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

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Vol. 14   No. 11

This issue is sponsored
by the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
Avraham Shalom ben Sh'neur Zalman z.l.
Meir David ben Sh'lomoh Eliezer z.l.
Rivkah bas Yonah z.l.

Parshas Vayigash

Yosef's Rebuke
(Part 1)

(Adapted from the Beis Halevi)

The first sixteen Pesukim of the Parshah speak of little else other than of Yehudah's worry what will happen to Ya'akov, should Binyamin not be returned to him safe and sound. What then, prompted Yosef, after revealing his identity to his brothers, to add "Is my father still alive"? If he hadn't been alive, then why on earth did Yehudah speak about him as if he was?

And what's more, says the Beis Halevi, the first thing Yosef did upon his brothers' return from Cana'an was to ask his brothers whether their aged father was in good health, which they answered in the affirmative. So seeing as they had not left his presence from that moment until now, what was the significance of his question? Even if something had happened to their father, there was no way that they could have known about it? So the question appears entirely redundant!


The Medrash comments on this Pasuk 'Woe to us on the day of judgement! Woe to us on the day of rebuke! If Yosef's brothers were unable to answer their young sibling, because they were confused at his rebuke, how much more so when Hashem Himself will come and rebuke everyone according to who he is, as the Pasuk says "I will rebuke you and lay it clearly before your eyes" (Tehilim 50:21) '.

Before setting out to answer the above questions, the Beis Halevi queries the above Medrash ... All the Pasuk is saying, he asks, or so it seems, is that, following their having sold Yosef to Egypt, and the series of recent events that had bewildered them and left them reeling (events which they themselves had unequivocally connected to the sale) the revelation of Yosef's identity so shook them that they were momentarily confused. What judgement and rebuke is the Medrash referring to?

As a matter of fact, he comments, the entire Medrash needs explaining. What has the episode with Yosef to do with the day of judgement and the day of rebuke? What does 'according to who he is' mean? And what is the proof from the Pasuk in Tehilim?


It therefore seems from the Medrash, the Beis Halevi concludes, that Yosef was not coming to appease his brothers, as appears at first glance. Proof of this lies in the following Pasuk, where after bidding them to come close, he announces "I am Yosef your brother ... !" Notice that here he refers to himself as 'brother' (with reference to his brotherly love). Clearly then, this is where he sets out to appease them. In that case, the earlier Pasuk, where no mention is made of brotherhood, is actually an extension of the rebuke that he has been issuing up until then. He is intensifying the fear that he has instilled into their hearts by informing them that the man who until now, made battle with them and who libeled them falsely, is none other than their brother, the brother whom they betrayed. He was in fact hinting that they had now fallen into his hands, that it lay within his power to do with them as he pleased, and that it would be only natural for him to avenge what they had done to him. This, as we know, was by no means what he intended to do, but he left them with the thought to ponder over. Indeed, so convincing was he, that not only were they confused at that moment, but even seventeen years later, following their father's death, they expressed their fears that Yosef had only refrained from taking revenge during that period out of respect for their father, whom he did not wish to cause anguish. Now that their father had died, they were afraid that perhaps he would take the opportunity of avenging the sale.


Likewise Yosef's question "Is my father still alive?" was intended not as a question, but rather as a stern rebuke, as we have already seen in the Medrash that we cited earlier. The Medrash interprets the 'Hey' in "ha'od ovi chai?', not just as a plain question, but with connotations of surprise, as we will explain next week.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Yehudah's Argument

"And Yehudah approached him (Yosef) and he said 'If you please, my master ... " (44:18).

What did Yehudah want of Yosef, asks the Alshich? Had he himself not suggested that they would all become his slaves? All Yosef had done was to reduce the sentence, freeing the other brother, and retaining only Binyamin. Was that now a reason to protest?

The answer is that indeed it was. At first, Yehudah thought that the time had come for the brothers to pay for the sin of selling Yosef into slavery. That is why he volunteered for the brothers, most of whom had participated in the sale, to become slaves to Yosef (measure for measure). But when Yosef countered that only Binyamin was to become his slave, and that the others were allowed to go home, he realized that this could not possibly be Divine justice at work, since Binyamin had not been present at the sale (and it is one thing for an individual to share in a communal punishment, but quite another, for him to be punished in lieu of the community). Hence his vehement objection.


