or whether she would be allowed to live. And since Tamar was designated to marry Sheilah (Yehudah's youngest son) she was considered an Eishes Ish. Presumably, according to this explanation, since Sheilah was still a child, Yehudah made the decision on his behalf.


A third explanation the Ba'al ha'Turim cites in the name of R. Yehudah ha'Chasid. He maintains that what Yehudah ruled was, not that Tamar should be burned, but that a mark should be burned into her forehead as a sign that she was a prostitute, as presumably was customary in those days. And when it transpired that it was from him that she was pregnant, he withdrew his ruling, and she was left unharmed.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Goat's Blood

" ,,, they slaughtered a goat and they dipped the shirt in its blood" (37:31).

Because the blood of a goat resembles the blood of a human being, Rashi explains.

The Riva queries this from the Gemara in Gitim (57b). The Gemara relates how Nevuzraden slaughtered the various animals that were use as Korbanos (including goats), but none of them resembled the bubbling blood of the murdered Zecharyah?

He answers that there were many other bloods mixed with that of Zecharyah. It is unclear what he means, but if it is to be taken literally, then what did Nevuzraden hope to achieve with his test?


Who Wept?

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

This refers to Yitzchak (Ya'akov's father) Rashi explains (not Ya'akov, Yosef's father).

The Riva, citing the I'bn Ezra, explains that, if it referred to Ya'akov, the Torah should have omitted the words "and his father" and written simply 'and he cried for him". It would be obvious that this refers to Ya'akov, who is mentioned in the previous Pasuk.

Others answer that it cannot refer to Ya'akov, since it writes earlier that Ya'akov mourned for Yosef, and weeping precedes mourning, not vice-versa.

Rabeinu Bachye too, maintains that it refers to Yitzchak, who, he says, wept (over his son's pain), but did not mourn, because he knew that Yosef was alive.


Since When Did the Egyptians
Slaughter Animals?

"And the Medanim sold him to Potifar the chief butcher" 37:36).

who used to slaughter the animals of the king, Rashi explains.

But does the Torah not write "because it is the abomination of Egypt whoever shepherds sheep" (and certainly whoever ate them)?

Citing the Ra, he answers that perhaps they ate cattle.

Others explains that although they did not slaughter sheep the whole year round, they did however slaughter then in Nisan, when the Mazel T'le (Lamb) ruled.

* * *



"Identify, if you please (haker no), whether it is the shirt of your son or not!" (36:32).

Tamar used exactly the same words (haker no), the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, when she asked Yehudah to identify his signet ring and his staff. On that occasion, Yehudah's response led to his public embarrassment.

As we find often in T'nach, Yehudah was punished with the same words with which he sinned.


" he (Yehudah) said what security can I give you? And she replied ' and your staff (u'matcho) that is in your hand " (38:18).

Here too, the word "u'matcho" appears in Beshalach (17:5), where G-d instructed Moshe to take his stick with which he struck the River (Nile) and strike the rock, to obtain water on behalf of the people. This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the staff that Yehudah handed Tamar was the same staff that Moshe later used to strike the Nile and to perform all the miracles in Egypt.


"And it was when he (Zerach) withdrew his hand, that his brother emerged; Then she (the midwife) said 'How did you break your way out (Mah poratzto olecho Paretz)!; and he (Yehudah) called him Peretz" (38:29)

Bearing in mind that Peretz was the father of the dynasty of the kings of Yisrael, this hints at Chazal, who say that a king is permitted to break his way through another's private property to reach his destination.

In similar vein, the letters of 'Peretz', in the Gematriyah of 'At Bash' add up to fourteen, which is the equivalent of David (Melech Yisrael).

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