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

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Vol. 17   No. 11

This issue is sponsored
by the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
Avraham Shalom ben Shneur Zalman z"l
Meir Dovid ben Shlomo Eliezer z"l
Rivkah bas Yona z"l

Parshas Vayigash

A Matter of Language

"Behold your eyes see that my mouth is speaking to you!" (45:12). In Lashon ha'Kodesh, comments Rabeinu Bachye. He presents it as if he is quoting a source, though he does not say what that source is. Targum Yonasan however, specifically explains the Pasuk this way, and Targum Unklus hints at it too.

The author then cites the Ramban, who queries this explanation. Why should the fact that an Egyptian who spoke Lashon ha'Kodesh prove that he must have been Yosef, he asks? Why could any Egyptian not speak Lashon ha'Kodesh? And all the more so if that man happened to be a viceroy? Surely it would have been normal, he asks, for a king or a national leader to be conversant with a number of languages?


The Ramban therefore maintains that the proof that he must have been Yosef lies not in this Pasuk, but in an earlier one, where Yosef mentioned the brothers having sold him. Now that was a closely-guarded secret between Yosef and the brothers, a secret that they had all sworn not to divulge to anyone. Consequently, says the Ramban, the brothers immediately knew that the man standing before them could only have been Yosef.

And what the current Pasuk therefore means is that both the brothers and Binyamin could now see with their own eyes how he, their brother, enjoyed supreme power in Egypt, and that he was now commanding them to fetch their father and to bring him down to Egypt, so that he personally, would be able to sustain him.


However, the well-known Medrash concerning Yosef's first encounter with Par'oh conforms to Targum Yonasan's explanation here. The Medrash relates how, after ascending the seventy steps leading to the royal throne, one step for each language that he spoke, Yosef found himself standing face to face with the king, at which point he began to speak Lashon ha'Kodesh, a language that Par'oh did not understand. And that was when Par'oh made Yosef swear that he would never divulge the fact that he (Yosef) spoke a language with which he was not conversant. This Medrash suggests that Lashon ha'Kodesh was the personal language of Ya'akov and his family, and was not spoken by anybody else. In that case, the Ramban's objection automatically falls away, supporting the explanation of Targum Yonasan and Targum Unklus.


Another Medrash explains the Pasuk "that my mouth is speaking to you" using the colloquial 'k'fi kein libi' ('like my mouth so is my heart' [see R. Bachye as to how Chazal arrive at this explanation]).

What the Medrash means is that he was speaking with utter sincerity (not talking peace with his mouth, whilst harbouring thoughts of revenge in his heart). He was in fact, assuring them that, in spite of what they had done to him, he would treat them as brothers, because he had completely forgiven them.


The Ba'al ha'Turim presents a rather novel explanation. Typically, he points out that the Gematriyah of "ki pi ha'medaber aleichem" is equivalent to that of 'be'eglah arufah'. The Parshah of Eglah Arufah was the Parshah that his father, Ya'akov, was discussing with him when he sent him on that fateful mission to find out how his brothers were faring (see Rashi later in the Parshah 45:27). Presumably, Yosef was telling his brothers to go and find out from their father what the last topic that he and Yosef had discussed before they sold him, and then to draw their own conclusions.


Finally, there is the explanation of the Chizkuni, who explains that all along Yosef had been talking to them by means of an interpreter, as if he was not conversant with their language. And all of a sudden here he was talking to them directly, minus interpreter, in their own language. How could one possibly justify such a strange 'spiel'? Why on earth had he made such an effort to conceal his knowledge of Lashon ha'Kodesh, unless of course, he was Yosef playing a role? And now that that role had been played out, he was free to take off the mask and be himself once again - a proof that he was indeed Yosef.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Ya'akov's Wife

"And your servant my father said 'You know that my wife bore me two sons" (44:27).

Ya'akov ought to have referred to her as 'Rachel', claims R. Bachye (citing the Ramban) - after all, he did have four wives, and not just one!

The truth of the matter is however, that Ya'akov married only one woman willingly, and that was Rachel. The other three were forced upon him for varied motives. Consequently, he considered her alone to be his real wife. That is why he bore a special love for the two children that Rachel bore him, as if all his other children were the sons of concubines, That explains why the Torah always places Rachel before Le'ah (despite the fact that Le'ah was not only older than Rachel - according to the opinion of the author in Vayeitzei), but was also the woman that he married first. We find this for example, in Parshas Vayeitzei, where the Torah relates how Ya'akov summoned Rachel and Le'ah to the field, and we find it even more significantly in Seifer Rus, where all the people who had gathered 'at the gate' bestowed their blessings upon Boaz and Rus that G-d should bless their house like that of 'Rachel and Le'ah, who built up the house of Yisrael'. And that is particularly significant, inasmuch as the people who announced it were from the tribe of Yehudah, and what's more, they were blessing Bo'az, who was from the tribe of Yehudah, and Yehudah was the son of Le'ah (as Rashi points out). Yet they gave Rachel precedence, because even they acknowledged that she was the Akeres ha'Bayis (Ya'akov's main wife). Granted, the Pasuk here was also said by Yehudah, but he was merely quoting his father, unlike the Pasuk in Rus, where the people were making the statement on their own volition.

