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

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Vol. 11   No. 11

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Reb Chayim Ezriel ben Yosef z.l.

Parshas Vayigash

Yosef's Wisdom

To a large extent, Yosef's greatness lay in his ability to foresee the future, as Chazal have said in Tamid 'Who is a wise man, one who foresees the future'. Chazal are not referring to a Navi or to an astronomer, people who are able to foretell what is going to happen. They are referring to those who, as opposed to most people (who do not measure their actions at all, and who ignore the good on the one hand, and the harm on the other, that their deeds might cause others), gauge the long term outcome of their actions before performing them. Hence when they envisage a negative result, they will refrain from the action altogether, or at least will perform it in a way that minimizes the damage. Whereas in the event that they gauge the outcome to be a positive one, they will proceed without hesitation.


Yosef seems to have possessed, not only the ability to assess the long term outcome of everything he did, but to put that knowledge to the best possible advantage. And what's more, he was able to manipulate ministers, kings and his own brothers for the good, in the process.

For example, he related his first dream to his brothers, the Chochmas Chayim (Rebbi Yosef Chayim Sonenfeld) explains, even though he was fully aware of their hatred towards him. Based on the Chazal that all dreams materialize according to the way they are interpreted, he deliberately told them the dream, in order to elicit a favorable interpretation for it from his brothers. He knew that in their anger, they would respond with the words 'Do you really think that you are going to rule over us'? That was what he wanted to happen, and that is precisely what happened.


Let us take a look at how Yosef used this ability to manipulate Par'oh and the Egyptians for the short and long-term benefit of his brothers and family.

If one thinks about it, his advice to his brothers to inform Paroh that they were shepherds (with its various ramifications) was brilliant, a wonderful example of his ability to forestall dangerous situations from which it would later be practically impossible to extricate oneself.


Yosef foresaw the difficulties that his brothers and their children would encounter when they came down to Egypt (at the outset of Galus Mitzrayim). So he forestalled what he was able to, by doing three things. 1. He collected all the money in the land, as well as all the property, so that the people would be poor serfs to Paroh. 2. He moved the Egyptians from one town to another, so that every Egyptian (with the exception of the priests) was a stranger. In effect, they were all in exile. 3. He ordered them all to circumcise, so that they would even resemble the B'nei Yisrael physically. And what's more, he simultaneously protected the women from the highly immoral Egyptians (since, as Chazal have said, the Milah decreases the desire).

By doing all of these, he made certain that when Galus Mitzrayim began, the Egyptians would find it all but impossible to point any fingers at them. After all, they owned no land, and were no richer than the B'nei Yisrael, they were all in exile, just like them, and even resembled them physically.

In addition, the money that Yosef collected was ready for G-d's promise to Avraham "And after that they will go out with a great possession" to come into effect.

From here we see how Yosef foresaw, planned and forestalled, and how neither kings nor nations were able to stand in his way.


It is all the more puzzling therefore, as to why Yosef was taken to task for asking the chief butler to remember him (see last week's Midei Shabbos, 'Two Extra Years', Parshah Pearls).

The Chochmas Chayim poses the question even more strongly. Traditionally, he explains, we are obligated to make hishtadlus (effort) to alleviate our own suffering. To do so is not in the least sinful, nor is it considered lacking of trust in G-d. So why was Yosef so severely punished for doing just that? And why does Rashi, citing the Medrash, apply the Pasuk in Tehilim 'How fortunate is the man who places his trust in G-d and does not trust instead on Rahav" (with reference to the Egyptians), intimating that Yosef was guilty of doing just that.

To solve this problem, he cites the Ramban's explanation as to why Yosef allowed his father to suffer for so many years, by failing to reveal his identity, particularly after he rose to power to become viceroy of Egypt. After witnessing his own supernatural rise to power, and the events that led up to it from the time of his sale, the Ramban explains, he felt it was wrong to interfere with Divine Providence, which was obviously in control of his destiny. So he decided to wait until his brothers came down to Egypt and prostrated themselves before him, in fulfillment of his dreams, before doing so.

We see from here the extent of Yosef's faith in G-d, that he was willing to quash his natural emotions, withholding information that he must have been 'dying' to pass on to his father, in order not to interfere with the Divine Plan. So much so, that the Medrash ascribes to him the first half of the Pasuk that we quoted earlier "How fortunate is the man who places his trust in G-d" (as well as the second).


Yet later, when Yosef had been in prison for ten years, and he saw a ray of hope that he might be set free, he grabbed the opportunity, enlisting the help of the chief butler, who owed him his freedom and even his life, and asking him to remember him before Paroh.

And that explains why he is taken to task.

If his superhuman faith in Hashem overcame his desire to alleviate his father's suffering, why did he then allow his own suffering to supercede his faith, and attempt to steer Divine Providence to his advantage?

And with this, explains the Chochmas Chayim, we can also understand how the Medrash is able to quote the two (seemingly conflicting) halves of the Pasuk in Tehilim. For either Yosef's faith in G-d was strong, or it was not!

