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December 12, 1998 23 Kislev 5758

Pop Quiz: What was Potifar's position in Egypt?

WHO'S TO BLAME? By Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"How can I do this evil and be a sinner against G-d?" (Beresheet 39:9)

Yosef was put in a very difficult position in the house of Potifar. The wife of Potifar tried to seduce him on a daily basis and would not let up for a moment. Yosef responded to her that he could not do such a terrible act and be a sinner. In reality, adultery is forbidden even to the gentiles, so he should have told her that she also would be a sinner. Why did he take the responsibility on himself?

We see from here that one must always shift the focus of responsibility on oneself and not put the blame on others. It usually is easier to blame someone else, such as a spouse, family member or business partner. One always feels better pointing fingers at others and remaining innocent. But if one is truthful he will see that there is usually some element of responsibility on his part. By addressing the reality of things, we can usually rectify matters by changing ourselves rather than viewing others as the ones at fault. Shabbat Shalom.

LISTEN CLOSELY by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"[Yosef] said to them, 'Hear if you please this dream which I have dreamt'" (Beresheet 37:6)

The story of Yosef and his brothers is so unusual. Every sentence is begging us to try to understand what is being said. Yosef says: "Please hear my dream!" The Midrash says: And Hashem said that this is the way of the prophets, that they say, "Please hear the word of G-d." The Midrash ends off saying that finally Ya'akob gets angry at Yosef, which is also a sign of things to come that the people will get angry at their prophets.

We see from this Midrash that Hashem is testifying that Yosef was not telling over his dreams out of self-glorification. It was in the way of rebuke that the prophets always spoke to the Children of Israel. Out of love for his brothers and out of his own humility, he was trying to get a message across to them. "Listen please! Hashem has chosen me to be the king; me, the young brother among you. The main quality of a king is that he can control all of his senses and passions. Apparently, Hashem has found this quality in me, not you!" And when Ya'akob saw that Yosef's words were not having their effect, he felt it was not appropriate to continue, so he got angry at Yosef. The Midrash says that his words should not draw anger, but that is the reaction prophets always receive.

Why didn't they hear? It says in a later pasuk, "His brothers went to pasture their father's sheep in Shechem" (37:12). Rashi explains that they didn't go to pasture the sheep but to pasture themselves. This means that they went to the fields mainly for their own needs and not for the sheep. Here the Torah is hinting to the main root cause of why they didn't hear Yosef's words. They were too focused on themselves. If a person does not teach himself to be more concerned about the other person, then if the other person doesn't do as he wants and desires, he will not be able to judge this person properly. He will only react with anger and indignation. The brothers were not attuned enough to Yosef to understand him.

It is axiomatic that we view these people, Yosef and his brothers, as great giants of righteousness and piety. The Torah attests to this many times. Nevertheless, the Torah relates these stories to us for us to learn and better ourselves. If such minute flaws can be found in these giants, how much more can they be found in us? Shabbat Shalom.


"Yosef was brought down to Egypt" (Beresheet 39:1)

Anyone viewing the scene of Yosef being brought down to Egypt as a slave would have considered it a major tragedy. His brothers sold him into slavery and he was being taken far away from his father and his homeland. But the reality was that this was the first step towards his being appointed the second in command of Egypt. He would eventually be in charge of the national economy of Egypt and would be the mastermind behind the complex program to prepare for the years of famine during the years of plenty.

Later on when Ya'akob, Yosef's father, went down to Egypt, anyone viewing the scene would have considered it a very positive one. Ya'akob was going to be reunited with his favorite son after so many years of separation. His son was a powerful leader and he would be treated with all the honors of royalty. But what was the total picture? This was the first stage in the exile of the Children of Israel. Their enslavement in Egypt was beginning at this very moment, although the entire process would take some time until it was finally felt.

No human being has the omniscience to know what the final consequences of any situation will actually be. Therefore, when a situation seems to be extremely negative, do not despair. This could lead to wonderful things for you. Conversely, when things seem to be going extremely well, do not be complacent or arrogant. One can never tell what the future has in store. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: He was chief of the butchers.

Hanukah Pop Quiz: How many Maccabee brothers were there and who was the oldest?


When the Hashmonaim overpowered and defeated the Greeks, they searched and found only one cruse of oil, which lay with the seal of the Kohen Gadol." (Gemara Shabbat 21b). What assurance did they have that the cruse was not touched by any of the Greek soldiers?

This question is raised by Tosafot, who answered that it was buried in the ground, and thus the Greeks did not see it or know of its existence. A difficulty with this explanation is that there is no allusion to this fact in the Gemara. Moreover, if so, why was it necessary to have a seal on it?

Careful analysis of the wording of the Gemara prompts one to ask:

1) The Kohen Gadol was not in charge of making oil. Why would his seal be on the cruse?

2) Grammatically, instead of saying, "it lay with the seal," it should have said, "it was sealed with the seal."

From this, we may deduce that when the Hashmonaim entered the Bet Hamikdash, their eyes beheld a fascinating phenomenon. They saw one cruse of oil, and it was lying together with the seal of the Kohen Gadol. They surmised that, undoubtedly, nobody had come into this area, because he definitely would have stolen the ring. Therefore, they confidently assumed that the cruse was not defiled by any of the Greeks, and was fit for the Menorah kindling. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: There were 5 brothers; the oldest was Eliezer.

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