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December 10-11,1999 - 2 Tebet 5760

Pop Quiz: How old was Yosef when he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams?

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"If I don't bring Binyamin back, I will be a sinner forever."(Beresheet 43:9)

Yehudah wanted to convince Ya'akob to allow Binyamin to go down to Egypt with them. Otherwise, the viceroy would not allow their other brother out of prison. Yehudah therefore told Ya'akob, "If I don't bring back Binyamin I will be considered a sinner my whole life, including Olam Haba, the Next World." The Gemara says that because of these words, Yehudah was not allowed into Olam Haba for many hundreds of years, until Moshe Rabenu prayed fervently, and got Yehudah into Olam Haba. We see from here how careful we have to be when using words, even about ourselves. Although Yehudah said these words for a noble purpose of reuniting the family, nevertheless, his words affected his future in a very drastic way. We should never utter words which can have a dangerous effect on ourselves or on anybody, even when just joking or playing. Saying things like, "I could die from embarrassment," or, "I'm going to kill you for that," or, "You're dead," and the like, should be avoided at all costs. Although we don't mean these things literally, words uttered have a powerful force. We should train ourselves to say words of berachah (blessing) even when upset or angry. Many people from the old generation used to say, "You should be blessed," or the like, when they got upset with that person. This way, not only did they not say anything negative during an argument, but by saying nice things they made the arguments shorter. This is something to think about and train ourselves to do. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Ya'akob told his sons, 'Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?'" (Beresheet 42:1)

Ya'akob and his family are living in the land of Canaan during a famine. Yosef is now the viceroy of Egypt. Egypt is the only land selling food during the famine. Rashi and the Rambam tell us that Ya'akob had plenty of food; nevertheless, he sent his sons to Egypt to purchase food. Why was this necessary? In order not to be conspicuous in the eyes of the gentile neighbors. Our wealth arouses the envy of the gentiles. Ya'akob's rhetorical question has been the theme of our Jewish leaders to their fellow Jews not to flaunt their wealth and success. Whatever food Ya'akob's family possessed was honestly acquired, but even honest resources should be displayed very carefully. The Talmud (Hagigah 9) says, "Poverty is becoming to the Jewish people like a red strap to a white horse." A white stallion is made more beautiful with a red harness; so too poverty beautifies the Jewish people. One great explanation of this statement is that the red strap (which symbolizes poverty) is worn in public only. When the horse is brought into its stable, the harness is removed. Poverty is the same. Poverty should be displayed outside, but in private the Jewish people should have wealth so that they can buy all that they need, and use their wealth for charity and kindness. May Hashem bless us with wealth and with the wisdom to use it well.


"And portions were taken from before him to them; but Binyamin's portion was greater than the portions of all of them, five times as much. And they drank and were merry with him" (Beresheet 43:34)

Rashi comments: "Since the day that they had sold him they did not drink wine, nor did he (Yosef) drink wine, but on that day they did drink." Yosef recognized his brothers. Therefore, he had good reason to drink and be merry. However, since the brothers did not know who he was, why did they indulge in drinking? The major problem between the brothers and Yosef was jealousy. Due to their jealousy of his aspirations to rise above them, they went as far as selling him as a slave. When the brothers were invited to a meal in Yosef's house, Yosef put them to a test to see if they had overcome their negative trait. He gave Binyamin five times as many presents as he gave them, and waited to see how they would react. The brothers had already learned their lesson and showed no signs of jealousy whatsoever. When a person strives to improve his ways and overcomes his failings, he is very happy. Proud of their victory over jealousy, they permitted themselves to indulge in wine, to celebrate their improved character. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Thirty years old.

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