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

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Vol. 23   No. 9

This issue is sponsored by anonymous sponsors
in honour of their daughter's 18th birthday.
Mazel tov!

Parshas Vayeishev

"But the chief butler did not remember Yosef (then) and he forgot him (later)" (40:23).


It is because Yosef placed his trust in the butler, explains Rashi, that he had to remain in jail for another two years, one year for each of his two requests of the butler- 1). "Remember me", 2). "And remember me to Par'oh". Rashi concludes with the Pasuk in Tehilim (40) "How praiseworthy is the man who places his trust in G-d and does not turn to arrogant people" (a title that refers here to the Egyptians).


It is not at first clear what Yosef did wrong to deserve such a harsh punishment. After all, was not G-d's reason for sending Par'oh's two valets to prison to divert the people's attention from Yosef and to bring about his release? Moreover, have Chazal not taught us to do whatever needs to be done to save ourselves from death and from Tzoros?


Commenting on the above Pasuk in Tehilim, the Medrash explains "How praiseworthy is the man who places his trust in G-d" - this is Yosef; "and does not turn to arrogant people" - as Yosef did by asking the butler to remember him.

At first glance this Medrash seems strange - If Yosef erred by placing his trust in the butler, then how can the Pasuk refer to him as "the man who places his trust in G-d"?


The Eitz Yosef points out that Yosef's faith in Hashem was complete, and that he turned to the butler for help just as any other Tzadik would have done. He saw the butler as the instrument sent by G-d to deliver him from jail - as indeed he was - and he applied the minimum Hishtadlus necessary to procure his release. His mistake, he explains, lay in the fact that he was no ordinary Tzadik. He was a Tzadik who, throughout his life, placed his implicit trust in G-d, and in that capacity, he should have done so here as well. Such supreme, unconditional faith is the hallmark of the greatest Tzadikim, he adds, such as Eliyahu ha'Navi, who hid from King Achav for forty days without any form of sustenance, in the firm belief that G-d would provide for him.


Perhaps, one might add, this level of Bitachon was expected of Yosef ha'Tzadik, due to the circumstances that guided him at every twist and turn. He had been uprooted from his paternal home and exiled to Egypt in the most unnatural way, by the Hand of G-d, and clearly it was the Hand of G-d that brought about his rise to power in the house of Potifera, his subsequent incarceration and his inexplicable appointment as prison head. In all of these events, he had had no say and he had played no direct role.


All this was a clear indication that G-d had prepared him for some unique role and was guiding his every step. That being the case, it was clear that the entry of the chief butler and baker into the scene together with their dreams, too, were master minded by G-d, and were linked to his ultimate release. In that case, Yosef should have realized that his freedom was imminent and that G-d was quite capable of bringing it to a successful conclusion - without his assistance.

It is reminiscent of the Chofetz Chayim's parable of the passenger who thought that the train in which he was traveling was moving too slowly. So at the next station, he got out and began to push it. Having brought Yosef to this point, G-d was perfectly capable of transporting him to his destination. He did not need Yosef to help push!

* * *

Performing Mitzvos with a Full Heart

" Reuven heard and he saved him (Yosef) from their hands. And Reuven said to them 'Don't spill blood! Throw him into this pit which is in the desert, but don't stretch out a hand against him,' in order to save him from their hands, to return him to his father".

Had Reuven only known that the Torah would record his salvation of Yosef, says the Medrash, he would have placed him on his shoulders and carried him back to his father (in full view of his brothers).

And if Aharon had only known that the Torah would record the joy that he felt about his brother Moshe's appointment as leader of the B'nei Yisrael, he would have gone to meet him with drums and flutes.

And if Bo'az had only known that the Torah would record how he provided the poor Moabite woman (Rus) with a meal of parched corn, he would have fed her fattened calves.


The fact that the Torah has recorded the three above acts of Chesed alone illustrates the magnitude of the three above deeds in the Eyes of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu. Moreover, Chazal teach us that Reuven, the first person in history to save a life, merited that his land would be the first to be designated to provide refuge for people who had inadvertently killed a fellow Jew.

And that Aharon, who felt not the slightest twinge of jealousy at his younger brother's appointment, only genuine heartfelt happiness, earned the right to wear the Choshen Mishpat on his heart - which contained the twelve precious stones and the Name of Hashem within its folds, and which served as a medium of prophecy to which only he would have access.


