by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YIGASH 5768 BS"D
Ch. 44, v. 20: "V'ochiv meis" - And his brother is dead - The antecedent of "his" in the phrase "his brother" is Yaakov. Yaakov's brother Eisov is dead. Although Eisov was surely alive at the time, as recorded in the gemara Sotoh that Eisov was present at Yaakov's funeral, nevertheless, Eisov is considered dead, as per the maxim of the gemara Brochos 18b, "R'sho'im b'cha'yeihem kru'im meisim," - evil people even when they are alive, are called dead. (Tosfos Hasho'leim) This novel explanation would alleviate the question raised by Rishonim: Why here does Yehudoh say that he is dead, while earlier in 42:13 did the brothers say, "V'ho'echod einenu"? This is based on the common understanding that "ochiv" refers to Yoseif, not Eisov. However, according to Tosfos Hasho'leim, Yoseif is "einenu" and Eisov is "meis."
What remains to be clarified is why this is germane to the thrust of Yehudah's plea. Perhaps it is another aspect of the "our poor old father" pitch. Added to his pains is that he has no living sibling. This is a rather weak explanation, as Yaakov still has a dozen living children and many grandchildren, etc. As well, it does not really pull at one's heartstrings when he hears that a 130 year old person has no surviving siblings.
Ch. 45, v. 17: "Zose asu taanu es b'irchem" - Thus shall you do load your animals - The words "zose asu" seems totally superfluous. "Do this" is usually a response to some reluctance on the other party's position or a counter offer to his plan. Here we see no reluctance and no previously offered alternative plan. A concept mentioned in Sedrah Selections parshas Mikeitz 5765 on a similar expression might be applied here as well. In 41:34 we have, "Yaa'seh Pharoh v'yafkeid p'kidim." The verse could have easily said "Yafkeid Paroh p'kidim." The insight was offered that Yoseif advised Paroh to appoint people as agricultural ministers who would assure that there would be food stored during the years of bountiful produce. However, Yoseif advised Paroh to do this in a manner that would be abundantly clear that he was the big mover and shaker, and thus not loose his popularity as the top man in the country to a lesser person, who might well become the national hero by virtue of his saving the day (seven years) and staving off starvation of the masses.
Similarly here, Paroh advised Yoseif to tell his brothers to provide all the accommodations to move Yaakov and his household to Egypt in a most comfortable manner, promising him all that he needed in Egypt as well. However, Paroh knew quite well that if the "encouragement" to move came solely from Paroh himself, Yaakov might be reluctant to make the move. He therefore told Yoseif to tell his brothers, "zose asu ……" Make this YOUR doing, that all his sons eagerly agree with the idea that Yaakov leave Eretz Yisroel to live in Egypt. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 45, v. 28: "Rav ode Yoseif bni chai" - It is sufficient that my son Yoseif is still alive - This translation follows Rashi's interpretation. Trumas Hadeshen in Biurei Mahara"i says that "rav" refers to Eisov, as per the words "v'rav yaavode tzo'ir" (Breishis 25:23). Let Eisov know that Yoseif still lives. This is very relevant, as Yoseif is Eisov's overpowering adversary, as per the verse in Ovadioh 1:18, "V'hoyoh beis Yaakov aish u'veis Yoseif lehovoh uveis Eisov l'kash." If he is rejoicing because of the loss of Yoseif, he would be well advised that Yoseif is alive and well. To put it in the words of a well-known statesman, "Yoseif's demise has been grossly exaggerated."
Ch. 46, v. 8: "V'eileh shmos bnei Yisroel habo'im Mitzraimoh Yaakov uvonov" - And these are the names of the children of Yisroel who are coming to Egypt Yaakov and his sons - A simple reading of these words results in Yaakov being a son of Yisroel, although in truth, they are one and the same. "Not so," says Rabbeinu Bachyei. He takes these words literally, and explains that the name Yisroel is used for Yitzchok as well. He doesn't stop there. He says that the appellation Yisroel is used for Avrohom as well. We find in Shmos 12:40, "Umoshav bnei Yisroel asher yoshvu b'Mitzroyim shloshim shonoh v'arba mei'os shonoh." This number of years only adds up if we calculate the beginning of the Egyptian exile with the birth of Yitzchok. Yet, the verse says "umoshav bnei Yisroel." Here we see that Avrohom is likewise called Yisroel. The children of Avrohom, a.k.a. Yisroel, starting with his son Yitzchok, totaled 430 years.
Ch. 47, v. 18: "Bashonoh hasheinis" - In the second year - Rashi says that this is the second year of the famine. Accordingly, the time line here is before Yaakov's descending to Egypt with his family and his meeting with Paroh, as is explained by Rashi in verse 13. In verse 18 Rashi says that once Yaakov descended to Egypt the famine came to an abrupt end. He bolsters this with the words of the Tosefta on the gemara Sotoh.
The obvious question that comes to mind is: Wouldn't the trust in Yoseif's interpretation of the dreams, that there would be 7 years of famine following the 7 years of abundance, be compromised? The Ramban on verse 19 deals with this. We might answer this by taking note that in the dream of the 7 robust ears of grain and 7 emaciated ones the verse says that the robust ones were "olos b'ko'neh echod," growing on one stalk. This is not mentioned by the thin ones. Albeit, the 7 years of abundance were continuous, symbolized by "olos b'ko'neh echod," we do not have this by the thin ones, those representing the years of famine. (Trumas Hadeshen in Biurei Mahara"i)
Indeed, there was a total of 7 years of famine, with the last five years commencing at the death of Yaakov, as mentioned in the M.R. Although the Torah does not elaborate on Yoseif's telling this detail to Paroh, he might have told him this, or at least after the fact he might have told him that this was indicated in the dream.
According to the understanding of the Chizkuni of "bashonoh hasheinis" this question is preempted. He says that "the second" year is the second year after Yaakov descended to Egypt. He explains that people put away a sufficient amount for their needs and had enough money for purchasing food after that, for four years. At this point they came to Yoseif penniless, and offered their cattle. This carried them through the fifth year, their fields through the sixth year, and selling themselves into slavery through the seventh year. During the seventh year Yoseif gave them seed for planting, and it grew during the end of the seventh year, as the famine was to end after seven years. According to this the 7 years of famine were continuous. According to the Tosefta that the famine was broken into a two year period and another five year period after the death of Yaakov, a problem in parshas Va'yichi is resolved. Yoseif meets very stiff resistance when wanting to accompany his father on his final trip to be buried in Chevron. As related in the gemara Sotoh, Yoseif tells Paroh of the vow he made to his father to bury him in Chevron and uses this as a strategy to force Paroh to agree to let him leave Egypt to bury his father in Eretz Yisroel. Besides this, Paroh has the youngest generation of the bnei Yisroel and all their cattle remain in Egypt as a sort of surety that they would return. Yoseif was a king in Egypt, accorded all honours, and his family has been well settled in over the last 17 years. Why was he so afraid?
Since the famine resumed after the death of Yaakov, it could have had an affect during the 70 days that Yaakov lay in state, Paroh probably panicked. It was a most inopportune time for Yoseif, the man who single-handedly took charge during the previous years of famine, to leave. (Nirreh li)
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