Finally, R. Bachye cites from later in this very Parshah, where the Pasuk refers to "the sons of Rachel Ya'akov's wife," a title that it does not use when listing Le'ah's children.


Under Pressure

"And Yosef was not able to hold himself back in front of all those who were standing in front of him" (45:1).

It seems, says R. Bachye, that Yehudah's entreaties had affected the Egyptian courtiers who were present, and that they had begun to beseech him to let Binyamin go. Consequently, the combined pressure was too much for him to bear, and that is why he relented. It would be interesting to know what he planned to do, had this pressure not interfered with his plans.


Yosef's Superlative Midos

"And he said 'Remove everybody from my presence!' " (Ibid.)

The Medrash explains that Yosef was in a terrible quandary at that moment; because once he was left alone with his brothers, he would be at their mercy, and had they decided to attack him (which, according to the Medrash they were threatening to do), he would have been in mortal danger, and there would have been nobody to save him from their hands. He nevertheless decided to take the risk rather than let the Egyptians hear him say to his brothers " whom you sold to Egypt", thereby shaming them publicly, as Rashi explains.


Lost for Words

"And his brothers were unable to answer him, because they were confused " (45:1).

Not surprising, comments R. Bachye; They had sold him as a slave and now he was a king!

Moreover, they were afraid that he might now use his powerful position to pay them back for what they had done to him.


Here is how the Medrash describes the scene of Yosef's revelation - Yosef said to them 'Did you not say that the brother of this one (Binyamin) is dead? I will call him and he will come to me!'

So he called out 'Yosef ben Ya'akov, come here!'

The brothers turned in all four directions, but nobody came.

'What are you looking for', Yosef said, 'I am your brother Yosef!' But the brothers could not answer him, because they were confused.


And the Medrash, citing R. Yochanan, concludes - 'Woe to us on the Day of Judgement! Woe to us on the day of Tochachah (rebuke)'. If already Yosef's brothers could not answer him when all he said was 'I am Yosef!', what will we say when in time to come, G-d calls us to judgement? What will we answer Him?


Ya'akov Never Found Out

"And they told him all the words of Yosef " (46:27).

Citing the Ramban, R. Bachye explains that they told him what Yosef had said about his position in Egypt, and that G-d had deliberately sent him to sustain them during these troubled times. The did certainly not repeat to him Yosef's words "whom you sold to Egypt". This, he says, was something that Ya'akov never discovered. He believed that Yosef got lost in the fields and that someone had seized him and taken him down to Egypt and sold him there.

The brothers would never have informed their father what happened; firstly because they would simply not have divulged their sin, and secondly for fear that he would curse them, just like he cursed Re'uven and Shimon and Levi.


And proof of this lies in the fact that, after Ya'akov's death, they approached Yosef with the information that Ya'akov had issued a request that Yosef forgive them for what they had done to him. Now if Ya'akov had known about the sale, why did they not rather ask Ya'akov directly to instruct Yosef to forgive them, without having to lie about it?


It seems to me however, that this very same Pasuk may well prove the opposite: Because if Ya'akov did not know about the sale, then what made them think that Yosef would believe them when they quoted their in saying something about a matter which he knew nothing about?


Settling Down

"And Yisrael dwelt (Vayeishev) in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen" (47:27).

The city of Goshen, R. Bachye explains, was near that of Mitzrayim. The reason that Ya'akov chose to live there was because all his sons were good-looking and had an aura of importance about them, and he was afraid that if they lived in the capitol, they would immediately be picked out to work in some important communal capacity.


R. Bachye also comments on the expression "*Vayeishev* Yisrael (with reference to Ya'akov himself), as opposed to "*Logur* bo'oretz bo'nu" (in Pasuk 4 [an expression of sojourning said by his sons to Par'oh). He explains that whereas Ya'akov realized that the Galus had begun and that they not Egypt in the near future, his sons thought that they would return immediately after the famine ended, and so they informed Par'oh that they had come to sojourn.


This explanation however, does not conform with the Ba'al Hagadah, who attributes the expression "Logur bo'oretz bo'nu" to Ya'akov Ovinu himself. See next week's main article.