On the one hand we learn from here the great reward that a Mitzvah performed with pure motivations can earn - even in this world. On the other, Chazal take even the greatest Tzadikim to task for performing them with reservations, without the sense of boundless joy that should accompany the performance of Mitzvos. Who knows the reward they would have received had they performed the same Mitzvos without reservations!


We learn from this Medrash that when performing a Mitzvah - particularly an act of Chesed - it is not sufficient to perform it according to the Halachah, even if one's motives are correct. One must perform it with a full heart, without shame and without hesitation. In that case, when a poor man asks for a donation, one needs to add a smile, a word or two of encouragement, and sometimes an offer of a drink or something to eat. That is in line with loving G-d 'with all one's heart', and increases the value of the Mitzvah many times over.

* * *


In Parshas Vayeitzei, we wrote in the name of the Ramban, that Rachel was five when Ya'akov married her.

The Ramban does in fact, say that she was a small girl at the time, which explains a}. the fact that Ya'akov (who was her cousin) kissed her, and b}. why Lavan, who declined to appoint her older sister Leah as the shepherdess of his sheep (for reasons of Tz'niyus), was not concerned about appointing her to the post.

But is Rabeinu Bachye who adds that she was only five. And with that, he explains why Ya'akov stipulated that he would work seven years for her. Yes, seven years! And it was Ya'akov, not Lavan, who made the stipulation!

And he answers by pointing out that Rachel was only five at the time, and since, due to his high level of Kedushah, Ya'akov would not live with a woman who could not have children, and a girl reaches the age of child-bearing at twelve, he had to wait seven years before marrying her.

* * *

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Chanukah Supplement

Chashmonah, Oil & the Number 8

In Parshas Mas'ei, the Torah lists the place-names of the forty-two stops that Yisrael made during their travels in the Desert. The commentaries ob-serve that the twenty-fifth stop was in Chashmonah, an obvious hint to the Chanukah miracle, in which the famous family of Chashmona'im were in-strumental, that took place on the twenty-fifth of Kislev.


The word 'Chashmnah' note, contains both the words 'Shemonah' (eight) - the number of days that the miracle of the oil lasted, and Shemen (oil) - the material chosen by G-d with which to perform it.


Oil, for its part, is the only liquid that cannot be mixed with another liq-uid. Not only that, but if one does try to mix it, it will always rise to the top.

This epitomizes K'lal Yisrael, who by virtue of their having received the Torah at Har Sinai, do not mix with the other nations. And it truly defines the small group of Jews who stood firm against the tide of Hellenism at that time, and who ultimately rose to the top with the defeat of the mighty Greek army. The miracle of the oil that followed in its wake was not an independent one. It was the natural sequel to the physical victory that preceded it, con-veying the message that the physical victory was based on the spiritual su-premacy - that 'the mighty into the hands of the few' and 'the impure into the hands of the pure' were one and the same. And it also explains why one of the meanings of the word 'shemen' is 'good-quality/the best', which as we just explained, describes the spiritual qualities of Yisrael as against the other nations.


One of the basic distinctions given by the commentaries between Chanu-kah and Purim is that whereas the latter was a physical battle between the forces of evil (who threatened the Jews' bodies) and those of good, the former was a spiritual battle (where they tried to convert them to Hellenism). It was a battle of the natural against the supernatural (the Neshamah - which in-cidentally, also contains the word 'Shemen'). And as is well-known, whereas the physical world is symbolized by the number seven, the supernatural is symbolized by the number eight.

Little wonder, therefore, that the miracle of Chanukah reached its zenith with oil and that it lasted for eight days.


Many answers are given to resolve the Beis Yosef's question as to why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days, seeing as there was enough oil to last for one day, and that the miracle therefore lasted only seven days. According to the above, the eight-day miracle was obvious and the question is not that Chanukah ought to last for seven days, but how to explain that it lasted eight.

Perhaps the most basic of the numerous answers is that, bearing in mind the extensive efforts of the Greeks to defile the Beis-Hamikdash - including all the oil for the Menorah - the fact that they found a jar of pure oil was, in itself, a miracle.


Let us take this one step further. Even assuming that it was not, the fact is that they did find that jar, and that without it, the seven day miracle would not have occurred. Perhaps Chazal instituted the first day because it is our task to sanctify the physical objects that exist and to use them in our Avodas Hashem. The Celestial bodies in Heaven can exist independently; here on earth, the spiritual can only exist on a material base, just as the Neshamah can only exist and thrive in a physical body.

In the same way, the jar of oil, enough to last for one day, was the physical base that enabled the seven-day miracle to take place.


The seven-day miracle had to have oil to last for one day in order to take effect. Consequently, Chazal fixed Chanukah for eight days.

* * *

Important Historical Events
from the Chanukah Period
(adapted from the Seider ha'Doros)

3560 Yehoshua ben P'rachyah and Nitai ha'Arbeili receive the Torah from Yosef ben Yo'ezer and Yosef Ish Yerushalayim * The story of the weasel and the pit (cited in the first Perek of B'rochos takes place * Yochanan, Mattisyahu's father is Kohen Gadol. He establishes many Takanos, but after serving for eighty years, he becomes a Tzedoki (See also, year 3642) * Eliyahu, author of Tana de'Bei Eliyahu, lives at that time * Yeishu of Nazareth is a Talmid of Yehoshua ben P'rachyah (though others place him 100 years later), in the time of Queen Hilni, who ruled during the era of Hillel ha'Zakein - some seventy years before the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash.
3610 The cruel tyrant Antiyochus Epiphanes ascends the Greek throne./td>
3616 He attacks Yeushalayim . wrecks the Beis Hamikdash and places an image in the Heichal * He brutally murders Chanah & her seven sons and Elazar Kohen Gadol, who is eighty * He kills 80,000 Jews, and sells as many, and sends 40,000 into captivity * His generals - Nikanor, Bagris, Lysius & Apolianus will later be killed in battle by Matisyahu and his five sons (the Chashmona'im) - Yehudah, Yonasan, Yochanan, Shimon & Elazar * The Jews enter into a peace treaty with the Romans.

An eclipse and then sinister Heavenly signs, is followed by a num-ber of international disasters, including the burning of Carthage and the capture of all of Greece's fortified cities (at the hand of the Romans)./td>

3618 Yehudah ben Tabai and Shimon ben Shetach receive the Torah from Yehoshua ben P'rachyah and Nitai ha'Arbeili * Sheltzion ha'Malkah, Yanai ha'Melech and Choni ha'Me'agel all live in this period./td>
3621 Matisyahu Kohen Gadol together with his five sons, lead the revolt against the Greeks./td>
3622 Matisyahu dies. His son Yehudah (known as 'ha'Macabi) assumes leadership * The miracle of Chanukah takes place * A Heavenly fire appears out of a stone on the Mizbe'ach which will continue to consume the Korbanos up to the Churban some two hundred years later * Antiyochus leads a huge army in an attack on Yerushalayim, but G-d strikes him with a terrible plague of boils and stomach-pains. He falls from his chariot and dies in agony and in disgrace * According to some, the story of Yehudis and Aliporni takes place at this time * Elazar, Yehudah's brother, dies in battle when the elephant, whose belly he has pierced, falls on him./td>
3628 After numerous victories, in which he killed many tens of thou-sands of Greek soldiers and captains, Yehudah dies in battle, even as his army routs the enemy, killing 15,000 Greek soldiers, in-cluding General Bakirus. He is succeeded by his brother Yonasan * All the brothers, bar Elazar (sinfully) assume the mantle of king-ship * A major victory, in which the entire Greek army is destroyed, and where only King Antiyochus Sirut and his two sons escape, is followed by a few years of calm./td>
3634 Shim'on, the next brother, takes over the throne.

His daughter is married to King P'tolomy of Egypt, who murders his father-in-law and exiles his wife and their two sons, in chains, to Egypt. The older son, Hyrcanus, he kills; the younger son, Yochanan, escapes from prison./td>

3642 Yochanan assumes the reigns of rulership - he is also known as Hyrcanus and Yanai. After fighting the Tzedokim and the Kutim, and destroying the latter's temple on Mount Gerizim, he himself becomes a Tzedoki (after serving eighty years as Kohen Gadol (See also year 3616). /td>
3648 The Roman Empire commences, 180 years before the Churban./td>
3662 The birth of Julius Caesar, He is kindly disposed towards the Jews, as is Queen Cleopatra of Egypt./td>
3668 King Yochanan (Yanai) dies./td>
3718 Julius Caesar is murdered. /td>

* * *

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