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Haftarah: Melachim I 7:40-50

DECEMBER 22-23. 2006 2 TEBET 5767

Pop Quiz: Which brother stayed in Egypt when the others went back for Binyamin?


"And to return their money each one to his sack." (Beresheet 42:25)

Joseph, the Viceroy of the land of Egypt, meets his brothers again after many long years of being separated. However, his brothers don't know he is Joseph. The brothers came to Egypt to purchase wheat because there was a great famine in the entire region. Joseph allowed the purchase, but he told his assistant to return the money of each brother to each sack of wheat. Why did he do this? The Brisker Rav explains that Joseph wanted them to return another time, and he demanded they bring his younger brother, Benjamin with them. Joseph needed a way to guarantee their return. He knew they were very honest with their money dealings, so he planted their money in their sacks knowing that they would realize that they got their wheat without paying for it. They would force themselves to return to Egypt to pay the money they owed. This is a lesson for us - to be very careful to always pay and not owe.

A true story is told (Maayan Hashavua) about a great Rosh Yeshivah who was well known to be very meticulous in his money dealings. On the night of Yom Kippur, the Rabbi had a dream that he made a donation to the Gra shul in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem 25 years ago. The Rabbi woke up very agitated, wracking his brain trying to remember what occurred so many years ago. The Rabbi didn't even live in Jerusalem; he lived in Bnei Brak. To find the shul was one thing, the other was to find out how much he owed. This problem gave him no rest, as he was unable to figure it out. Hashem saw his suffering so he sent him an angel one night. The Rabbi was attending a wedding of one of his students. At the wedding, a total stranger introduced himself to the Rabbi and told him he is the gabbai (treasurer) of the Gra shul in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem. The Rabbi was speechless. The man continued to talk, inquiring about one of the Rosh Yeshivah's students for a prospective match for his daughter. The Rabbi answered all the questions, and then told the man the whole story of the dream. The man responded that he was the gabbai 25 years ago and would check his books. A day later, the man called the Rosh Yeshivah and told him he has record of the Rosh Yeshivah's donation that was unpaid, the exact amount and the exact date 25 years ago!

The lesson is clear. If one is careful in his dealings, he will be given help from Heaven to do as he wishes, never to stumble in his mission. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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 Shmuel Choueka


"It came to pass after two years" (Beresheet 41:1)

Rashi cites the Midrash which states that these two years refer to the two extra years that Yosef was incarcerated. Since Yosef put his trust in the butler by asking that he remember him upon his release from prison, Yosef was forced to be confined for two extra years. This Midrash is vexing. While we are commanded to have bitahon, trust in Hashem, we are, nevertheless, implored to employ the usual forms of hishtadlut, endeavor to help ourselves. Wasn't Yosef simply resorting to hishtadlut?

The Hazon Ish explains that Yosef's requesting that the butler remember him was an improper form of hishtadlut. This form of hishtadlut was, therefore, a blemish in Yosef's level of bitahon. Yosef knew that one must rely only in Hashem and not rely on his own efforts. Nonetheless, Yosef asked the butler to further his cause, since he perceived this to be an act of hishtadlut. What then was the error in judgment?

Yosef should have known that it is not in the Egyptian nature to be kind and remember another person's favor. Thus, Yosef's trust in an Egyptian was a vain endeavor which would not be blessed with success. Yosef's act of hishtadlut was, in reality, an act of desperation. Only a non-believer clutches at every possibility to save himself. A true ba'al-bitahon, firm believer, does not act out of desperation. He will not attempt an act of futility. Yosef's act of hishtadlut was actually an act of futility, indicating a lack of faith on his part. Our sense of bitahon in Hashem must emanate from indomitable faith, not desperate pessimism. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And now let Pharaoh look for an understanding and wise man" (Beresheet 41:33)

It is interesting to note Yosef's boldness in taking the initiative to offer Pharaoh advice. Pharaoh was searching only for someone to interpret his dreams, not one to direct him in the administration of the country! Why then was Yosef so brazen to volunteer his gratuitous suggestions? Rav Nissan Alpert explains that Yosef's attitude was not only appropriate, but necessary, for his acceptance in the Egyptian hierarchy. When Pharaoh chose to designate Yosef as viceroy over Egypt, his intimate advisors were concerned that he appointed a lowly servant to a powerful position. There was no precedent in Egyptian history for such a sudden change in position. Pharaoh's response was that he had observed in Yosef a demeanor befitting royalty. How did he notice this from Yosef's conduct? Obviously, Yosef's dignity which was inconsistent with that of a common servant. A servant neither makes suggestions nor offers advice to a king. Rather, he cowers in obedience awaiting the next command. Yosef's ability to conduct himself in a princely manner indicated his qualification for the position of viceroy.

We may further suggest that as B'nei Yisrael, we must also maintain ourselves on a level befitting the name Yisrael. Our name reflects Ya'akob's state of serenity and strength when he was walking with Hashem. As the descendants of the Patriarchs it is our mandate not to grovel to anyone. Rather, we should stand tall and erect, replete with pride in the glory of our noble heritage. (Peninim on the Torah)


But we are guilty concerning our brother" (Beresheet 42:21)

Teshubah is a spiritual phenomenon which must be expressed verbally as the Viduy (confession). The Rambam states that the major part of his confession consists of the words "Abal anahnu hata'nu (but we have sinned)." These three words acknowledge man's failure in serving Hashem properly. It may be suggested that the inclusion of the word "but" is not only crucial, but is perhaps the device which allows us not only to sin, but also to maintain a fa?ade of innocence and virtue. Very few people are really mean and malicious. Most people are decent, and truly admire virtue and righteousness. However, we tend to rationalize and find excuses for our misbehavior. We are aware of what is correct, yet we do not follow it, always finding reasons to justify our straying from the proper course. The word "but" represents the exception we take to the life that is good and decent, by justifying and apologizing for ourselves. "But" is a loophole which allows us, even after committing a sin, to act self-righteously and complacently. We will always say, "We wanted to do the right thing butů"

As the brothers were reliving the selling of Yosef into slavery, they were saying to each other, "Our guilt was that of 'but.'" We tried to excuse and justify our actions, but in retrospect we see it was no more than a mere cover-up. The recognition and acknowledgement of their sin was the beginning of their repentance. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Shimon.

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