Who Wants a Thief in the House?

"Let me say a few words in the ears of my master" (Ibid.)

'In our laws, it is stated that if a thief cannot pay, he is sold into servitude,' Yehudah told Yosef, 'and Binyamin is able to pay ... '.

The question arises however, what was the point of citing Torah law to Yosef, whom Yehudah believed to be an Egyptian? What made Yehudah think that Tzofnas Pa'nei'ach would pay attention to Jewish law?

We first need to understand the reason behind the Torah's ruling. Why would anyone want a thief in the house anyway?

It must be, the Ohel Ya'akov explains, because we assume that the thief stole because he was starving. All he really wanted was a piece of bread to still his hunger, which explains why it is only someone who has no money who is sold for his theft. Give him a stable home, and regular meals, and he will no longer steal. Indeed, the Pasuk in Mishlei specifically states (6:30) "Do not despise a thief, when he steals to satisfy his soul, because he is hungry". But if he has money, there is no reason to assume that he stole merely for a slice of bread, and the Torah does not prescribe selling him.

And that is what Yehudah told Yosef. 'Our law states ... '. But that is based on pure logic, since nobody in his right mind would risk having his possessions systematically pilfered by willingly taking a thief into his home. So why on earth would he (Yosef) want Binyamin, who 'stole' not for food, but for gain?


A Little Bit of Humility

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

What happened now that caused the bubble to burst, one may well ask? What did Yosef see now that he did not see before? The Sheim mi'Sh'muel explains that the entire strategy of Yosef until now had been aimed at one thing. The brothers had humiliated him, stripping him completely of every vestige of dignity that he owned. Consequently, he had tried to elicit from them a show of humility, not Chas ve'Shalom, as an act of revenge, only to bring them to Teshuvah for their terrible sin. He caused them pain and anguish, just as they had caused him, and he was waiting for a sign of humility on their part, which up to this point, had not been forthcoming. Now for the first time, he saw signs of it in Yehudah's words, where he continually referred to himself as 'your servant'. The moment he was satisfied that Yehudah (the brothers' spokesman as well as chief architect of the sale) had humiliated himself before him; he could no longer hold himself back.


The Language Difference

"Behold your eyes see ... that it is my mouth that is speaking with you" (45:12).

'In Lashon ha'Kodesh', comments Rashi.

The Ramban asks how it is that the brothers did not recognize Yosef by his voice, and he cites Chazal (Chulin 96), who consider recognition of voice valid, even to permit the most stringent of prohibitions.

The Ahavas Yonasan citing the Ramban, answers that recognition of voice is only effective as long as one hears it in the same language as one has always heard it. In this case, Yosef, who had an interpreter, spoke only Egyptian, a language (with its different nuances and connotations) his brothers had never heard him speak before. In such a case, one is far less likely to recognize the speaker's voice.

That is why Yosef now pointed out that he was speaking Lashon ha'Kodesh, in which case they would now be able to identify him through his voice.


Yosef Gave Binyamin Double

"To all of them he gave a new suit, but to Binyamin he gave three hundred silver pieces and five new suits" (45:22). The Gemara in Megilah (16a) asks how Yosef could err over the very same thing that caused his father such pain (by favouring one brother over and above the others)? For so Rava said: 'Due to the two Sela weight of wool that Ya'akov gave Yosef more than the other brothers, our ancestors had to go down to Egypt!'

And the Gemara replies that he (Yosef) was merely dropping him (Binyamin) a hint that a son would descend from him (Mordechai) who was destined to go out before the king wearing five royal robes, as the Pasuk states "And Mordechai went out from before the king wearing royal apparel coloured Techeiles and white, wearing a large golden crown, and a fine linen robe and purple" (Esther 8:15).

But how does this answer the question, asks the Gro. For all this does not alter the fact that Yosef gave Binyamin more than the other brothers, inviting the same calamity as resulted from his father's favouring him?

To answer the question, says the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, the G'ro poses another one. How does the Gemara know, he asks, that the value of each suit that he gave Binyamin was equal to that of the suits that he gave the brothers? Perhaps they were cheaper suits that, in total, equaled the value of the suit that he gave to each of them. If that were so, the Gemara's question would fall away.

