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

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Vol. 12   No. 11

This issue is sponsored
in loving memory of
he'Chaver Simchah ben Moshe Hain z.l.
on his seventh Yohrtzeit

ha'Rav Zalman Yosef ben Aryeh Leib Sharfman z.l.
who was niftar on the 22nd Kislev
by their family

Parshas Vayigash

To Accompany the Living

"And they told him all the words of Yosef ... and he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent to transport him, and Ya'akov's spirit was revived" (45:27).

Rashi explains how Yosef actually handed his brothers a Si'man (a sign) that he was Yosef, in the form of the last thing that he and his father had been discussing before he was sold - namely, the Parshah of Eglah Arufah, as is hinted in the word "ho'agolos" (which means 'the wagons', but which is also a play on words, based on the plural of 'Eglah' [a calf]). And that it why they referred to the wagons that Yosef had sent (even though, strictly speaking, it was Par'oh who had issued the command to send them (see Pasuk 46).

R. Yosef Chayim extrapolates from this Rashi that the basis of the powerful bond that existed between Ya'akov and Yosef, was Torah learning. Indeed, commenting on the Pasuk in Vayeishev (37:14) "And he sent him from the valley of Chevron", Chazal explain that he sent him away from the depths of Halachah (see also Rashi there 37:3).

And this, he says, is further reinforced by the fact that the numerical value of "Keshurah" (see Pasuk 34) is equivalent to that of 'Torah'.


The Ba'al ha'Turim in Parshas Vayeishev relates that when Ya'akov and Yosef arrived in Chevron, Yosef asked his father to turn back and return home. But Ya'akov declined, quoting him the Pasuk in Shoftim, where, in connection with the man who was found murdered between two towns, the elders declared "Our hands did not spill this blood". And Chazal explain this to mean that they did not wittingly send him on his way without accompanying him. It was on this note that Ya'akov and Yosef parted, and, as Chazal have said, based on the Pasuk "and Ya'akov saw the wagons", this D'var Halachah was instrumental in bringing about their reunion.

The question arises, now that Ya'akov had fulfilled the Mitzvah of accompanying Yosef on his way, how the brothers succeeded in overpowering Yosef and selling him into slavery? Did Chazal, commenting on the above-mentioned Pasuk in Shoftim, not say that the murderer succeeded in murdering his victim only because nobody accompanied him on his way? If somebody had, no harm would have befallen him (see Sotah 45b)!


However, a closer look into the events that transpired will show us that, not only does the story of Yosef not create a problem with the above Chazal, but it actually substantiates it. The brothers initially sentenced Yosef to death, as the Medrash describes, and it was only when their initial efforts misfired, they initially opted to throw him into a pit (a pit which contained snakes and scorpions [though they may not have been aware of it]). Once again, their actions failed to cause him the least bodily harm.

Finally, they decided to commute his sentence to slavery. Yet, in spite of their superior strength and numbers, they failed in everything that they tried to achieve. They failed in their efforts to kill him. They failed when they cast him into the pit where he enjoyed Divine protection from the predators that lurked there. And they failed in their attempt to sell him into slavery, as, beginning already with his journey down to Egypt, he travelled in comfort (as the Medrash explains), and enjoyed the respect of his captors. And then when he arrived in Egypt, he was sold to a prestigious master, who promptly placed him in charge of his household. Even in jail, he was given charge of the all the prisoners (the king's prisoners to boot), and his success story reached its climax, when he was appointed viceroy of Egypt, in which capacity the entire country was under his jurisdiction.

In their frantic efforts to curb Yosef's rise to fame, the brothers achieved exactly the opposite. They unwittingly helped create the situation that enabled his dreams to come to fruition.

And that explains why he made a point of sending his father the wagons, to acknowledge the role, the vital role, that he (his father) had played in his success story, by accompanying him on his way, on that fateful journey twenty-two years earlier.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

Who Said That?

"My master asked his servants ... 'Do you have a father or a brother' " (44:19).

The question arises where Yosef asked his brothers such a question, since nowhere is it recorded?

The Damesek Eliezer therefore explains these words as a question "Did your master ask your servants whether we have a father or a brother?" Yet we volunteered the information'.

This was actually a reproof on the part of Yehudah. He was hinting to Yosef that it is not the way of spies to volunteer such personal information. And the fact that they did should surely have served as a proof that they were not spies. In that case, Yosef's accusation was without foundation.


Yehudah and the Sons of Rochel

"Vayivaser hu levado (and he alone remained to his mother)" (44:20).

Ya'akov spoke of Binyamin in similar terms, only he said "ve'Hu levado nish'ar". The difference between "Vayivaser" and "nish'ar" is that whereas the latter pertains to something that is important, the former refers to something that is not. Ya'akov of course, was particularly fond of the B'nei Rachel, whom he held in high esteem, so he used the word "nish'ar". Yehudah on the other hand, had it in for the b'nei Rachel, whose importance he downplayed, which explains why he used the word 'Vayivaser'.


