by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEISHEV 5776 BS"D
Ch. 37, v. 2: "Va'yo'vei Yoseif es dibosom ro'oh" - The Sefer Hako'neh says on page #23b that Yoseif's soul was reincarnated into Rabbi Chutzpis Hamturgmon who was one of the ten martyrs killed as a punishment for 10 of Yoseif's brothers kidnapping and selling him. He says that this explains why after Rabbi Chutzpis was viciously killed his tongue was carried away by a pig, an atonement for Yoseif's misuse of his power of speech when he spoke negatively of his brothers. I have difficulty in understanding this because the ten martyrs represented the ten brothers who sold Yoseif and none of them took the place of Yoseif himself. Thus even if Rabbi Chutzpis was a reincarnation of Yoseif, his punishment as a representative for one of the brothers who sold Yoseif shouldn't include a punishment for Yoseif himself.
Ch. 37, v. 2: "Es dibosom ro'oh" - Rashi says that included in Yoseif's negatives reports about his brothers was that he SUSPECTED them of adultery. Regarding the other two matters, eating a limb of a live animal and belittling their siblings who were children of Bilhoh and Zilpoh, Rashi does not say that he suspected them, but that Yoseif clearly stated that they did so. This is explained by the Holy Admor of Skulen. Yoseif did not see them committing adultery, but did see them behaving arrogantly by belittling their brothers. Our Rabbis teach that whoever is haughty is as if he has committed every form of adultery. Thus Yoseif only SUSPECTED them.
Ch. 37, v. 7: "V'hi'nei komoh alumosi v'gam nitzovoh" - Behold my sheaf of grain stood up and remained firmly upright. What is added on by "v'gam nitzovoh," - and remained firmly upright? The Sforno answers that the sheaf standing up indicates Yoseif's rising to power. However, there is no indication that his reign would be for a significant period of time. "V'gam nitzovoh" adds that it will endure. Indeed, we find that Yoseif was appointed Viceroy of Egypt at the age of 30 years (Breishis 41:46), and died at the age of 110 years (Breishis 50:26), serving in his position for 80 years!
Ch. 37, v. 11: "V'oviv shomar es hadovor" - Rashi translates "shomar" as waited; he waited for the fulfillment of Yoseif's dreams. The Pnei Dovid (Chid"o) translates the word "shomar" very literally, that Yaakov safeguarded Yoseif's dreams. The Zohar on Shmos page 108a and the gemara Brochos 55a say that when one has a positive dream, a reaction of exhilaration dissipates it. Thus Yaakov wanted to knock the "stars" out of Yoseif's eyes, so that he would not have an extremely happy anticipatory reaction, and the dream could indeed come to fruition.
Ch. 37, v. 29,30: "Va'yoshov Reuvein, Ha'yeled ei'nenu va'ani onoh ani vo" - Back in verse 22 Reuvein suggested to his brothers that they not directly kill him, but rather, throw him into a pit. The Torah testifies that his intention was to save Yoseif, "l'maan hatzil oso miyodom." The gemara Shabbos 22a says that although the pit contained no water it did contain snakes and scorpions. Commentators therefore ask, "If so, Yoseif would surely be poisoned barring an open miracle. How then was this an attempt to save him?" The Ponim Yofos explains that Yehudoh went with the dictum that a person is not punished by Heavenly intervention, "min hashomayim," under the age of 20 years. Thus, although Yoseif's brothers might have been able to kill him as this is not heavenly intervention, being killed by poisonous creatures is to be considered "Heavenly intervention," and Yoseif would be safe from snakes and scorpions. We can now understand a most puzzling M.R. (84:19) on our verses. It says that when Reuvein later returned to the pit and saw that Yoseif was gone, "va'yoshov Reuvein," he returned to his mourning sack cloth and fasting, saying "va'ani onoh ani vo," - what will become of me because of my tampering with the bed of Bilhoh? What is the connection? The Ponis Yofos says that it is now understood. Once Reuvein saw that Yoseif was missing and he suspected the worst had happened, he realized that the Heavens intervene even when one has sinned when under the age of 20 years old. Until now Reuvein felt safe from punishment for his rash action with the bed of Bilhoh because he was under 20 years old when he committed the act. Now that he assumed that Yoseif was punished, indicating that Hashem treated the bnei Yaakov as fully mature adults (see Tosfos on gemara Sanhedrin 69a that before the giving of the Torah people were considered more mature), Reuvein went back to repenting in a more serious manner.
Ch. 38, v. 2: "Bas ish Canaani" - The Ibn Ezra brings an opinion that the word "Canaani" in our verse means a merchant, as we find this word used in Hoshei'a 12:8, "Canaan b'yodo moze'nei mirmoh," and in Z'charioh 14:21, "V'lo y'h'yeh Chanaani ode." However, he concludes that it is very likely that the word can be translated literally, a person of Canaanite descent. The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh takes the Ibn Ezra to task for this interpretation. "A matter that the three Patriarchs of the world took so to heart (to avoid having their children marry Canaanites), can we say that their children did not heed?" I have found the Medrash Agodas Breishis at the end of chapter #63 clearly stating that he was literally a Canaani.