The answer lies in what we have just said. Yosef's faith was supreme. He had reached levels of Bitachon that enabled him to behave in an exalted and unique manner under the most trying circumstances. And it is only because he did, that he is later taken to task for a lapse that caused him to behave in a manner that anybody else might have done in the same situation. And it was for having failed to display that level of faith that was expected of him (and him alone), that he had to sit two more years in jail.


Parshah Pearls

A Man who Breaks his Word

"... because you (Yosef) are just like Par'oh" (44:18).

'Just like Par'oh promises and does not keep, so do you' (Rashi).

Which promise is Rashi referring to, asks the Rosh? What did Paroh promise anyway?

He explains how the brothers, intrigued with the supreme power of Tzofnas Pa'anei'ach, made enquiries about him. They discovered that in fact, he was a Hebrew slave, and that he came to be the most powerful man in the kingdom as a result of his amazing ability to interpret dreams.

It was well-known that Egyptian law forbade a slave to rule, and it was clear to all that Paroh had broken the oath to remain true to the law of the land that he inevitably took upon ascending the throne.

And that is the promise to which Yehudah now referred.


What is truly remarkable is the fact that the brothers (who knew full-well that Yosef was a Hebrew slave, and who were equally acquainted with his close connections to the world of dreams) did not suspect that perhaps Tzofnas Pa'anei'ach might well be none other than their brother Yosef (See 'Disbelieving' further on and end of 'Parshah Pearls', Parshas Mikeitz).


Yosef's Silence

"And Yosef could no longer control himself" (45:1).

Why on earth, asks the Rosh, did Yosef wait so long before revealing his identity? Why did he not inform his father Ya'akov earlier, that he was alive and well and of his whereabouts? Knowing how much Ya'akov grieved for him, how could he allow him to suffer for so many years? (See also main article).

And he answers that the brothers placed a Cheirem on anyone who revealed to their father what had transpired, and they included Yosef in the Cheirem.

Admittedly, Yosef did not accept the Cheirem. Indeed, had he verbally objected to it, he explains, he would have indeed been absolved from adhering to it. But now that he remained silent, the Cheirem incorporated him too.

So he had no option but to wait until all the brothers (who had declared the Cheirem) were assembled, and then to have them rescind it.


From here we have a proof, the Rosh concludes, that if someone is in Shul at the time when the community issues a communal Takanah from which he wishes to be absolved, unless he verbalizes his intention to be precluded from the Takanah, he is automatically bound by it.



"And his brothers were unable to answer him, because they were confused" (45:3).

On the one hand, explains the Da'as Zekinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, they believed the man standing before them when he claimed that he was Yosef. Otherwise, how would he know who Yosef was? On the other, it was inconceivable that the brother whom they had sold into slavery should have attained the position as viceroy of Egypt.

Notice how even after Yosef revealed his identity, they had difficulty in accepting the truth, simply because it went against what they had geared themselves to believe ... because it was not what they wanted to believe. It is hardly surprising then, that despite all the hints that Yosef (seemingly deliberately) dropped leading up to his revelation, they remained oblivious to his true identity (see 'A man who breaks his Word', above).


This is an object lesson in the extent to which a person's perception is blinded when he is personally prejudiced.



"And he saw the wagons ... and the spirit of Ya'akov their father was revived" (45:27).

What was it about the wagons that created this change in Ya'akov?

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains that Yosef (or Paroh) had issued a decree forbidding the removal of wagons from Egypt. Yet in spite of that ban, wagons had arrived from Egypt to transport the women and children of Ya'akov's household to Egypt. Ya'akov realized that those wagons could only have been sent by Paroh himself. In that case, the brothers had not fabricated the story (for how would they have got the wagons out of Egypt without being arrested?)

That is why he believed them.


Divine Complement

"I (Hashem) will go down with you and I will come up with you" (26:4).

When they went down to Egypt, they were sixty-nine souls. Yet the Torah counts them as seventy.

However, explains the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., when G-d informed Ya'akov that He would accompany him down to Egypt, He meant exactly what He was saying. In that case, it stands to reason that He was counted as one of them, bringing their numbers up to seventy.

But the Torah also writes that G-d would accompany them out of Egypt when they would leave exile. Consequently, he adds, although they were one short of six hundred thousand when they left Egypt, G-d made up the missing one, just as He did on the way down.


What Did We Just Say?

" ... all the souls of the house of Ya'akov who came to Egypt numbered seventy" (46:27).

This includes Ya'akov, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. And this is evident from the beginning of the Parshah, where the Torah writes "And these are the names of the children of Yisrael who came to Egypt, Ya'akov and his sons ... ", implying that Ya'akov was included in the seventy souls together with his sons. In fact, he is included with the sons of Leah, where only thirty-two are listed. So when the Torah concludes that there were thirty-three, it means to include Ya'akov. The current Pasuk too, can be understood to mean that to arrive at the number seventy, it is necessary to include Ya'akov as part of the family.

However, according to what we just wrote (see previous piece), it is unnecessary to say that Ya'akov was the seventieth person, seeing as G-d Himself made up the number, as we explained.


