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

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Vol. 21   No. 9

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
ר' אליהו זאב בן ר' ירחמיאל משה הוויט ז"ל
by his family
in honour of his 25th Yohrzeit on 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeishev

Many are the Thoughts
in the Heart of Man

(Based on the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And a man found him (Yosef) straying in the field, and the man asked him saying, "What are you looking for?" …" (37:15).

The man, Rashi informs us, was none other than the angel Gavriel.

Why, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, did G-d see fit to send an angel to direct Yosef to his brothers, who in turn, planned to kill him, and at best, to sell him into slavery? If Yosef was destined to suffer exile, then surely this could have been achieved by the Midyanim finding him and taking him captive as he searched for his brothers, rather than an angel sending him to face his hostile brothers?

And he suggests that G-d did this in order to explain Ya'akov Avinu's incomprehensible decision to send Yosef to his brothers, knowing as he did, how much they hated him.

By sending an angel to support that decision, G-d declared that it was His will that the brothers sell Yosef into slavery, and that Ya'akov was merely carrying out His will (albeit without realizing that he was). Indeed, Chazal have taught that "The hearts of kings lies in G-d's Hands". Sometimes, it seems, G-d forces kings ('Who are the kings, the Rabbanan!') to make decisions that fall in line with His will.

I would add that Gavriel's participation was responsible for the brother's commuting Yosef's death-sentence to selling him into slavery.


Citing Targum Yonasan, who explains that the sale of Yosef took place now because the time had arrived for Ya'akov and his sons to go down to Egypt, the author then cites Chazal, who say that in reality, Ya'akov ought to have gone into exile in iron chains, but that his merit enabled him to go down to Egypt in dignity and honour.

G-d therefore engineered the sale of Yosef, who would be taken down to Egypt, and who would eventually become king, to pave the way for Ya'akov's grand arrival, when the time came.


Had G-d not intervened, the story with Yosef and his brothers would have looked very much different. Had he not put it into Ya'akov's head to send Yosef to enquire after his brother's wellbeing, this is the last thing Ya'akov would have done. And had He not then sent Gavriel to assist Yosef, the brothers would have murdered Yosef in cold blood. Indeed, the Medrash relates that they set the dogs on Yosef in order to kill him, but the dogs were powerless to do him harm.


But it is G-d's Plan that Prevails

But now that G-d did intervene, beginning with inducing Ya'akov to send Yosef on what looked like a fool's errand, see how the picture changed!

He sent the angel Gavriel on a twofold mission: a. to protect Yosef from physical harm, and b. to commute the brothers' initial decision to murder Yosef to one of selling him into slavery. The latter in particular, was to have major historical consequences by setting into motion a series of events that would lead to Yosef's emergence as king of Egypt, thereby placing him in a position to bring their father together with his family down to Egypt midst great pomp and ceremony and to settle them and sustain them honorably in Egypt.

And the Torah finds it necessary to inform us of Gavriel's participation in the opening events, to make it clear that Ya'akov's fateful decision to send Yosef to enquire after his brothers was not his own, but G-d's.


Note that according to the above explanation (based on the Targum Yonasan that we cited earlier), the sale of Yosef took place because the time had come to go into exile; whereas according to the explanation that we will present in Parshah Pearls 'The Price of Favouritism', the exile took place because of the sale of Yosef.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Exit Eisav, Enter Ya'akov

"And Ya'akov settled down in the land where his father sojourned, in the land of Cana'an" (37:1).

Interestingly - perhaps even miraculously - Eisav moved to Se'ir, before Ya'akov's arrival.

The Oznayim remarks that had Eisav not moved away, Ya'akov could not possibly returned to live with his father - and maybe not even in Eretz Yisrael. He had certainly not forgotten his brother's vow, and various attempts to kill him after he received the B'rachos. Indeed, we know that, unlike Yishmael, who did Teshuvah and ultimately acknowledged Yitzchak's supremacy, Eisav continued to insist that he was the firstborn until the day he died.


Switching Roles


The commentaries point out that the two Mitzvos that Ya'akov did not observe for the duration of his stay with Lavan were Kibud Av va'Eim and living in Eretz Yisrael. (How could he then inform Eisav at the beginning of Vayeitzei that he kept all the Taryag Mitzvos?)

Both of these Mitzvos Eisav did observe, and this was one of the reasons that Ya'akov was afraid of Eisav, when they met. He was afraid that the merit of these two Mitzvos, which Eisav observed and he did not, would stand Eisav in good stead.

And now all of a sudden, we find the situation reversed. Eisav has forsaken his ageing father and now lives in Har Se'ir. He has relinquished the two major Mitzvos in which he had hitherto excelled, whereas Ya'akov, who in time of trouble, had been forced to abandon these very same Mitzvos, was now able to add them to his long list of credits. Hence the Torah writes "And Ya'akov settled down in the land where his father sojourned, in the land of Cana'an".


A (Not-So-)Simple Answer

" … And Ya'akov loved Yosef because he was a ben Zekunim to him, so he made him a fine woolen shirt" (37:3):

Unklus translates "ben Zekunim" as 'bar Chakim' - his wise son, to whom he passed on all the teachings that he had learned in the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver. Presumably, this is based on Chazal, who describe a 'zokein' (an elder) by its acronym - 'zeh she'kanah (chochah)' - one who has acquired wisdom. Rashi and the Ibn Ezra, on the other hand, translate it literally, as 'the son of his old age'.

The Oznayim la'Torah queries the latter explanation however, in that Binyamin was even younger than Yosef; so why did Ya'akov not make for him too, a special shirt?

He cites the Moshav Zekeinim, who answers that Binyamin was still too small to receive such a shirt, as he would no doubt, have dirtied it in no time. My wife however pointed out, that seeing as the age difference between Yosef and Binyamin was merely six years, and Yosef was seventeen at the time, it is difficult to say that an eleven year boy is too young to receive a good-quality woolen shirt.


The Price of Favouritism


The Gemara in Megilah (16) states that a father should not favour one son over his other sons. Because, says the Gemara, on account of the two Sela'im of fine wool that Ya'akov gave Yosef over and above his other sons, one event led to another, leading to our fathers going down to Egypt!

The Oznayim la'Torah points out that Avraham's descendants were destined to go into Galus anyway (four hundred years for the four words 'ba'moh eida ki iroshenoh (How will I know that I will inherit the land)'?

So what did Ya'akov's favouritism add to the decree?


Referring briefly to his explanation in Lech-L'cha, the Oznayim la'Torah explains that the decree of the B'ris bein ha'Besarim took place in three parts: 1. Being strangers in their own land; 2. Exile in a foreign land (Egypt); 3. Servitude and Affliction. As he explained there the duration of each of these was not fixed, and would be determined largely by the way Avraham's offspring would behave. Had Yosef's brothers not sold him into slavery, the period of 'Strangers in their own land' would have lasted longer, and that of 'Exile in a foreign land' would have taken place later.


The Two Dreams

"And he (Yosef) dreamt another dream …" (37:9).

The Oznayim la'Torah cites the Pasuk in Parshas Miketz, which explains that Paroh's second dream was simply a sign that the decree inherent in the dream would come into effect immediately.

And he observes that it is not possible to say that about Yosef's dreams, which took place only twenty-two years later. The question therefore arises as to the significance of Yosef's second dream.

The answer is very simple, he says. The two dreams foretold two separate events (unlike by Paroh, where the two dreams predicted the same event).

The dream of the sheaves foretold the arrival of the brothers, who would bow down to him when they came to Egypt purchase corn, whereas the dream of the sun, moon and stars referred to the arrival of Ya'akov and his sons when they came down to Egypt to begin the Galus. On that occasion, Ya'akov bowed down to Yosef when the latter came to visit him on his sickbed, whilst the brothers bowed down to him later, after their father's death.


Yosef too, was Sworn to Secrecy

"And the Medanim sold him to Egypt" (38:36).

Based on the Pasuk later (42:21), the Oznayim la'Torah asks that, if Yosef pleaded with his brothers to return him to his father, why did he not also request that the Medanim, who were merchants and knew how to strike a good deal, take him back to his father, who would pay any price to redeem him? This serves as proof, he answers, for the tradition that the brothers issued a Cherem against anybody who divulged the sale to their father - and that Cherem included Yosef.

And he adds, it was as a result of that Cherem that throughout the many years that Yosef lived in Egypt, he never sent his father, by means of a courier or a letter, word of his whereabouts.

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