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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 13   No. 11

This issue is sponsored
by the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
Avraham Shlomoh ben Shneur Zalman z.l.
Meir David ben Eliezer z.l.
& Rifkah bas Yonah z.l.

Parshas Vayigash

Is My Father Still Alive?
Adapted from the K'li Yakar

It was abundantly clear from Yehudah's words that Ya'akov was alive, so what was the point of Yosef's opening words "I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?", asks the K'li Yakar? Why would he think that he was not? ( Refer to Parshah Pearls 'A Genuine Rebuke').

And he explains that Yosef suspected that Yehudah only mentioned Ya'akov in order to evoke his compassion for the old man (who was really no longer alive), to get him to negate his orders to bring Binyamin down to Egypt. That is why he asked them whether his father was really alive.

But the brothers misread his motives. Having really meant what they said when they spoke of Ya'akov their father being alive, they wondered what motivated his question, and they came to the conclusion that it was really not a question at all, but a rebuke. It was his way of informing them that Ya'akov was his father, and not theirs, since they had treated him like a stranger, without the least sensitivity towards his feelings. And that is why they were confused, and could not answer him.


Another reason for the brother's confusion was Yosef's omission of the word 'brother', in his initial statement. Perhaps, they thought, he had severed his brotherly connections with them, just as they had done with him before selling him to Egypt, like Rashi explains with regard to the Pasuk "They have traveled from here" (37:17).

That is why Yosef repeated his statement; only this time he said "I am Yosef your brother", adding "whom you sold here to Egypt". And he added these last words as a rebuke for having sold him to Egypt of all places. Having decided to sell him, they should at least have sent him to a society that was less steeped in immorality, one which would not have threatened his spiritual existence.

Yet, he assured them, in spite of what they did, he was still their brother, and that they should not fret over what they had done, because G-d had engineered his sale to Egypt, in order to pave the way for their Galus that was about to begin. In fact, not only did selling him to Egypt not turn out to be detrimental, it was actually the main factor that earned him his influential position, which in turn, worked in their favour at this point. How is that?

The Pasuk in Vayechi (49:24) clearly indicates that it was due to Yosef's self-control when confronted with the charms of his mistress, that he later merited to sustain his entire family. And the Gemara in Sotah (4b) supports this when it states that 'Whoever has relations with a married woman, will seek a loaf of bread and not find it', implying that morality and sustenance go hand in hand.

Had Yosef lived in any other society, it may well have been somebody else who would have been chosen to sustain the nation in the time of famine, and it was only because he was in Egypt, he intimated, that he was the only man deemed fit to play that role, by virtue of the default of all the other candidates, as we just explained. Such are the wondrous ways of G-d that the sale of Yosef specifically to Egypt was instrumental in his appointment to the position of viceroy of Egypt, and the subsequent sustaining of his family there.


The Medrash, commenting on the brothers' reaction to Yosef's 'rebuke', states 'Woe to us from the Day of Judgement ... '. Because if already Yosef's brothers were confused and were unable to stand up to Yosef's rebuke, how much more so will we be unable to stand up to G-d's words of rebuke, when at the end of time, He takes us to task, and announces 'I am G-d'. For so R. Elazar ben Azaryah, commenting on the brothers' confusion, exclaimed 'Woe to us on the Day of Judgement, woe to us on the Day of Rebuke!', as the Pasuk writes in Yeshayah "And what will you do on the day of retribution?'

It is not at first clear how "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" implies rebuke. However, according to what we just explained, it is not from what Yosef actually said that Chazal learn it, but from the brothers' understanding of what he said; from the fact that the Torah records their confusion, an indication of what they thought he meant, irrespective of what he really had in mind.


The Chafetz Chayim explains the corollary between Yosef's revelation and that of G-d in time to come, in a slightly different vein. From the moment the brothers arrived in Egypt to buy corn, and Yosef spoke with them harshly and accused them of being spies, he explains, they were bewildered, and they asked each other what was happening to them. In their search to interpret the strange events, they even began to blame each other for the sale of Yosef. Then, when they arrived in Egypt the second time, despite an initial warm reception, they found themselves accused of being thieves. Once again they had good reason to wonder what was happening to them, and they asked each other "What is this that G-d is doing to us?" Until they heard from their brother's mouth "I am Yosef!" Suddenly in a flash, everything that had transpired since they first arrived in Egypt fell neatly into place.

And so it will be, says the Chafetz Chayim, when G-d ultimately reveals Himself to us. All our lives, we attribute things that happen in the world to all sorts of natural causes, with the result that we go through life with many questions, as to why this happened this way and that happened that way. Some things seem so unfair, others seem just not right. However when G-d will ultimately reveal Himself to us, and says "I am Hashem", we will suddenly realize that there is no such thing as natural occurrences, and that He was the guiding force behind everything that took place. In a flash, it will dawn on us that everything was fair and everything was right. In fact, it will be clear as daylight that it was all done for our own good.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the P'ninei Torah

The Last Person You Would Want in Your House

"And Yehudah moved closer to him and said 'Please my master ... ' " (44:18).

