by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEISHEV 5763 BS"D
Ch. 37, v. 1: "Va'yeishev Yaakov" - And Yaakov dwelled - Rashi (M.R. 84:5) brings a parable. A smithy saw a person leading a string of camels that were heavily loaded with flax. He was overwhelmed with the large loads. A wise man told him that with a spark that would be propelled by his bellows he could consume all the flax. So too, when Yaakov saw all the chieftains of Eisov that are listed at the end of the previous parsha he wondered how his descendants could overcome so many people. With the birth of Yoseif who is enlikened to a flame he will be able to prevail over Eisov who is enlikened to straw, as per Ovadioh 1:18, "V'hoyoh veis Yaakov aish u'veis Yoseif lehovoh u'veis Eisov l'kash." A spark of Yoseif's flame will consume them all. Why is it necessary to enlist Yoseif? Why isn't it sufficient to use the fire of Yaakov to destroy Eisov? Perhaps this teaches us that to overcome Eisov requires more than a basic fire, basic compliance to the mitzvos. What is needed is a strong flame, a "lehovoh," i.e. doing the mitzvos with fiery enthusiasm.
Alternatively, a fire could indeed destroy straw, but this requires bringing the fire to the straw. This means fighting evil on evil's terms. There is the fear that evil could influence and overpower purity once the battle takes place in evil's camp. A flame travels to a distance. This means staying on your own terrain but sending out spiritual power to a distance. This seems to be alluded to in the medrash when it says that a spark will GO OUT and consume the flax.
Ch. 37, v. 1: "B'eretz m'gu'rei oviv b'eretz K'naan" - In the land of his father's dwelling in the land of Caaan - Sforno explains this to mean in the section of land in which his father resided WITHIN the land of Canaan.
Ch. 37, v. 1: "M'gu'rei" - Dwelling - The Baal Haturim says that the letter Yud in his word has its leg bent forward, "Yud K'FUFOH k'min Kof," making it look like a letter Kof. This alludes to Yaakov's saying that Eisov having so many descendants and chieftains among them, in spite of Yaakov's being the recipient of Yitzchok's blessings, was in the merit of Eisov's honouring his father. He therefore said to himself, "I will subordinate myself, "OCHUF atzmi," and go to Chevron to give my father honour.
It seems that we can derive a leniency from the words of the Baal Haturim when we find a letter Yud in scriptural writing where the bottom right leg of the Yud is quite bent forwards and looks somewhat like a Kof, that it is still an acceptable letter Yud.
Ch. 37, v. 2: "Ei'leh toldos Yaakov" - These are the happenings of Yaakov - The Sforno writes that Yaakov's leaving Eretz Yisroel and all that transpired while in the Diaspora correspond to the exile experienced after the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh and his return to Eretz Yisroel and all that transpired then, to the time of the second Beis Hamikdosh, its subsequent destruction, the exile that followed, and the final redemption. The destruction of the second Beis Hamikdosh and the exile that followed are clearly alluded to in Yaakov's again leaving Eretz Yisroel for Egypt (Breishis 46:6). Which occurrence in Yaakov's life corresponds to the final redemption? Perhaps it was the last 17 years of his life, which were spent in Egypt. This could be an insight into why he assembled his sons and attempted to reveal when the end of days would be, as he was in a stage of existence that was considered "olom habo." Another indication for this might be from the Yalkut Shimoni remez #154, which says that prshas Va'y'chi is "s'sumoh," sealed, to indicate that Yaakov was protectively sealed from any further difficulties. It is obvious that while we are still in this world troubles, both large and small, abound. If Yaakov experienced none of this it indicates that he was in the "olom habo" realm while still on earth.
Ch. 37, v. 24: "Va'yashlichu oso habo'roh" - And they threw him into the pit - The word "habo'roh" is spelled without a letter Vov between the Beis and the Reish. Normally it is spelled with a Vov, as we find the next word of our verse, "v'habor" spelled with a Vov. The Rokei'ach says that this allows for the word to be read "haboroh" (ko'meitz vowel for the letter Beis), meaning outside. They threw him into a pit that was far away from human traffic. (See a most wonderful vort from the GR"A on the word "bore" spelled once with a Vov and once without a Vov in Shmos 21:33.)
Ch. 37, v. 25: "Nosim n'chose" - Carrying spices - Rashi says that this was to Yoseif's advantage, so that he smell a pleasant aroma, rather than their common loads of fuel oils, which have a bad smell. The Ralba"g says that spice merchants were honourable respectable people. Thus Yoseif also had pleasant travel companions as well.
Ch. 37, v. 28: "Va'yim'k'ru es Yoseif laYish'm'eilim" - And they sold Yoseif to the Yish'm'eilim - Our verse states that Midyonite merchants passed by. Verse 36 states that the "M'donim sold Yoseif to Potifar. In 39:1 the verse says that Potifar purchased Yoseif from the Yish'm'eilim. The commentators deal with the seeming contradictions in who sold Yoseif to Potifar. Also, why the non sequitur of Midyonite merchants passing by if we posit that "va'yim's'chu" and "va'yim'k'ru" refer to Yoseif's brothers?
The Sforno derives from the words "holchim l'horid Mitzraymoh" in verse 25, where the word "l'horid" seems superfluous, that the Yish'm'eilim did not own the spices, but were only the truckers. Thus we can explain that the sale was attributed to both the Midyonites as merchants and the Yish'm'eilim as transportation providers. (The Sforno resolves this in a different manner.)
Ch. 37, v. 29: "Va'yoshov Reuvein el habore" -And Reuvein returned to the pit - Rashi says that Reuvein was away when the sale took place. Either he took his turn to serve their father, or he left to repent in solitude for the act of tampering with his father's sleeping arrangements. Medrash Lekach Tov says that he "returned" to the pit because he left to fetch a rope to lift Yoseif out of the pit.
Ch. 37, v. 29: "Va'yoshov Reuvein el habore" -And Reuvein returned to the pit - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that Reuvein had an ulterior motive in wanting to pull Yoseif out of the pit. He wanted to bring him back to his father and thus return to his father's good graces. Shaarei Aharon explains this with the words of the Chizkuni. He asks why Reuvein was more concerned with the welfare of Yoseif than was Yehudoh. After all, Yehudoh was the leader of the tribes and would take the flak for Yoseif's disappearance. He answers that Yaakov would likely be suspicious of Reuvein more than anyone else because Reuvein lost his primogeniture privileges upon tampering with his father's sleeping arrangements, as per Divrei Hayomim 1:5:1, "u'v'chal'lo y'tzu'ei oviv nitnoh b'choroso livnei Yoseif."
We see from this that Reuvein had more to gain than anyone else with the disappearance of Yoseif, as he would have his first-born privileges returned with Yoseif gone. Thus by rescuing Yoseif from the pit and returning him safely to his father, Yoseif would relate that Reuvein was his saviour and Yaakov would see that Reuvein did all that was in his power to return Yoseif even at the expense of losing the first-born birthright privileges. Reuvein, by showing that he accepted this punishment would be forgiven for his sin, as per the Ramban regarding the sin of the golden calf (see Ramban on Shmos 33:6).
This also gives us an understanding in the seemingly enigmatic words of the Medrash Lekach Tov who says that upon Reuvein's not finding Yoseif in the pit he said "vaani onoh ani vo," where will I go regarding my actions with Bilhoh.
Ch. 37, v. 31: "S'ir izim" - A goat - Because the act of selling Yoseif was facilitated by using the blood of a goat, a goat is used as a "chatos," a sin offering. (Rabbeinu Menachem)
Ch. 38, v. 35,36: "Va'yeivk oso oviv, V'haM'donim mochru oso el Mitzroyim" - And his father cried over him, And the M'donim sold him to Egypt - The connection between these two phrases is that thanks to Yaakov's crying over the loss of Yoseif, the separation was limited to Yoseif's being sold in a neighbouring country. He could just as easily been put onto a ship and sent off to a far flung island. (Tzror Hamor)
Ch. 39, v. 7: "Vatisoh eishes adonov es ei'nehoh el Yoseif" - And the wife of his master lifted her eyes to Yoseif - The Medrash Agodas Breishis says that just as we fins the word "vatisoh" here connoting an interest in adultery, so too, when Lote separated from Avrohom and set his sights on the fertile Jordan valley, the verse says "Va'yisoh Lote es einov" (Breishis 13:10), indicating that he chose that location because he had an interest in adultery. Even though we have no reason to assume that he actually engaged in this sin, the thought alone might have been instrumental in his later sinning with his daughters.
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