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

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Vol. 18   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

Accompanied by the Shechinah
(Part 1)

"Onochi eired imcha Mitzraymah ve'Onochi a'alcho gam oloh" (46:4). When G-d said these words to Ya'akov, He was conveying a dual message, R. Bachye explains, one on a personal level, the other, concerning his children the B'nei Yisrael (who were going with him into exile). G-d was first and foremost telling Ya'akov that not only was the Shechinah accompanying him down to Egypt, but that it would later return with him up to Eretz Yisrael (the highest country in the world, the gateway to Heaven) to be buried. And by using the double expression "a'alcho gam oloh", G-d assured him further that he was destined to ascend via that gateway to Gan Eden.

But it was also informing him that, not only would the Shechinah accompany his children to Galus Mitzrayim, but that it was destined to redeem them and to accompany them back to Eretz Yisrael, the land to which Torah and Mitzvos are most suited. And once again, by virtue of the extra words "gam oloh", He was assuring him that they too would inherit Gan Eden, intimating that this was a privilege which they alone would merit, but which no other nation was destined to experience, as their arch-enemy Bil'am testified, when he declared "Would that I die like the righteous among them, and that my end should be like theirs!', adding 'They are a nation that dwells alone!'

And He began with the word "Onochi" (hinting at the Aseres ha'Dibros), since it was only because they would later accept the Torah at Har Sinai that the Shechinah accompanied them into Galus Mitzrayim, and that they also merited the two ascensions to which we referred - one in this world, one in the next, one physical, the other spiritual.

And it is based on this explanation, R. Bachye writes, that Unklus translates "I will go down with you" literally. Unklus generally tends to avoid describing G-d's action in physical terms, like we find in connection with Har Sinai, where he translates "and G-d came down on to Har Sinai", as "and G-d revealed Himself", since it is inconceivable that G-d would descend in Person to this world. By the same token then, he says, Unklus ought to have made the same change here and translated it "I will reveal Myself ..., ". He doesn't, because he wants to convey the message that 'when Yisrael went down to Galus Mitzrayim, G-d went with them!'


The Letter 'Hey'
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

(Part 2)

In keeping with what we wrote earlier, the Torah deliberately inserts a 'Hey' both on the way down into exile (to the word "Mitzraymoh") and on the way out (in the words a'alcho gam oloh"), R. Bachye explains, because 'Hey' (the last letter in G-d's Holy Name) represents the Shechinah. It was the Shechinah that sustained the entire land of Egypt after Ya'akov and his family arrived, during the five years of famine that remained,. Indeed, Yosef hinted this when he said to the people "Hey lochem Zera (Here are seeds, and you will sow the land!)" Furthermore, he said to them "You shall give one in five to Par'oh".

And it was the Shechinah that destroyed the Egyptians both in Egypt and by the Yam-Suf. This too, is hinted in the Torah, if one bears in mind that "Yad" (comprising five fingers) too has connotations of Shechinah (which is synonymous with Midas Malchus and Midas ha'Din). And we find the word "Yad" in both those locations ("Yad Hashem" in the plague of pestilence [which also lists five animals "horses, donkeys, camels, cattle and sheep] and "Yad ha'Gedolah" at the Yam-Suf). The author also refers to the word "Hey" which appears in Yechezkel (in connection with the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash and the ensuing Galus) and in Daniel, in connection with the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash (and the Galus). And so, he points out, we find the 'Hey' (the Midas ha'Din) hinted in the Torah, in Nevi'im and in Kesuvim (in connection with Galus Mitzrayim, Galus Bavel and Galus Edom, respectively), a hint that the Shechinah would accompany Yisrael into each and every Galus. We can safely assume that were it not for the protection of the Shechinah, there is no way that Yisrael, a sheep surrounded by seventy hungry wolves, would have managed to survive the multiple exiles - let alone to thrive in them. Indeed, the author adds, When G-d told Ya'akov not to be afraid to go down to Egypt ("al tiyro mer'doh Mitzraymoh"), and when Yosef invited his father to come down to him ("R'doh eilai "), each added a 'Hey' (G-d, two) signaling to Ya'akov that he was in the safe hands of the Shechinah, and that he had nothing to fear. What's more, he explains, it was the proximity of the Shechinah and the B'rachah that emanated from it (ke'vayachol) that enabled the seventy souls who went down to Egypt, to flourish to such an extent that they turned into a nation of millions in the short space of no more than two hundred and ten years.

And this is what Chazal have said 'When they went to Egypt, the Shechinah went with them, as the Pasuk says "I will go with you down to Egypt"; When they went to Bavel, the Shechinah went with them, as the Pasuk says "For your sakes I was sent to Bavel"; When they went to Edom, the Shechinah went with them, as the Pasuk writes "Who is this that came from Edom " and the word 'this' - "Zeh" hints at the Shechinah.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Yosef's Oath

" and he (Yosef) announced 'Remove every man from before me!' " (45:1).

Rashi explains that he did this in order not to embarrass his brothers.