* * *


'Behold your eyes see that my mouth is speaking to you in Lashon ha'Kodesh' (45:12).



"I will go down with you to Egypt and I will also bring you up (a'alcho gam oloh)" (46:4).

The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that the word "oloh" is spelt with a 'hey' - a hint that after five generations, G-d would redeem them - Ya'akov, Levi, K'hos, Amram and Moshe,


"And Yosef will place his hand on your eyes" (Ibid.)

This means, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that when he would die, Yosef would be there to close his eyes. This is, in effect, a promise that Yosef would not die during his lifetime.


"And the sons of Binyamin were Echi and Rosh (vo'Rosh) " (46:21).

The word "va'Rosh" also appears on Eichah "Remember my afflictions and my sorrow, the wormwood and the bitterness (vo'Rosh)".

This conforms with the Medrash that Binyamin named all his sons after the troubles that his brother Yosef suffered (see Rashi in Mikeitz 43:30). And this explains the name 'Rosh' - that he remembered 'his afflictions and his sorrow, the wormwood and the bitterness' at the loss of his brother.


"And he took some of his brothers (u'miktzeh echav lokach), five men, and he stood them before Par'oh" (47:2).

The Gematriyah of "u'miktzeh echav lokach", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'zeh ha'chaloshim' - 'This refers to the weak ones' (see Rashi)


" In the best part of the land (be'meitav ho'oretz) settle your brothers" (47:6).

and the Gematriyah of "be'meitav ho'oretz" is the same as that of "Goshen".


"Here are (Hey) seeds for you" (47:23).

There are two other Pesukim in T'nach which contain the word "Hey", the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, each of which hints at the number five. This Pasuk, on account of the one fifth (one in five) that they were obligated to give Par'oh, as the following Pasuk teaches us - one in Yechezkel " Hey dar'k'cho be'rosh nosati", and the Pasuk there continues "Do not take pity on old men, youths, maidens, babies and women"; the other in Daniel "Hey k'dei parz'la, dahava, kaspa chaspa nachsha" (iron, gold, silver, clay and copper).

* * *

(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 431:
To Love Geirim

We are commanded to love Geirim (converts), meaning, to take care not to upset them in any way, but to do with them good and to perform with them kindness to the best of one's ability. The definition of a Ger is anybody who attaches himself to us from other nations, who has forsaken his own religion and adopted ours. About them the Torah writes in Eikev (10:19) "And you shall love the Ger, because you (yourselves) were Geirim ". Despite the fact that he is included in the Torah's command in Kedoshim (19:18) regarding all of Yisrael "And you shall love your friend (re'acho) like yourself", seeing as a Ger is included in the term "re'acho", the Torah added an independent Mitzvah to love specifically him. In the same vein, we have been issued a special Mitzvah to refrain from taunting a Ger - although the Torah in B'har (25:17) has already prohibited us from cheating one another, it adds an additional La'av in Mishpatim (22:20) "Do not taunt or oppress a Ger" and the Gemara states in Bava Metzi'a (59b) that someone who taunts a Ger has transgressed both of these La'avin. Moreover, he has annulled the two Mitzvos that we discussed earlier ('loving one's friend like oneself' and 'loving a Ger').

A reason for the Mitzvah G-d chose Yisrael to be for Him a holy nation and He wanted to give them merit. To that end, He guided them and commanded them to conduct themselves with graciousness and mercy, commanding them to crown themselves with desirable and precious character-traits, so as to find favour in the eyes of all who see them, causing them to declare "They are G-d's nation!" (Yechezkel 36:20). And how beautiful and precious it is to deal kindly and to do good to a person who has forsaken his own people and intimate family circle and who, due to his love for another nation, has come to take shelter under its wing, because he has chosen the truth and has rejected falsehood. And when we merit these good qualities, G-d's goodness will attach itself to us and cleave to us. Nothing will be able to hold it back from us, since goodness spreads on the good; and the opposite is true with regard to the wicked.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (55b) forbids saying to a Ger 'Remember what you used to do '. Whereas in Sanhedrin (74a) the Gemara says that up to ten generations, one should not speak derogatively about a gentile in his presence. All of this is in order to avoid hurting his feelings in any way. And we see how far the Mitzvah of loving a Ger goes by the fact that, based on the fact that the Torah writes by the latter "va'ahavtem es ha'Ger", and by the former "ve'ohavto es Hashem," Chazal compare the love of a Ger to the love of Hashem, as the author already pointed out in Parshas Mishpatim in the Mitzvah of not hurting a Ger, even just with words and other details are to be found in D'rashos dotted around Shas and in the Rambam (Hilchos Dei'os chapter 6).


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