The Medrash comments on this that Yehudah told Yosef that according to Jewish law, a thief is only sold as a servant if he cannot pay. Binyamin could!

The question arises as to what made Yehudah think that Yosef would be interested in Jewish law? After all, this was Egypt and not Eretz Cana'an?

The Dubner Magid answers this question with another question. Why on earth he asks, does the Torah order a thief to be sold? Who will want to buy a thief anyway?

The answer to that lies in the stipulation that he is only sold if he cannot pay, since we then assume that the thief stole because he did not have sufficient means to live. So we sell him to a family which provides him with his needs, on the assumption that when his financial problems are solved, he will no longer need to steal.

Whereas a thief who has the means and nevertheless turns to theft, steals because he has a tendency to steal, and therefore selling him will not change him.

Yehudah was not preaching Yosef religion, he was preaching common sense. If, as Yosef claimed, Binyamin, who came from a wealthy home, and who was himself not short of money, was a thief, then why on earth was he insisting on taking him as a slave, when surely, a thief was the last person he would want in his palace!


A Genuine Rebuke

"I am Yosef. Is my father still alive? But his brothers could not answer him, because they were confused" (45:3).

The Gemara in Chagigah (4b) comments on this Pasuk that if the brothers were unable to stand up to the rebuke of a human being, how much more so will we not be able stand up to the rebuke of Hashem, in time to come!

Which rebuke is the Gemara referring to, asks the Torah Temimah? Yosef made a declaration followed by a question. He does not appear to have rebuked them at all?

The answer, he explains, lies in the interpretation of the question. Yosef was not just asking them innocently about his father. They had mentioned their father a number of times, so Yosef knew full well that he was still alive. He was merely expressing his amazement at the fact that, after all the brothers did to him, his father was still alive. And that was a serious rebuke indeed.

See also main article.


All for the Good

"And now, don't be upset and don't be angry that you sold me, because (it is) G-d (who) sent me here as a source of sustenance" (45:5).

Yosef said two things, the Or ha'Chayim observes; "Don't be upset" and "Don't be angry". "Don't be upset" for having sold me and "Don't be angry" that all your efforts to stop my dreams from materializing proved in vain, because as he went on to point out, it was not they who sent him down to Egypt, but G-d, who did so in order to pave the way for their arrival. And imagine how different their descent to Egypt would have been had Yosef not preceded them!


Galus and the Shechinah

"I will go down with you to Egypt and I will go up with you" (46:4).

"In all their troubles", the Navi said, "I am troubled" (Yeshayah 63:9). David Hamelech too said in Tehilim (91:15) "I am with them in their trouble". Chazal learn from there that when Yisrael are in Galus, G-d is there. He suffers together with His people Yisrael.

That is why He told Ya'akov here "I will go down with you into Galus," adding "and I will go up with you too". Because when Yisrael go out of Galus, G-d rejoices together with them too.


Limited Vision

"And Yosef will place his hand over your eyes" (46:4).

One of the answers to the well-known question concerning a Tzadik who has it bad, and a Rasha who has it good is that the very terms 'bad' and 'good' are not clearly demarcated. For man sees only things as they are in the present, but not what will happen later. Things that appear bad now so often turn out later to be good, and vice-versa.

A case in point is the sale of Yosef, which appeared at the time to be a major catastrophe. Why, even Ya'akov saw it as such, to the point that he could not be comforted. But look how it ended. This catastrophe turned out to be a blessing in disguise, bringing Ya'akov some of the happiest years of his life, and salvation to all the family, as Yosef himself said to his brothers "G-d thought it for the good". That is why G-d said to Ya'akov "And Yosef will place his hand over your eyes", he will show you that man is extremely short-sighted, and that not everything is as the eyes perceive it.


Shepherds ... Phooey!

"And Paroh said to Yosef ... 'Your father and brothers have come to you" (47:5).

Before Yosef informed Paroh that his family were shepherds, he had instructed Yosef to tell them to "load your cattle and come to me to Egypt", ostensibly inviting them as his personal guests. But now that he knew that they were shepherds, and shepherds, as Chazal teach us, were frowned upon in Egypt, he changed his tune, says R. Shlomoh Kluger. He now made it clear that they were Yosef's guests, and that he wanted nothing to do with them.


Suffering with the Community

"And Yosef sustained his father and his brothers, bread according to the size of the family ...and there was no bread in the entire land, because the famine was severe" (47:12/13).

