by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEISHEV 5774 BS"DCh. 37, v. 2: "Eileh toldos Yaakov" - These are the toldos of Yaakov - What is the pristine translation of "toldos?"
1) Happenings (Ibn Ezra, Sforno, Rada"k)
Rashi's explanation that Yoseif was a wise son, based on "ziknoh" meaning wisdom, is the choice of Targum Onkelos. This alleviates the issues raised by Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer #38, the Ramban, and Rada"k. There was a younger son, Binyomin. How do we give the appellation "a son of old age" when Yoseif was born on the tail of all the sons being born in quick succession. All were his "old age" sons. Yisoschor and Zevulun were but a year and two years older. Indeed, when pleading with Yoseif the viceroy of Egypt and he was told that a son who was a "ben z'kunim," meaning Binyomin, should be released, Targum Onkelos says "bar sivtin."
Ch. 37, v. 25: "V'hi'nei orchas Yish'm'eilim bo'oh miGilod" - And behold a caravan of Ishmaelites is coming from Gilod - In verse 28 Yoseif was sold to the Ishmaelites. Thus begins his odyssey to Egypt, which in turn brings his brothers, then his father and the whole household down to Egypt. The ensuing enslavement and eventual exodus 210 years later brought us the Yom Tov of Pesach.
The gemara P'sochim 65b relates that after the slaughter and sacrificial processing of the Paschal lamb/goat, people brought their lambs/goats from the Mikdosh to the fires they prepared for roasting them. The animals had been flayed to aid in accessing the inner parts that needed to be burned on the altar. The people took back their animals wrapped in their skins and slung them over their shoulders upon leaving. Rabbi Ilish says that this looked like Ishmaelite merchants who commonly carried their wares in this manner.
The Tzlach offers an halachic insight based on Rabbi Ilish's comment. However, Rabbi Shlomo Kluger says that he is pointing out that this is the way the Paschal lamb/goat is to be brought for roasting to serve as a most vivid reminder of what got us into the Egyptian exile in the first place, the sale of Yoseif to Ishmaelite merchants.
Ch. 37, v. 27: "L'chu v'nim'k'renu" - Let us go and sell him - Was this a spur of the moment inspiration, possibly based on their noticing a caravan likely bound for Egypt?
1) Chom spoke badly of his father and this resulted in Canaan his son and further descendants to be slaves. Yoseif likewise spoke badly so he should be sold as a slave. (Rashi, Lekach Tov)
2) Yoseif related in his dreams that he would lord over us and we would be subordinate to him. He deserves to be sold as a slave and would thus be subordinate to his master. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)
3) The tribes were well acquainted with the prophecy Avrohom received that his descendants would be enslaved. They thought that by selling Yoseif they might fulfill this prophecy. (Chizkuni)
Ch. 37, v. 30: "Va'yomer ha'yeled einenu vaani onoh ani va" - And he said the youngster is not existent and as for me where am I coming - Note that Reuvein did not say "einenu chai," he is not alive. Rather, he said that he is not in existence. This shows us that Reuvein's plan was to have Yoseif thrown into the pit because he feared that Shimon and Levi, who were the main movers of this diabolical plan would have Yoseif shredded to pieces with nothing left to recover. He based this concern on what the two of them did to the adult male populace of a complete city. He wanted to at least return yo's body to his father for a dignified funeral. He reasoned that either Yoseif will survive or die in the pit. If he dies his body can be brought to his father for burial. His concern now was that he was nowhere to be found. (Holy Zohar page 185b)
Ch. 37, v. 33: "Torof toraf Yoseif" - Yoseif is surely ripped asunder - The double expression means two things. Firstly, it means that Yoseif was killed and torn apart by a predator. Secondly, since no remains were found the animal must have surely killed him and then dragged his body into its lair to consume. "Teref" means food for sustenance. This explains why Yaakov did not request a search be made for his body so that it could be buried. (Seichel Tov)
Ch. 37, v. 35: "Va'yokumu chol bonov v'chol b'nosov l'nachamo va'yimo'ein l'hisnacheim va'yomer ki eireid el bni o'veil sh'oloh" - And all his sons and all his daughters stood to console him and he refused to console himself and he said rather I will descend to the grave mourning my son - The verse does not relate the words of consolation. This is because nothing was said to console Yaakov. Rather all his remaining children came together, thinking that this would bring some modicum of consolation. This would be a visual appearance of so many children so that Yaakov should not feel as if a one and only son died. There are many surviving children. Yaakov was not consoled and he explained that he would die still mourning for his "son," as if this were his one son. This is because he favoured Yoseif over all the other children. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)
Ch. 38, v. 1: "Va'y'hi bo'eis hahee va'yei'red Yehudoh" - And it was at that time and Yehudoh descended - A simple reading of this verse is understood as this next incident taking place right around the time of the sale of Yoseif. Rashi clearly states this by saying that "Va'yei'red yehudoh" means that he was demoted because he did not stand up to his brothers and dissuade them from selling Yoseif. Given that twenty-two years later the tribes descended to Egypt with all of Yaakov's household, we have an extremely difficult problem with the time line. Yehudoh had Eir, Onon and they grew sufficiently to marry Tomor. Yehudoh eventually sired through Tomor Peretz and Zerach. Peretz was the father of Chetzron and Chomul. Chetzron and Chomul are listed among those who descended to Egypt. All this took place in 22 years.
As difficult as this is, and commentators do clarify it, at least we have an understanding of why this incident is placed here, as it was chronologically correct, notwithstanding that if we are in the middle of an incident we usually continue with it and later deal with other things.
B.R., Tur, Rabbeinu Bachyei, and Rabbi Avrohom ben hoRambam write that this incident of Yehudoh and Tomor took place earlier, slightly alleviating the timeline issue. Of course this exacerbates the issue of the interruption of Yoseif's odyssey. Some say that the Torah wanted to place the unsavoury business of the wife of Poti Phera and Yoseif and that of Yehudoh and Tomor side by side, as in both situations the woman had "shem Shomayim in mind." Rabbeinu Bachyei writes that they are to be placed next to each other because of the common theme of reincarnation, "gilgul." The quasi-"yibum" of Tomor and the death of the "Asoroh harugei malchus" both are steeped in this concept.
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