A Subtle Rebuke

"And Yosef said to his brothers 'I am Yosef, is my father still alive?' But his brothers could not answer him, because they were confused before him" (45:3).

Now if the rebuke of a human being causes confusion, says the Gemara in Chagigah, how much more so the rebuke of Hakodosh Boruch Hu!

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld poses two questions on this Pasuk. Firstly, how do we understand Yosef's question "Is my father still alive?" Had he not just heard from Yehudah the words "When he sees that the 'lad' (Binyamin) is not there, he will die (aside from the numerous times that he had referred to Ya'akov in a way that indicated that he was still alive)? So what gave him the notion that he might not be?

Secondly, where in Yosef's words, is there a hint of the rebuke referred to by the Gemara in Chagigah?

And he answers both questions with one stroke. A glance at Yehudah's last speech will inform us that he added nothing to what he had already told Yosef, except for the statement to which we just referred ("and it will be when he sees that the lad is not there, he will die!"). Clearly then, the entire thrust of his argument was to allow Binyamin to return home to his father, and let him (Yehudah) take his place.

And it was in connection with this statement that Yosef said "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" If the brothers were so concerned about Ya'akov's health and wellbeing, then why did they not show the same concern when they sold him into slavery? A special bond existed between Ya'akov and Yosef (see Vayeishev 37:3), and the danger that his disappearance would cause Ya'akov's demise was no less acute then than it was now with that of Binyamin. Perhaps that explains Yosef's use of the word "ovi" (my father) rather than "ovinu" (our father).

And this lack of consideration towards their father at the time of the sale is the powerful rebuke to which the Gemara refers, a rebuke to which the brothers had no answer.


An alternative answer, Rebbi Yosef Chayim bases on the fact that Yehudah lied to him when he said "and his brother (Binyamn) is dead", which Yosef of course knew to be a fabrication, which the brothers said out of convenience. That explains why Yosef declared at one and the same time "I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?" 'You see', he meant to say, 'that I am alive and well, (and your statement, "his brother is dead", was one of convenience). Perhaps when you said that the absence of Binyamin will kill my father was a fabrication too. Perhaps you said that too out of convenience, in order to evoke my pity to let Binyamin go'.

The gist of Yosef's words therefore was that in the same way as he was alive even though Yehudah claimed that he was dead, maybe his father was dead even though Yehudah claimed that he was alive. They had lied on one issue because it suited them. Perhaps it suited them to lie on the other issue, too.


Retroactive Gratitude

"I am Yosef your brother, whom you sold to Egypt" (40:5).

The S'fas Emes points out how Chazal explain the Pasuk (in connection with the breaking of the Luchos) "Asher shibarto" (which you broke) to mean 'ye'asher kochacho she'shibarta' (that Hashem commended Moshe for having broken the Luchos, as the Gemara explains in Shabbos 87a). Likewise here, when Yosef said "Ani Yosef asher mechartem osi heinah", he meant to thank his brothers for selling him to Egypt, thereby enabling him to sustain the whole world, a merit he would have been unable to attain in Eretz Yisrael. And besides, due to his trials and tribulations, he reached his full potential in Egypt, and had plenty to be grateful to his brothers for - in retrospect, of course.


Ya'akov and his Household Effects

"And don't take pity on your household vessels, because the best of the land of Egypt is yours" (45:20).

Yosef knew, the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos explains, that Ya'akov was meticulously fussy about his household vessels, even to the point of risking his life for them (see Rashi Vayishlach 32:25, and commentaries). So he urged his brothers (he could hardly say this to his father) not to spend too much time gathering all his things (see Seforno), but to come quickly, since Egypt was a wealthy country, and everything their was at his disposal.


Abused Protectzia

"Al tirgezu ba'derech" (45:24).

Both Targum Unklus and Targum Yonoson translate this as 'Don't quarrel on the way', a warning not to discuss his sale and fight over who was to blame for it (see also Rashi).

The Ba'al ha'Turim however, translates it as 'Don't make people angry'. According to him, it is a warning not to use their relationship with the powerful viceroy of Egypt, to do things that would cause others to become angry, such as walking through people's private lands on their way down to Egypt.

Proteczia should be used to the full, but under no circumstances may it be abused.


The Nachas called Yosef

"And Yosef will place his hands on your eyes" (46:4).

Ya'akov realized that his going down to Egypt was the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophesy said to Avraham at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim "for your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs".

Now if Avraham, many years before the Galus actually began, was overcome by "a black immense dread" at the time, how much more so Ya'akov, who was now actually about to set the Galus in motion.

That is why G-d told him that Yosef would place his hand over his eyes, like a person who covers his friend's eyes so that he should not see something frightening in front of him.