Yosef could have provided his family with 'meat, fish and the finest of foods', the Seforno comments (and what's more, what he did give them, he could have given generously). But he declined to do that, because "there was no bread in the entire land ... ". When the people have nothing to eat, then even the king and princes are obligated to suffer with them. They are not allowed to say 'I will eat and drink, and everything will be fine'.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 48:
Not To Strike One's Parents

It is forbidden for a son (or a daughter) to strike his father or mother, even if they are beating him severely, provided their actions are not life-threatening, as the Pasuk writes in Mishpatim (21:15) "And someone who strikes his father or mother shall surely die". The Torah has not in fact, issued a specific warning not to do this, and it is the way of the Gemara to ask in such a case 'We have the punishment, but where is the warning?' We rely however, on the Pasuk in ki Seitzei (in connection with someone who is receiving Malkos) "Do not add". And if one is forbidden to add strokes to someone who is already Chayav Malkos, how much more so may one not strike an innocent person. This Pasuk, which therefore serves as a warning not to strike a fellow-Jew, incorporates striking one's parents, who are also fellow-Jews. And even though the La'av of "Lo Yosif" appears to be an independent one, we nevertheless have a rule that every Chiyuv Kareis or Miysah (with the exception of Korban Pesach and Milah) also have an independent La'av. Consequently, since striking one's parents is punishable by Kareis when there are no witnesses, and death when there are, seeing as we have no other Pasuk for it, the La'av must be "pen yosif". The death penalty is only given if the son actually draws blood, as the Gemara states in Sanhedrin (85b), which is not the case by someone who strikes a fellow-Jew, who has to pay for the damage whether he draws blood or not.

A reason for the Mitzvah is to chastise despicable people who would dare to raise a hand against those who brought them into the world by the will of G-d and who performed with them so many kind deeds. And "a king maintains the land through justice" (Mishlei 29:4).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Someone who strikes his parents after their death is Patur ... Should his stroke render them deaf, he is Chayav Miysah, since a little blood inevitably flowed inside the ear ... A son who creates a wound on his father or mother in the form of a cure is Patur, but it is preferable for such a cure to be performed by somebody else ... A 'shesuki' (a person whose father is unknown) who strikes his mother or father is Chayav (I am unclear as to what the Seifer ha'Chinuch means). A convert on the other hand, who was conceived as a gentile, is not Chayav for striking his parents, though the sages forbid him to do so ... Someone whose father is a total Rasha, is not Chayav for striking him until he mends his ways, though he too is not permitted to do so anyway ... Under no circumstances, is a son permitted to be the Sheli'ach Beis-Din to deliver corporal or capital punishment to his parents, unless his father is a Meisis (who causes others to indulge in idolatry) ... together with the remaining details, are all discussed at the end of Sanhedrin. This Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and women, and to a Tumtum and an Androginus. Someone who contravenes it and strikes his parents, creating a wound, in front of witnesses and after being warned, is sentenced to death by strangulation. If he does not wound them, he is punishable like he would be if he struck anybody else (to pay if the stroke is valued at a Perutah or more, and Malkos, if it is not, for we have a principle that someone who is obligated to pay, cannot receive corporal or capital punishment (Kesubos 36b).


Mitzvah 51:
To Judge the Din of Damages Performed by Animals

It is a Mitzvah for the Beis-Din to judge the Din of animals that damage, whether they damage a person (as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (21:28) "And if an ox gores a man ... ", or they damage his property, as the Torah writes there (21:35) 'And if a man's ox pushes the ox of his fellow-Jew ... " (irrespective of whether it pushes with its body or with its feet, whether it bites with its teeth or gores with its horns, all of which are included in the term 'pushing'. 'Goring' on the other hand, implies with its horns. Nevertheless, the Torah obligates the owner of an ox that pushed or bit etc., a man, to pay, from the word "And he dies" (which the Pasuk adds to the earlier Pasuk that we cited) which comes to include all forms of damage. Nor is the Din confined to an ox, but it extends to all animals, beasts and birds that damage. Only the Pasuk picks on the ox because it is the domesticated animal that most commonly causes damage.

The author has already explained the reason for the Mitzvah to judge (see Mitzvah 49 'The Mitzvah to Judge the Laws of Fines'), and it is not necessary to repeat it each time.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah, such as what constitutes a 'Tam' (who pays only half of the damages) and a Mu'ad (who pays in full), and the differences between them an animal that is a Mu'ad at the outset and one that only becomes a Mu'ad only after it has damaged three times ... In which cases we establish the animal as a permanent Mu'ad, and in which cases we allow it to revert to its former status as a Tam ... The five species of wild animals that are always Mu'ad ... The different domains in which the animals damage ... What are called 'Avos' and what are called 'Toldos' in this rergard and the single difference between them ... The obligation of guarding an animal to prevent it from damaging, and when a Shomer is Chayav or Patur, together with the numerous other Dinim pertaining to them, are discussed in the first six chapters of Bava Kama (Choshen Mishpat, Si'man 391).

These Dinim fall under the laws of Kenosos (fines), and as we have already explained, they can only be judged by a Beis-Din of Semuchim (which does not exist nowadays) and in Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, the owner is morally obligated to pay. And in any event, should the claimant seize payment from the animal's owner, we do not confiscate the money from him.

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel