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Haftarah: Melachim I 7:40-50

DECEMBER 18-19, 2009 2 TEBET 5770


"Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenat Paneah." (Beresheet 41:45)

The time has come to free Yosef from jail. Every case of Divine salvation comes hastily and unexpectedly. Yosef interprets the king's dream and the interpretation is accepted and Yosef becomes the viceroy of Egypt. Appointees to a high position were customarily assigned a name that is connected with their new eminence. Pharaoh gave Yosef a new name at his coronation, Zaphenat Paneah, which means, he who explains what is hidden.

The Oznayim Latorah writes that this name was written only once in the Torah. From this we can deduce that Yosef did not use this new name, but only used his Hebrew name, Yosef. This interesting note should be a lesson for all of us that use the names of the other nations. Especially today, if someone receives the honor of being called "lord" or "baron" by the king, and the king calls the lord with a non-Jewish name, that person would most likely not use his Jewish name. He and his family for generations to come would proudly display and use this name from the king. However, Yosef refused to be called by the name the king gave him at his coronation. This is the same Yosef who, while in prison said, "I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews," letting everyone know that he was a Hebrew. He continues now in the king's palace to demand that he be known by his Jewish name. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"For Hashem has made me forget all my previous misfortune and all my father's house." (Beresheet 41:51)

The usual translation for ??????????????? is "Hashem has made me forget." This notation engenders a distasteful feeling. It seems objectionable that Yosef would be anxious to disassociate himself with his elderly father and all of his family. Rav S.R. Hirsch notes that this would explain Yosef's deficiency in getting in touch with his family for such a long time. To state, however, that Yosef's heart was so cold is simply preposterous! The various commentaries imply justifiable reasons for Yosef's inaction.

Rav Hirsch cites another interpretation for the word ???????. It also means "to be a creditor" and can, therefore, mean: Hashem has transformed what had formerly seemed to be calamity into the medium for attaining the greatest joy. The realization that one is deeply indebted to his misfortune and family is the hallmark of greatness. One's objective should be to pierce through the veil of ambiguity that clouds various life situations in order to vividly see Divine Providence directing every step. Yosef Hasadik was not only righteous in his own right, he was also able to see the "righteousness" of Hashem's guidance in everything.

We may suggest another thought. Sometimes it is good to forget! Imagine that Yosef went through life with bitter animosity, loathing his brothers for what they had done to him. He would calculate and add every bit of misery to his hatred, until it became insurmountable. This obsessive hatred would have eventually destroyed him. How many individuals and institutions have fallen prey to the effects of hatred? In due time, a simple offense can be blown out of proportion. This occurs because we refuse to forget yesterday's offense which blatantly glares us in the eye many years later, demanding revenge. Yosef thanked Hashem for giving him the ability to open his arms to his brothers and view their actions in the proper perspective. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And Hashem Almighty shall grant you sympathy in the presence of the man." (Beresheet 43:14)

The word rahamim (sympathy) designates the attribute of Hashem which is the most general and secure. It is the fundamental trait by which the relationship among people should be characterized. Rahamim reflects family love - the love of parents to children, children to parents, the love of children to one another on account of the common "rehem" (womb) from where they all originate. This definition conflicts with the popular definition of rahmanut (pity), which we are inclined to accept. Indeed, pity is a feeling with less essence than that of true rahamim. Which is more enabling: to be moved to pity at another's sorrow or to be moved to joy at another's happiness? Rarely do we find an individual who is not sympathetic to his fellow man's sorrowful plight. There are few, however, who feel sympathy for the poor man today and equally share his tremendous joy when he draws the first prize in the lottery.

The feeling of rahamim is more than pity. The word is derived from rehem, which symbolizes the most self-sacrificing energy of one being for the formation of another being. Rehem, the womb, is the place of the deepest devotion. And afterward, too, when the new being has arrived, the rehem begets not only sympathy, as a reaction to its crying, but even more intimate joy as a reaction to its smiling. Rahamim is not pity but indicative of a deeper form of kinship, relating to another individual as if he were an integral part of ourselves. (Peninim on the Torah)


Repetition can be boring. It can even make people lose their initial enthusiasm for an activity or a novel idea. Yet the Torah commands us to mention the Exodus from Egypt not merely daily, but twice daily, once in the daytime and again at night. This repetition may seem, from our perspective, counterproductive.

The Hafess Hayim, however, compares this commandment to a doctor's prescription that must be taken twice daily. The medication will not be effective if the repetitive schedule is not followed. Hashem understands the fleeting nature of spiritual concepts in the cluttered minds of worldly humans. To ensure the effectiveness of His spiritual prescription, repetition on a regular schedule is the only technique that will yield implantation of these intangible principles in a person's being.

In his philosophical work, Kohelet, Shelomo Hamelech clearly states, "Havel havalim hakol havel - Vanity, vanity, all is worthless vanity!" (Kohelet 1:2). This clear statement of principle, we might think, would set us straight. But the wisest of all men felt it necessary to expand on his statement, and the balance of his great work is a detailed description of all the vanities of this world. For emphasis, Shelomo Hamelech completes each item that he mentions with the very repetitious postscript, "This, too, is vanity." From here we learn that repetition of spiritual concepts is beneficial for overcoming our animal natures.

Even while rushing though our busy schedules, we often hear words of wisdom: "Greet others with a pleasant countenance." "Love your neighbor as yourself." "Do not bear a grudge." Catch these thoughts and repeat them throughout the day. This simple technique will drive valuable concepts deep into your psyche to yield years of benefit. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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