DECEMBER 29-30, 2000 4 TEBET 5761
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Go to Yosef, whatever he tells you, you should do" (Beresheet 41:55)
In this week's perashah our focus is turned to the land of Egypt. Yosef, who was sold as a slave, was suddenly catapulted from the dungeon to be the viceroy and primary ruler of Egypt. Egypt and the entire region was plunged into a terrible famine. Pharaoh gave Yosef full power to guide Egypt and its people through this crisis. During the second year of the famine, all of the stored grain rotted except for Yosef's national grain storage. The Midrash records that when the hungry people demanded that Yosef release the national grain, he said he would give them nothing unless they underwent circumcision. When the people protested to Pharaoh, he responded by saying that they had no choice but to follow Yosef's orders. All of the nation listened and did circumcision, and this practice continued until the death of Yosef. Many important commentaries discuss this unusual demand of Yosef to require circumcision in exchange for wheat. Rabbi Y. Levovitz explains that the Midrash quotes a later statement by the Egyptians to Yosef, "And they said, 'You have given us life'" (47:25)! The Midrash explains this as "life in this world and life in the next world." We know that the circumcision gives life in the next world. Yosef was actually requiring them to undergo a partial conversion in exchange for wheat. This seems extremely unusual, since we know that the Jewish people do not pursue the gentile world to convert and even discourage it.
Yosef's situation was unique. His whole mission regarding the Egyptian people was to take care of them, to feed them and make sure they survive. Yosef was an extremely kind and caring person. He felt for them, and therefore came to the conclusion: How could he take care of them only for this world and not care about their future in the next world? Therefore, he saw to it that they received circumcision.
Caring for the gentiles is something our greatest leaders felt. They would feel bad to see throngs of people attending their houses of worship. It would bother them to see them violate the Shabbat because these people were missing out on this great merit.
We also must feel like Yosef did. We must have a feeling of tragedy that we cannot help them for their future in the next world. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"What has Hashem done to us?" (Beresheet 42:28)
When Yosef's brothers went to Egypt to buy grain, they were brought before the viceroy (Yosef) and he suspected them of spying. Although they vehemently denied the charges, they were accused of a serious offense and the only way to clear their name was to go back home and bring their younger brother, Binyamin. On the way home, when one of the brothers checked his sack of grain, he found the original money in the sack and he cried out, "What has Hashem done to us?"
We see from here how a G-d-fearing person should speak. When things go wrong (as they invariably do) we try to find someone to blame. If we lose something in the house, we question who moved our things. If business is off, we look for causes and reasons to be able to pin it on. The sons of Ya'akob were holy men who realized that when something goes awry, it is from Hashem, and they asked, "What does Hashem want from us?" We must reinforce such behavior in our lives and in our homes. When things go right we say "Baruch Hashem," and if there is a problem we look to Hashem for the reason. When we train ourselves and our children in this manner, we will constantly be living with Hashem and He will dwell amongst us, which will only bring us blessings. Shabbat Shalom.
[Yosef called the name of the first-born Menasheh], "for G-d has made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house" (Beresheet 41:51)
Why was Yosef grateful for forgetting his father's house?
A visitor once entered a presumably kosher restaurant. Unimpressed with the religiosity of the personnel, he began to inquire about the kashrut standards. The proprietor confidently pointed to a picture on the wall, of a Jew with a long beard. He said to the visitor, "You see that man up there? He was my father!" The visitor replied, "If you were hanging on the wall, and your father was behind the counter, I would not ask any questions. But since your father is hanging on the wall, and you are behind the counter, I have good reason to question the kashrut."
There are many whose only attachment to Judaism is through nostalgia. They remember their mother's candle lighting, they recall their father's long beard, they reminisce about their parents' Shabbat table. They proudly tell their children about it, but unfortunately, they do not emulate or practice this way of life.
Living among the Egyptians, Yosef was in danger of becoming totally assimilated and adapting to the social life of the upper class. Fortunately, he remained tenacious in his Torah observance. Thus, it was unnecessary for him to nostalgically tell his children about his parents' observance. He conducted his home life in exactly the same way as his father had done and was able to "forget" his father's house and show his family his own home as a living example. (Vedibarta Bam)
This week's Haftarah: Melachim I 3:15-4:1.
The haftarah, like our perashah, tells of the dream of a king and what came about as a result of the dream. Shelomo, the new king of Israel, is told by Hashem that he can make one request for himself. Shelomo requested wisdom so that he could judge his people fairly. The haftarah begins at this point in the story, and tells how Shelomo awoke from this dream, and was soon given the opportunity to demonstrate his supreme wisdom. The famous case of the two women, who were both claiming a baby to be their own, was brought before him. When he ordered that the baby be cut in half, and subsequently judged that the woman who objected to this ruling is the true mother, all of Israel were in awe of their new king.
Answer to Pop Quiz: Shimon.
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