What would be the point of Yosef doing such a thing, he explains? Why not give Binyamin the same value suit as he gave his brothers (instead of five cheaper ones).

And it is to answer this question that the Gemara cites the hint inherent in the five suits. Now we have good reason to explain why Yosef made a point of giving Binyamin five cheap suits, and the question which the Gemara initially asked has indeed fallen away.

The Torah Temimah supports the Gro's explanation by pointing out that the word "Chalifos" written in connection with Binyamin, is written without a 'Vav', whereas the same word written by the brothers contains a 'Vav'. The missing 'Vav' (denoting the singular) indicates that the five suits that Yosef gave Binyamin were equivalent in value, to one of the suits that he gave his brothers.


Facts and Figures

"And these are the names of B'nei Yisrael who came to Egypt, Ya'akov and his children ... " (46:8).

The Torah lists here the seventy members of Ya'akov's family who went down to Egypt, including three women (Dinah, Serach and Yocheved). Correspondingly, in Parshas Pinchas, the Torah lists the seventy families of Yisrael, only there the sons of Ya'akov are omitted. To make up the deficiency, the Torah there adds the twelve families of Yosef's sons (Menasheh - 8, Efrayim - 4).

The Pasuk there is still five short, seeing as it mentions neither Efrayim and Menasheh (themselves), nor the three women that are all mentioned here. It makes up for it however, by mentioning eight families of Levi, whilst here it lists only his three sons.

In Parshas Pinchas however, the Torah lists only sixty-five families. This is due to the fact that five families became extinct (Ohad from Shimon, Geira, Becher and Rosh from Binyamin, and Yishvah from Asher), in fulfillment of the Pasuk at the end of va'Eschanan "Because you are the smallest ('ha'me'at' = 'Hey' me'at [five fewer] than all the [seventy] nations - the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, citing the Disciples of the G'ro).


More Facts and Figures

"These are the sons of Zilpah ... sixteen souls" (46:18).

"And these are the sons of Bilhah ... seven souls" (46:25).

Interestingly, each of the two maidservants bore half the number of sons that her former mistress bore (Le'ah - thirty-two, Rachel - fourteen).

Other points of interest are a. that the seventy souls that went down to Egypt correspond to the seventy 'faces' via which Torah can be expounded, and b. the total of forty-nine of the children of Leah (33, including her daughter Serach) and her maidservant Zilpah (16), correspond to the forty-nine 'faces' of Taharah, and forty-nine 'faces' of Tum'ah via which the Torah can be expounded (Ibid.)

* * *


'And Yehudah approached him (Yosef) and he said ... Because from the moment we came to you, you told us that you feared G-d, but now your judgements resemble those of Par'oh' (44:18).


'And he leaned on the neck of Binyamin his brother and he wept, because the Beis-Hamikdash that would be built in the portion of land belonging to Binyamin was destined to be destroyed twice ... ' (45:14).


'And he kissed all his brothers and he wept for them. Because he saw that they were destined to go into exile among the nations ... ' (45:15).


' And Yisrael said, 'Hashem has done me many favours; He saved me from the hands of Eisav and of Lavan, as well as from the hands of the Cana'anim who chased after me (following the episode with Sh'chem), and much comfort did I see and hope to see. But that my son Yosef should be alive, that I did not expect. Let me go and see him before I die' (45:28).


'And He said "I am the G-d of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, on account of the slavery that I fixed with Avraham, because I shall turn you into a great nation there.' (46:3).


'And the sons of Shimon were ... and Shaul, alias Zimri who would later (in Shitim) perform the deeds of the Cana'anim' (46:10).


'And the sons of Yisachar were Chachamim who were adept at working out the calendar, and their names were ' (46:13).


'And the sons of Zevulun were merchants, owners of merchandise, who sustained their brothers the sons of Yisachar, and who received equal reward to them; and their names were Sered, Eilon and Yachle'el' (46:14).


'And the sons of Asher were Yimnah ... and Serach their sister, who was taken to Gan Eden still in her lifetime, for passing on the news to Ya'akov that Yosef was still alive. She was the one who saved the inhabitants of Aveil from death in the days of Yo'av (David ha'Melech's general) ... ' (46:17).

* * *

(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 65:
Not to Torment an Orphan or a Widow

It is forbidden to come down hard with either actions or even words, against either orphans or widows, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (22:21). Rather, all one's communication with them should be conducted gently, with compassion and with pity. One of the reasons for this Mitzvah is ... as the author wrote earlier in Mitzvah 63 (with regard to not taunting a Ger), where he explained that a Ger is vulnerable, since he has no-one to take his part. Likewise here, if the husband of the widow and the father of the orphan were alive, they would doubtlessly assist them to obtain their rights. That is why the Torah commands us to acquire the Midah of Chesed and mercy, to be straight in all our actions as if we were faced by a claimant countering all our claims, and to have pity and compassion on them, to seek their merits in all issues even more than we would if their father or husband was alive.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Even the widow and orphans of a king are included in this Halachah. They too, despite their wealth, must be spoken to softly, and treated with respect. One is not permitted to wear them down with hard work, nor may one shame them verbally. And one should also treat their money with more care than one treats one's own. Hence the Chazal (in Shavu'os 45a) rules that one may only claim money from orphans after having taken an oath, even if he is holding a verified document (which would not otherwise be required). Furthermore, they say (in Bava Basra, 23a), that should an orphan appear in court for litigation (regarding matters that pertained to their father), Beis-Din are obligated to present on their behalf, any argument that their father might have presented had he been alive ... In the event that the orphans have money, Beis-Din will look for a man of means (who owns safe property), who is reliable, a man of peace and one who is righteous, and hand him their money, with instructions to invest it in a profitable business which stands to gain on the one hand, and is unlikely to lose on the other (something which is generally forbidden, since a deal of this nature entails Ribis (interest) de'Rabbanan ... And in addition, in the event that their father did not appoint a guardian, Beis-Din will appoint one, with instructions to keep an eye on the property that their father left them ... Furthermore, The Gemara says in Gittin (52a) that with regard to any business-deal that one enters into with an orphan, the latter should be given the upper-hand (as is the Din regarding Hekdesh). For example, if someone who is purchasing fruit from orphans made a Meshichah (an act of acquiring) but has not yet paid for it, the orphans are permitted to retract (even though, generally speaking, Meshichah acquires fully and does not require the money to be paid for the Kinyan to be completed) ... Chazal have nevertheless said that one is permitted to torment them a little for their own good, such as, for example, a 'Rav' who is teaching his orphaned disciple either Torah or a trade. Yet even there, one should make a point of being more lenient with them than with one's regular disciples ... They have also said that a covenant is made with orphans that whenever they cry out in pain they are answered, as the Pasuk writes here "I will listen to his cry" ... The title 'orphan' remains until the child grows up and is able to fend for himself without the help of others, just like anybody else ... and all other details, are to be found scattered around Shas and in Medrashim (see Rambam Hilchos Dei'os Perek 6).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times. Anyone who contravenes it by either making an orphan angry or inciting him, by dealing with him with a heavy hand or by causing him a loss of money, has transgressed a Lo Sa'aseh. It is not subject to Malkos however, since the term 'tormenting' is not clearly definable, seeing the wicked tormenter can always claim that he acted Halachically correctly or even for the benefit of the orphan, even when he did not.

However, G-d who examines the hearts, knows the truth, and so his punishment is written explicitly in the Torah " ... and I will kill you by the sword", turning the tormentor's wife into a widow and his children into orphans, measure for measure. And they too, will not find anyone who will have compassion on them. Because as the Mishnah says in Sotah (1:7) 'Just as a person treats his fellow-Jew, that is how Hashem will treat him'. And if the tormenter is a woman, Hashem will see to it that she dies, and her husband will marry a woman who will torment her children. And our sages Darshened from the continuation of the Pasuk " ... because if he will cry out to Me", 'A son complains to his father, a woman to her husband, whereas a widow and orphan complain to Me' - "and I will listen for I am gracious". The Ramban lists the warning concerning an orphan and the warning concerning a widow as two independent La'avin, for the reason that we wrote earlier.

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