Eretz Yisrael in Egypt

"And he (Yosef) went up to meet Yisrael" (26:29).

Yosef rose in level, explains the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., because he went to meet his father.

Or perhaps the Torah uses an expression of elevation, because Goshen, where Ya'akov was staying, was higher than the rest of Egypt, since it was on the border of Eretz Yisrael.

As a matter of fact, Paroh (father of the current king of Egypt) gave Goshen as a gift to Sarah. This explains why Yisrael chose to live in Goshen, and why the Egyptians did not dispute that choice.

And because Yehudah went ahead to Goshen at the behest of his father to prepare a Beis-Hamedrash, it was given to him as part of his inheritance (as the Pasuk in Yehoshua specifically states).


Up and Away

"I will go up and tell Paroh ... " (46:31).

Where was Yosef going up to, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.?" Was Egypt situated on a mountain?

Not at all, he answers. When Yosef first welcomed his father, he descended from his carriage. Now that he had finished speaking with him, and wished to return to Egypt, he had to ascend it again. That is where he was going up to.



The Thanks-offering and the Ram of the Nazir

The Todah and the Eil Nazir - are Kodshim Kalim (a lesser degree of Kodshim). They may be Shechted anywhere in the Azarah, and their blood requires two Matanos that incorporate four (sprinkling directly from the bowl on the two diagonally opposite corners which have a Yesod [the north-east and the south-west]).

The Shirayim (after the Eimurim and the Chalavim have been removed [are returned to the owner, and]) may be eaten anywhere in Yerushalayim, by anyone (who is Tohor). They may eat it prepared as they please, for the remainder of the day and the following night, up until midnight. The same applies to the 'Moram' (the parts that are given to the Kohanim), only they are eaten by the Kohanim, their wives, children and slaves.

The Peace-Offering

The Shelamim (like the Todah) can be brought from any of the three Kosher animals, male or female. It resembles the Todah in every respect, other than that no loaves accompany it, and that it can be eaten for two days and the intervening night.



(Adapted from the Eitz Yosef )

The Korban Todah - This is brought by any of the four people who are obligated to offer thanks to Hashem. They are hinted in the word 'Chayim (in the phrase that we say in the Amidah 've'Chol ha'CHAYIM yoducho selah'), which form the first letters of 'Chavush', 'Yam', Yisurin' and 'Midbar', and which incorporate a captive who is set free, someone who crosses the sea, someone who has recovered from an illness and someone who has traversed a desert. Together with their Korban, they bring forty loaves comprising twenty Esronim of so'les (sifted flour), ten from which one prepares ten Chametz Chalos, and from the other ten, thirty of Matzah (comprising ten Chalos, ten wafers (like our Matzos), and ten breads prepared from flour in boiling water. These he mixes with a half a Lug of oil.

The Eil Nazir - This is a Shelamim which the Nazir brings on the day that his Nezirus terminates. Together with the ram, he brings twenty Matzah loaves, comprising six and two thirds Esronim - ten Chalos and ten wafers, mixed in a Revi'is (a quarter of a Lug) of oil.

All of these require Semichah (whilst the ram is still alive) and Tenufah after it is has been Shechted, as well as the appropriate Nesachim.

Kodshim Kalim - which are not subject to Me'ilah. The skin belongs to the owner.

Anywhere in Yerushalayim - since the Torah writes "You shall eat them in a Tohor place" (implying a location that a Metzora is forbidden to enter).

By Anyone - even a Zar, provided he is Tahor and (if he is a male) circumcised. A Mechusar Kipurim may not eat it until he has brought his Korban.

The Moram - incorporating the Chazeh ve'Shok (the chest and the right calf) of the Korban, and one of each kind of bread of the Lachmei Todah and the Eil Nazir (respectively), and in addition the cooked right foreleg of the Eil Nazir.

And their slaves - incorporating Cana'ani slaves (but not Jewish servants).

The Eimurin of both animals are brought on the Mizbei'ach.


Bechor, Ma'aser and Pesach

Bechor, Ma'aser (Beheimah) and Pesach, which are Kodshim Kalim (the lower level of Kodshim), may be Shechted anywhere in the Azarah. Their blood requires one Matanah, which must be placed at a point on the Mizbei'ach where there is a Yesod. The differences regarding the way in which they are eaten are as follows: The Bechor is eaten by Kohanim, and the Ma'aser, by anyone. Both of them can be eaten anywhere in Yerushalayim, prepared as they please, for two days plus the intervening night.

The Pesach may only be eaten the night after it has been sacrificed, and then, only until midnigh. It can only be eaten by those who have registered, and it has to be roasted on the fire.



(Adapted from the Eitz Yosef )

At a point on the Mizbei'ach where there is a Yesod - anywhere on the north, on the west sides of the Mizbei'ach, plus one Amah on the east (at the most north-eastern corner) and one Amah on the south (at the south-western corner).

The differences regarding the way in which they are eaten - all of them are equal, however, as far as the placing of the blood is concerned.

Only until midnight - by Torah law, like the opinion of Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah.

None of these Korbonos require a Minchas Nesachim, Tenufah or Semichah.


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