The Riva however, cites others who attribute it to the oath that his brothers had forced him to take when they sold him, that he would never reveal the sale to anybody. Moreover, he adds, they made him swear that he would never return to his parental home and that he would never inform his father that he was alive, nor was he permitted to tell a soul that he was Ya'akov's son. And Yosef kept his promise to the letter. How could we otherwise explain the fact that, in spite of the anguish that his father must have experienced following his disappearance, during the nine years that he was viceroy of Egypt, he never contacted his father to inform him that he was alive and well in Egypt.


No Ploughing & No Harvesting

"For there are another five years when no ploughing and no harvesting will take place" (45:6).

Having said that there will be no ploughing, why is it not obvious that there will be no harvesting? Why did the Torah find it necessary to insert it?

Rabeinu Tam replies that there are some lands that do not require ploughing - particularly in Egypt, where the Nile would rise and irrigate the land automatically


Yosef's Speech

"And behold your eyes can see and the eyes of Binyamin that it is my mouth that is speaking to you" (45:12).

Rashi interprets these two statements with reference to the fact that Yosef was circumcised and that he spoke with them in Lashon ha'Kodesh He had lived thirteen years in Egypt and could boast that he was untainted in both his standard of morality and in his speech!

The Riva, quoting Rebbi Elyakim, explains that when he referred to the way he spoke to them, what he meant to say was that judging him by his speech they could determine that he was on good terms with them, since it was not done in their family to say things that they did not mean (see Rashi Mikeitz, 37:4).


Why They Needed New Clothes

"To each of them he gave a new set of clothes " (45:22).

This was necessary, says the Riva, because they needed to replace the clothes that they had torn when, following the discovery of the silver goblet in Binyamin's sack, they rent the ones they were wearing. And this explains, he says, as to why he gave the new clothes straightaway, rather than wait until they returned with their families.


Binyamin's Gift

"And to Binyamin he gave three hundred silver pieces and five new suits" (45:22).

The three hundred silver pieces, the Riva suggests, were a hint that half the Beis-Hamikdash was destined to be built in Binyamin's territory. The Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim informs us that David paid Aravnah ha'Yevusi six hundred Shekalim for the area of land on which the Beis-Hamikdash was built, and half of six hundred is three hundred.

Citing others, he attributes the three hundred Shekalim to the Gemara in Gitin, which rules that somebody who sells his slave to a non-Jew is punishable up to ten times the servant's value (and how much more so a Jewish servant). And this is why he gave Binyamin (who was not present when the sale took place) ten times the Torah's assessed value of a servant (thirty Shekalim), whilst withholding it from the brothers.

Rebbi Elyakim rejects this explains, seeing as Reuven was not present at the sale either, in which case he too, ought to have received three hundred Shekalim?

The footnote in Rabeinu Bachye however, cites the same Kashya on Rabeinu Bachye, who gives the same explanation as the Riva, and he answers that even though Reuven was not present at the sale, he was however present when Yosef was thrown into the pit - the event that led to the sale.

According to those who maintain that the brothers did not sell Yosef, this answer fits even better.

And as for the five new suits; that, says the Riva, hints at the five different kinds of precious 'garments' that Mordechai (a descendent of Binyamin) wore, after being appointed the new Prime Minister, as the Pasuk writes there "And Mordechai left the king's palace clad in royal apparel of turquoise and white, with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple".


How Could Shimon Marry Dinah?

" the sons of Shimon were and Shaul, the son of the Cana'anis" (46:10).

Rashi explains that Shaul was actually the son of Dinah, to whom the Torah refers as 'the Cana'anis,' because she was raped by Sh'chem (the Cana'ani).

The Riva, citing a Medrash, explains that Dinah refused to leave Sh'chem until Shimon promised that he would marry her, which he did.

The question arises that, seeing as Arayos (incest) is forbidden even to the B'nei No'ach, how could Shimon marry his full sister?

To answer the Kashya, the Riva cites a Machlokes between R. Eliezer and R. Akiva in Sanhedrin as to whether a maternal sister is forbidden to the B'nei No'ach (a paternal sister is definitely permitted). Rebbi Akiva rules that it is permitted. What Rashi therefore means is that this Medrash follows the opinion of Rebbi Akiva, because according to the opinion of Rebbi Eliezer, there is no way that this marriage would have been permissible.

The Bartenura answers the question by amending the Medrash. Shimon did not promise to marry Dinah, he explains, he promised to marry her off, which he subsequently did - to Iyov, as another Medrash explains (but that's another story).

* * *


"And Yisrael said 'There is much joy for me seeing as Yosef my son is still alive' " (45:28).

This is how, based on Targum Unklus, Rashi translates 'Rav, Od Yosef b'ni chai!'

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. offers two different explanations to the phrase:

1. Citing R. Yosef Karo, he explains that addressing the chief wagon-driver, he asked him whether Yosef was still alive, since, as he pointed out, he trusted his word more than he did Yosef's brothers.

2. The Brothers were talking at length, discussing Yosef's greatness, so Ya'akov said to them "Enough talk! I want to know whether Yosef is really still alive, so that I can go and visit him before I die'.