Likewise, Yosef, who would provide him which so much wealth and joy - an abundance of Nachas, both spiritual and physical, thereby covering his eyes, and sweetening the bitterness of the Galus. Such a powerful prophesy did this turn out to be, that the seventeen years that Ya'akov spent in Egypt were among the best in his life (see Ba'al ha'Turim on the opening Pasuk in Vayechi).


Avoiding Suspicion

"And Yosef brought the money into Par'oh's palace" (47:14).

The manager of a business will sooner employ someone who has no relations in the city. In that way, he eliminates the possibility of the employee funneling money or goods from the business to his relatives.

Before Ya'akov and his family arrived in Egypt, says the Sha'ar bas Rabim, Yosef did not find it necessary to place the vast amounts of public money that fell under his jurisdiction, under lock and key. This only became necessary after their arrival, because he did not want to fall under suspicion of embezzling public funds for the benefit of his family.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 430:
To Bless Hashem After a Meal (cont. from Parshas Bereishis)

We mention the word 'Baruch' at the beginning and at the end of each B'rachah, so as not to be considered 'a slave who receives a portion from his master and then sneaks out without his consent'.

It emerges that 'Baruch' is a title, an acknowledgement on our part that G-d incorporates all forms of blessing. In that case, when we say 'Yisbarach' (which is the reflexive form of 'Baruch') as we often do in the course of our Tefilos, we are asking Him to see to it that everyone should indeed acknowledge the fact that He is Blessed, that all B'rachos emanate from Him, and that their very doing so will cause His blessings to descend upon the world which will be praised through Him. In this way, G-d's wish to do good (which is the essence of the creation) will come to fruition.

This explanation helps us to better understand Chazal, who say that 'G-d desires the Tefilos of Tzadikim'. What He really desires is that the Tzadikim should perform acts that bring merit and blessings upon themselves (and the rest of the world), because He wants to do Chesed (as that is the purpose of the creation [as Chazal have said 'Olom chesed yiboneh']). In fact, this is the essence of all the good that one performs in this world, which serves as a catalyst, bringing on a Divine response of the same kind.

The above explanation (that 'Baruch' is an acknowledgement ... ) together with the parable (to explain why it is necessary to mention 'Baruch' at the beginning and at the end of each B'rachah), the Chinuch believes, will clarify why Chazal fixed the B'rachos the way they did. Why is it that some B'rachos begin and end with 'Baruch', others end but do not begin with 'Baruch', while yet others begin with 'Baruch' but do not end with 'Baruch'? How is that?

Every B'rachah that contains a request to Hashem, or that refers to a miracle, which does not follow another B'rachah, such as 'Yotzer or' in Shachris and 'Ma'ariv aravim' in Ma'ariv, begins with 'Baruch' and ends with 'Baruch', for the reason that we mentioned. If on the other hand, it follows another B'rachah (such as that of 'Elokai, Neshomoh ...' in Shachris), having just acknowledged G-d's sovereignty in the first B'rachah, without the least interruption, it is pointless to repeat it, which is why the second B'rachah begins without 'Baruch'. It ends with 'Baruch' however, because, after the previous 'Baruch' one interrupted the sequence with the requests that one just recited.

Some B'rachos (such as Birchas Chasanim, Kidush and Havdalah) are 'S'muchos' (follow another B'rachah) yet, unlike other 'B'rachos ha'semuchos la'chavertan', they begin with 'Baruch'. Our Rebbes have already explained that this is because they are sometimes recited independently. Consequently, Chazal, who distance themselves from divisions of this nature (reciting a B'rachah, once like this and once like that [once with a 'Baruch' at the beginning, and once without it]), fixed that any B'rachah which does not necessarily follow another B'rachah, always begins with 'Baruch', even when it does.

It is well-known that any B'rachah that contains neither a request nor mention of a miracle that was performed with Yisrael (such as a B'rachah before eating or drinking, or one of the other 'Birchos he'Nehenin', and a B'rachah over a miracle performed with an individual), begins with 'Baruch', but does not end with 'Baruch'. This is because, since such a B'rachah never comprises a lengthy text, as soon as one has mentioned the Name of Hashem and Malchus, one arrives at the conclusion of the B'rachah, and it would be pointless to repeat 'Baruch' a second time, as we explained earlier.

On the other hand, B'rachos that come merely to praise Hashem (such as someone who saw the ocean or nice trees, or someone who hears thunder or who sees lightning), as described in Perek ha'Ro'eh in B'rachos, sometimes begin with 'Baruch' but do not end with 'Baruch', and sometimes vice-versa.

The reason for this, as we already explained, is because it will suffice for someone who is merely reciting the praises of Hashem to mention the Name of Hashem once (even if it is only at the end). On the other hand, if someone comes with a request or is about to derive pleasure from this world, it is befitting that he mentions Hashem's Name at the beginning of the B'rachah. And the same applies to Birchos ha'Mitzvos, which begin with 'Baruch Atah Hashem', on account of the great purpose ('to'eles') that they serve.

(to be continued)

* * *

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