Ch. 38, v. 24: "Va'yomer Yehudoh hotziUho v'siso'reif" - Who judged Tomor? The Ramban says that Yehudoh alone judged her. The Baal Haturim and Rabbeinu Bachyei bring a M.R. Shmos 30:19 that Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Yehudoh sat in judgment. The Baal Haturim also brings a Medrash Tanchuma Yoshon on our parsha #7 that says that Shem judged Tomor. The Baal Haturim says that this is impossible because Shem had already died. He says that although the gemara Avodoh Zoroh 36b says that the court of Shem instituted the prohibition of single people not having relations because of the happening with Yehudoh and Tomor, the intention of the gemara is that future courts which were trained by Shem and thus retained the name "court of Shem" instituted this. Rabbi Y.D. Babad of Busk found a practical halachic difference depending upon if there was only one judge or three judges. A question was brought to him regarding the kashrus of a Torah scroll. It had the word "hotziUho" written with the letter Vov missing after the Alef. Although this word could be read the same way, and as well, we have a rule that because we are not proficient in the knowledge of the text of the Torah regarding "mlei'im vacha'seirim," silent letters like a Vov and a Yud appearing in words, we usually allow the Torah to continue being read, although we do have it fixed later as per the accepted text, he felt that in this case the rule does not apply. The gemara Y'vomos 24b differentiates between "hotzioh" which means that one person is being told to remove her, and "hotziUhoh," which means that a plurality of people is being told to remove her. He therefore concludes that since without a Vov the word can be read "hotzioh," and this is a change in the meaning of the word, if we posit that a court of three judges presided, the Torah scroll would not be kosher. Ch. 38, v. 24: "V'siso'reif" - The Baal Haturim brings in the name of Rabbi Yehudoh Chosid that "v'siso'reif" is not to be understood as, "and she should be put to death by burning," but rather that Yehudoh intended to have her face burned in a manner that would leave over a scar, a designation that she has committed adultery.
Ch. 39, v. 9: "V'eich e'e'seh horo'oh hagdoloh hazose v'chotosi lEilokim" - Rabbi C.Z.M. asks: Why did Yoseif give such a lengthy explanation to the wife of Potifar in the previous verse and in the beginning of this verse that if he were to sin he would break the trust Potifar had in him? Since he ended with "v'chotosi lEilokim," why didn't this suffice? As well, why did he leave this reason, the most compelling one, for last? He answers that Potifar's wife told Yoseif that she saw in her astrological signs that it was the will of Hashem for them to have children, and that they would develop into great personages who would serve Hashem. Yoseif responded that this was impossible. This could not be the will of Hashem as it would impact negatively upon Potifar, who had placed his trust in Yoseif and would feel greatly betrayed by Yoseif's agreeing to commit adultery with his wife, no matter what sublime calculations his wife had. This was a clear sign that Hashem considered this an improper act in spite of all her calculations.
Ch. 39, v. 19: "Va'yichar apo" - The Abarbenel points out that the verse does not say "va'yichar apo b'Yoseif," to indicate that Potifar was aware of Yoseif's innocence, and wasn't angry with him. He was angry that his wife made advanced towards Yoseif and had fabricated a story to protect herself. He was also angry that to save face he would have to punish Yoseif.
Ch. 39, v. 20: "Va'y'hi SHOM b'veis hasohar" - The word SHOM seems superfluous. The Haksav V'hakaboloh says that the word SHOM means not only THERE, but indicates a distancing. Not only was Yoseif distanced from society at large when he was incarcerated, but his ability to serve Hashem was also curtailed, and his ability to reunite with his father was even more distanced at this point. He adds that the word "shomayim," a doubling of the word SHOM indicates a place that is very far away. The Sforno on the first verse of the Torah d.h. "eis hashomayim" has already said this, both that SHOM means distanced and that the word "shomayim" means very far away.
Ch. 40, v. 8: "Ufoseir ein oso" - On the words in parshas Mi'keitz "v'ein poseir osom l'Faroh" (41:8), Rashi says that there were many interpreters, but none to the satisfaction of Paroh. If there were many interpreters, why does our verse say, "ufoseir ein oso," indicating that no interpreters existed? The Haa'meik Dovor answers quite simply that although the country was abound with dream diviners, nevertheless, there were none available to the wine butler and the baker, as they were in prison.
Ch. 40, v. 12: "Va'yomer lo Yoseif zeh pisrono" - The Holy Zohar and Targum Yonoson ben Uziel say that Yoseif interpreted the wine butler's dream in a positive manner as a reward, because Yoseif understood from his dream positive messages for the bnei Yisroel in the future. Likewise in verse 18, the baker received a negative interpretation for his dream because it forebode negative happenings for the bnei Yisroel.
Ch. 40, v. 14: "Ki im z'chartani ……v'hizkartani el Paroh" - The Medrash Tanchuma on our parsha #7 and the M.R. Shmos 7:1 say that for saying "z'chartani ……v'hizkartani" Yoseif was punished by having his stay in the prison extended by two years. Rabbi Chaim Brisker asked his student Rabbi Shimon Shkop, "What would have been Yoseif's punishment if he only said one of these two words?" Rabbi Shkop answered that he would have only stayed in prison one extra year. Rabbi Chaim said that had he said only one word he would not have been punished at all, as a person is required to put in some level of effort to help himself. However, once he went beyond the one necessary word, for his level of piety this amount of effort was considered too much reliance on his fellow jail-mate, and he was punished for each word.
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