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

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Vol. 24   No. 9

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
R' Leibush ben Yaakov Shimon z"l
whose Yohrzeit will fall on 3 Teves

Parshas Vayeishev

Connecting Vayishlach and Vayeishev

After the Torah describes briefly Eisav's descendants and how Eisav settled - since they were not worthy of a lengthier description - and how they fought to drive out the Chori, it goes on to describe in detail how Ya'akov and his descendants established themselves, and all the intricate events that happened to them. This is because they were sufficiently important in the eyes of G-d to deal with them at length.

This is the way of the Torah, to deal with the less important people first, to get them out of the way as it were, before dealing at length with those it deems important. That is what the Torah did at the end of Parshas Bereishis, when it dealt briefly with the ten generations between Odom and No'ach, before going on to explain at length what happened to No'ach and his children. The Torah repeats this process at the end of No'ach, where it dwells briefly with the ten generations between No'ach and Avraham, before dealing at length with Avraham and his descendants.

Rashi compares this to a man who is searching for a lost jewel in the sand. He brings a sieve and begins to sift the sand in the area where he lost the jewel.

Although he is sifting the sand, he is not interested in it per se. It is the jewel he wants. The moment he locates the jewel, he will discard the sand and take the jewel.


The Ba'al ha'Turim explains how produce only reaches its perfection after one has removed the straw and the stubble. Consequently, the Torah records at the end of Vayishlach how Eisav (the straw) moved out of Eretz Cana'an. And Vayeishev begins by telling us how, now that Eisav had gone, Ya'akov (the produce) was able to establish himself there.


Rashi points out how Ya'akov wished to settle down (after many troubled years), and how immediately he was presented with the calamity of Yosef. ('The word "Vayeishev" always denotes trouble' - Sanhedrin 106a.) Tzadikim wish to settle down in this world, but G-d reminds them that that is what Olom ha'Ba is for. In this world, they must be prepared to accept 'nisyonos', should that be what G-d has in store for them.

Eisav ha'Rasha had no trouble in settling down, as we see from the end of last week's Parshah. That is because resha'im have no Olom ha'Ba to look forward to. They are entitled to enjoy to the full the fruits of their meagre labors in this world.


"And Ya'akov dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, in the (Holy land) of Canan'an." Ya'akov was careful to go in the ways of his righteous father Yitzchak. He, like his father before him, followed the path of G-dliness and holiness.

Not so Eisav; he left Eretz Cana'an to go his own way. That is why the Torah concludes the Parshah of Vayishlach by telling us that his descendants went in the ways of their legacy, the legacy that they had inherited from their father Eisav - the father of Edom (the red, the bloodthirsty). He had long relinquished the ways of his father Yitzchak. What he bequeathed to his children was his own personal legacy, a legacy of lust, murder and G-dlessness.

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The Story of Yosef - Divine Providence

"And Par'oh said to Yosef 'Now that G-d has informed you of all this, there is nobody as intelligent and as wise as you ... You will be in charge of my house and on your command will all my people be fed; only the throne will I place over you' " (41:39 & 41)


The likelihood of Yosef becoming Viceroy of Egypt was remote enough in itself (little wonder that his brothers could not conceive that "the stranger" to whom they were speaking could indeed be their brother). But when one considers the unusual and extremely diverse situations that Yosef encountered on the way, his ultimate appointment becomes even more astonishing. Each situation was fraught with its own brand of dangers, with death and disgrace staring Yosef in the face at every step along the way. That he not only survived each danger, but even seemed to thrive on them, passing from one success to another, each time turning a situation of extreme despair into one of extreme comfort and even triumph, can only point to the incredible workings of the Divine Providence.


Consider then, that Yosef was thrown into a pit containing snakes and scorpions, yet no harm befell him. Eventually, instead of killing him or allowing him to die, the brothers sold him to some passing Arab merchants, who "happened" to be transporting spices to Egypt in lieu of the customary "foul-smelling" paraffin. So this handsome young seventeen-year old slave actually enjoyed the respect of his buyers (imagine how different it might have been) and travelled to Egypt in relative style and comfort.

In Egypt, after rising to the position of manager of the powerful and influential Potifera's estates, Yosef's good looks attracted the attention of Potifera's wife, who took offence at his persistent refusal and proceeded to frame him. Potifera, his master, placed him in a prison reserved for the elite of the land - (is that the sort of treatment normally reserved for a slave who had an alleged affair with his master's wife?).

As a foreigner, jailed for the attempted rape of his mistress, one might have expected Yosef to be brutally treated and abused, yet there he was, in charge of all the other prisoners, favourite of the chief prison warden.

Chazal have already informed us that Hashem evoked the king (Par'oh)'s anger over his courtiers (the butler and the baker), in order to instigate Yosef's freedom through them. Otherwise, how would we account for the many coincidences and strange reactions towards Yosef on the part of the various characters involved; their respective dreams dreamt on the same night; Yosef's discovery of their predicament and subsequent volunteering to alleviate their misery; their acceptance of this "busybody's" offer and of his interpretation; the king's dream, which none of the wise men were able to interpret; the butler's conveyance of Yosef's unique mastery of this art, conveyed as it was, in most derogatory terms, and the king's willingness to consult a prisoner and a slave. And finally, how do we explain the appointment itself, of a slave straight from prison, to a position second only to the king, when the constitution of Egypt clearly stated that a slave was not eligible to rule?


There is only one way to explain these strange circumstances - Divine Providence - "When Hashem accepts the ways of a man, then even his enemies will make peace with him!" (Mishlei 13:7).

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