"His (Ya'akov's) sons his daughters and his sons' daughters he brought with him to Egypt" (46:7).

"his sons' daughters", says Rashi, refers to Serach bas Asher, and Yocheved bas Levi. But to whom does "his daughters" refer, asks the Da'as Zekeinim? Even those who maintain that twin sisters were born with each of Ya'akov's sons, concede that they died before the Galus began. Consequently, the only daughter that accompanied Ya'akov down to Egypt was Dinah? Perhaps, he suggests, "his daughters" includes his daughters-in-law.


The author then points out that the question remains however, on Pasuk fourteen, where, listing the children of Le'ah who went down to Egypt, the Torah writes " all the souls of his sons and daughters numbered thirty-three". To whom does "his daughters" refer to there, where it cannot incorporate Ya'akov's daughters-in-law, all of whom the Torah specifically excludes in Pasuk twenty-six?


And he answers here too, that "his daughters" includes Yocheved bas Levi, since, as is well-known, the Torah sometimes refers to one's grandchildren as one's children. And he concludes that in fact, this is clearly what Rashi had in mind. One wonders however, why we cannot answer that even though "B'nosav" is written in the plural, it can be translated in the singular, just as in Pasuk twenty-three, where the Torah writes "And the sons of Dan were Chushim". Dan had only one son, yet the Torah uses the plural, so why should we not say the same thing with regard to "his daughters" in our Pasuk?


"And some of his brothers, five men (chamishah anashim), he (Yosef) took and placed them before Par'oh" (47:2).

In support of Rashi's first explanation (that Yosef deliberately took his weaker-looking brothers to Par'oh, the Da'as Zekeinim observes that the Gematriyah of "chamishah anashim" is equivalent to 'chalashim she'bahen' (the weaker-looking among them).


"How old are you?" (47:8).

The fact that Ya'akov's hair and beard had turned completely white from age (something that was presumably not common in those days) prompted Par'oh to ask this question, says the Da'as Zekeinim to which Ya'akov replied that, in reality, he was not that old, but that his troubles had caused him to age prematurely.

Citing a Medrash, he informs us that when G-d heard this (semi-complaint), he retorted - 'I saved you from Eisav and from Lavan, I returned to you both Dinah and Yosef, and you complain that your life is "short and bad!"

By your life, I will reduce by the number of words that there are from "Vayomer" until "megureihem" (see Pasuk nine), numbering thirty-three. Indeed, Ya'akov died seventeen years later, at the age of a hundred and forty-seven, thirty-three years less than the hundred and eighty of his father Yitzchak.

* * *

(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 465/466:
Not to Rebuild an Ir ha'Nidachas
Nor to Derive Benefit from its Possessions

One is never permitted to rebuild an Ir ha'Nidachas, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (13:17) "And it shall be an everlasting pile of rubble; It shall never be rebuilt!"

A reason for the Mitzvah the author already presented this in the previous Mitzvah.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah What Chazal have said with reference to the words "It shall not be rebuilt", that one may not rebuild it into a new country, I,e, in the form of houses (as it was before it was destroyed). But one is permitted to turn it into gardens and orchards The remaining Dinim are discussed in the tenth Perek of Sanhedrin, This prohibition pertains to men and women alike, during the era that Ir ha'Nidachas applies - which in turn, is when Yisrael are living in their land and the Sanhedrin is situated in its correct location (in the Lishkas ha'Gozis [in the Beis-Hamikdash]), as the author explained earlier.


We are forbidden to benefit or to take anything from an Ir ha'Nidachas, as the Torah writes there (13:18) "And nothing from the ban shall cleave to you". Included in this La'av is the prohibition of deriving benefit from any Avodah-Zarah, as the author explained in the first La'av in Parshas Eikev. There he also discussed reasons for this Mitzvah and other aspects of this La'av.


Mitzvah 467: Not to Cut Oneself

We are forbidden to make cuts on our bodies, in the way that the gentiles do, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:1) "Do not cut yourselves ". And the Torah repeats this La'av using a different expression, when it writes in Kedoshim (19:28) " Do not place a razor on your flesh because someone has died". The Gemara in Yevamos (13b) states that one may not wound oneself over a dead person. And in Maseches Makos (21a) the Gemara says that S'ritah (the expression used in Kedoshim) and Gedidah (that used in Re'ei) are one and the same. It also explains there that someone who makes a cut over a dead person is Chayav irrespective of whether he uses his hands or an implement; whereas if he does so in connection with idolatry, if he uses his hands he is Patur. This is due to the fact that it was customary to cut themselves in front of their idols using a cutting implement, as the Pasuk writes (in Melachim 1, 18:28) "And they cut themselves with swords and spears". In any event, it appears from the words of Chazal that the La'av is confined to a person who cuts himself on account of a dead person. Someone who cuts himself without any particular reason or in a fit of anger because his house collapsed or his ship sunk in the sea has not transgressed it, even though it is an exceptionally disgusting and ugly thing to do.

(to be continued)

* * *

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