Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) 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 likened 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?

2) Ch. 37, v. 25: "Va'yeishvu le'echol lechem" - Why does the verse tell us that their meal was BREAD?

3) Ch. 37, v. 28: "Va'yaalu es Yoseif min habore va'yim'k'ru es Yoseif" - Who brought up and sold Yoseif?

4) Ch. 39, v. 9: "V'eich e'e'seh horo'oh ...... v'chotosI" - Since Yoseif refused to sin with the wife of Potifar, an act that would have required the participation of both of them, should he not have said, "v'eich NA'A'SEH horo'oh ...... V'CHOTONU?"

5) 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. Had Yoseif only said "z'chartani" and not "v'hizkartani" what would his punishment have been?



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 right up 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.


A possible insight into why the verse tells us that they sat down to eat BREAD can be derived from the words of the Sefer Chasidim #1,143. The Sefer Chasidim writes that when one murders a person and later comes back to the murdered person's body, the site of the injury inflicted upon the murdered person begins to flow blood. If one were suspected of being the murderer he would be brought to the corpse for this test. There was therefore a practice of murderers to eat dry bread, which would keep this unusual phenomenon from happening. The Torah therefore tells the judges of the court who have given a death verdict to not eat bread, since they acted properly and are not to be considered murderers. This is the intention of the verse "Lo sochlu al hadom" (Vayikra 19:26).

Similarly, the Paa'nei'ach Rozo on Vayikra 19:26 writes that people who murdered someone would eat bread immediately afterwards to ward off any revenge that would otherwise be taken against them. This explains the juxtaposition in the verse to "v'lo s'nachashu." The Chizkuni writes that blood avengers would eat bread at the burial site of a murdered person before proceeding to take action. The verse says "lo sochlu al hadom," meaning that no one should avenge the blood of one who was killed by the verdict of a beis din, as it acted properly.

Although the brothers now agreed with Reuvein's suggestion to throw Yoseif into a pit rather than kill him directly with their own hands, they might have had a shadow of doubt as to the righteousness of their actions, and to play it safe they ate bread to cover up any possibility of being brought in front Yoseif's corpse later and having it start flowing forth blood, thus implicating them in his death.


There is much controversy over who pulled Yoseif out of the pit and who sold him to the Yish'm'eilim.

1) Rashi says that the brothers pulled him out and sold him to the Yish'm'eilim. (See Ramban)

2) Rashbam, Chizkuni, Rabbeinu Bachyei, and one opinion in the Moshav Z'keinim say that while the brothers ate their meal at a distance from the pit they saw a caravan of Yish'm'eilim coming by. They agreed to Yehudoh's plan to sell Yoseif to the Yish'm'eilim. In the meantime Midyonim came upon the scene and extracted Yoseif from the pit, and they sold him to the Yish'm'eilim, and in actuality the brothers never sold Yoseif. In the Moshav Z'keinim there are other opinions with minor variations as to the details of the sale to the Yish'm'eilim, but in the main they are the same as the Rashbam, Chizkuni, and Rabbeinu Bachyei.

The Chizkuni adds that Reuvein was the first to know that Yoseif was not in the pit, and when the brothers said "chayoh ro'oh acholos'hu" they were telling the truth, assuming that that was what happened. He adds that this would explain why the brothers never engendered the thought that the Viceroy of Egypt was Yoseif, in spite of numerous matters that indicated so, i.e. why didn't they recognize him by appearance (This question is answered in the gemara Y'vomos 82a and B.M. 39b), by voice, or by his seating them at the meal in order of age. Since they truly believed that Yoseif was dead this thought never entered their minds. One might add that this also answers why they said "v'ho'echod einenu" (42:13), and "v'ochiv meis" (44:20). Baa'lei Tosfos answer this question by saying that if they had said "He might be alive but we don't know his whereabouts," they would have the fear that the viceroy would demand that they bring him. However, according to the Chizkuni it is simply their truthful, albeit incorrect, assumption.


Rabbi Simchoh Bunim of Parshis'cha in Kol Simchoh answers that since the wife of Potifar attempted to seduce Yoseif, he wanted to distance himself from her as far as possible and would not even express himself verbally in a manner that would include her with himself.


Rabbi Chaim Brisker asked this question of his student Rabbi Shimon Shkop. 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.



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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