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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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And Yehudah and his brethren came to Yosef's house; and he was still there, and they fell before him to the ground.
Once someone spread false derogatory rumors about a student of the Knesses Yisrael Yeshivah in Slobodka who was about to get engaged to a girl who was an excellent match. This caused the shidduch to fall apart, and the student suffered greatly because of this. Additionally, he was forcibly enlisted in the Russian army and therein went through much hardship.
After many years, a person who had slandered him regretted his actions and wanted to ask for forgiveness, but lacked the courage to reveal to the student that he had caused him so much suffering. Therefore he wrote a long letter to Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, the elder of slobodka, admitting his terrible mistake. He asked the Rabbi to speak to the student on his behalf to influence him to forgive the slander for his cruel actions.
Rabbi Noson Tzvi started a conversation with the student and tried to probe his true feelings, eventually revealing to him what was written in the letter.
The student immediately and bravely told Rabbi Noson Tzvi that he completely forgave the slanderer. the Rabbi, though, suspected that the student did not fully mean what he was saying. He asked him again if deep in his heart he harbored any bad feelings against the person. The student held his own, however, and said that he did not have even the slightest bad feeling towards the slanderer. He felt that whatever he had gone through had all come from G-d, and whatever G-d does is for the best.
Upon hearing these words, Rabbi Nasan Tzvi went over to the student and embraced him with deep emotion, giving him many kisses, and telling him that he was a true tzaddik. The Rabbi told others in the yeshivah about the student's amazingly pure character.
The student showed great character by forgiving such a grave injustice that was done to him. We too, have potential greatness of character in ourselves that is waiting to be utilized. In marriage there are many trials which will be a test to that character.
since you are just like Pharaoh." I
The above midrash is extremely puzzling. What does Yosef mean when he says that he will wrap Yehudah's sword around his neck? What is Yosef saying when he tells Yehudah that he will close his mouth with a stone? What did Yosef mean by "the rope went after the pail?" And why did he say that in falseness Yosef was raised from the pit?
Before we explain this midrash, we shall bring another midrash which was explained by the Binah L'itim. Th second midrash says, "Rabbi Sh,mon ben Elazar said, 'Woe is to us on the Day of judgement, woe is to us on the Day of Rebuking. Yosef, who is the youngest of the tribe, 'and his brothers could not answer him since they we afraid of him,' 2 when G-d will rebuke every one of us according to our actions, it will be much more so.' "3
The Binah L'itim explained that the words "Day of Rebuking," not only refer to our time of final judgement but also were enacted when Yosef met his brothers. He said, "I am Yosef, your brother; is my father still alive? By this question Yosef meant to rebuke his brothers for all the sorrow that they had inflicted on their father when they sold him. Yosef said this to show that Yehudah's whole speech about his concern over his father's well fare was actually contradicted by his own actions. For if he was so worried about his father, why did he take part in the sale of Yosef? That is why the midrash calls Yosef encounter with his brothers a "Day of Rebuking." This also hints at what the Day of judgement will be like for each one of us. We will be shown through our own actions, that we could have and should have done better.
Now we can understand what Yosef meant when he told Yehudah that if he drew his sword, he would wrap it around Yehudah's neck. He was saying that if Yehudah had the courage to draw his sword and protect his brother Binyamin for the sake of his father, why did he not do the same when Yosef was being sold as a slave? In other words, if Yehudah drew his sword it would be to his disadvantage, as it would prove that Yehudah had also been capable of defending Yosef.
What Yosef meant when he said he would close Yehudah's mouth with a stone was that by Yehudah opening his mouth and pleading for his father, he was actually bringing rebuke upon himself. Every word spoken by Yehudah was self-accusing, since it proved that he had also been capable of helping his father when Yosef needed saving, but had not done so.
Yosef said that Yehudah should say to his father, "the rope went after the pail." When you throw a pail into a well, the rope will also be thrown into the well, since they are attached to one another. Therefore, since Yosef was thrown into Egypt by his brothers, it was only natural that Yoseph's brother Binyamin should also follow him into Egypt, since they were attached to one another. His father Ya'akov, need not wonder why Binyamin ended up in Egypt, if he considered that Binyamin's brother Yosef was already there.
Yosef said to Yehudah, "It is a falseness for a falseness, since in falseness you raised your brother from the pit." These words can be explained to mean that Yosef was in effect saying to Yehudah, "You complain that I am judging you falsely since you are not spies, but this claim is not justified. I am judging you falsely only because you also Judged me falsely when you and my other brothers decided that I deserved the death penalty, or at least to b sold as a slave." In other words, falseness begets falseness and it was Yosef's brothers who began the cycle of falseness.
The lesson that a person will be shown through his own actions that he was capable of doing better certainly applies to married life. Many people complain that they do not have time to chat with their wives, go out with them, or buy them a present. But if we look carefully, we see that they do have the time to read newspaper, chat with friends, or engage in some pastime they enjoy. A person never has time for things that do no interest him, but can always find time for things he really wants to do. Therefore it is our job to be interested in our wives, and then we will find we have plenty of time for them.
The same thing applies to patience. We claim we have no patience for tardiness, or sloppiness. But when we find these traits in people other than our spouses we suddenly find that we can tolerate them quite easily.
We can learn from our other activities that we are capable of being better spouses. It is wiser to learn this by ourselves than to be shown this on the Day of judgement.
Another lesson that can be learned from the midrash is, "It is a falseness for a falseness." Hence, if we feel that we are not receiving enough love or attention from our spouses, it is because we are not giving enough. When we are false and artificial with our spouses, we receive the same treatment from them.
On the other hand, if we will always be giving to our spouses, we will discover how much our spouses will give to us in return. Find out what your spouse likes, and give it to him or her. Giving a present is a wonderful way of expressing love, since everyone enjoys receiving a present. Do not wait until there are some amends to make, but rather give the present for the sole reason that you love your spouse, and want to bring home a surprise. For better or for worse, one often finds in life that what you give is what you get.
I. Bereshis 44:18
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network