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DECEMBER 3-4, 2004 21 KISLEV 5765

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Pop Quiz: For how much was Yosef sold by his brothers?


As the brothers of Yosef were deliberating how to prevent him from endangering their status in the eyes of their father, Ya'akob, an Arab caravan pulled into view. The brothers decided to sell Yosef to this caravan, which ultimately brought Yosef into Egypt. The Torah mentions that this caravan was carrying sweet smelling spices. Our Rabbis point out that this was highly unusual, since Arabs usually sold petroleum products which have an offensive odor. The Rabbis say that this occurred so that Yosef should not have to smell anything unpleasant. This may seem puzzling to us, for Yosef was being separated from his beloved father and sold into slavery to a country whose morals and values were totally alien to him. What difference would it make what he smelled on the way to Egypt? Would someone who is being kidnapped u"j care what kind of odor was in the "paddy wagon"? The answer is that the smell is not important; the "message" behind the smell is. When Yosef smelled a beautiful fragrance when it should have been something worse, he realized that Hashem was orchestrating this event and therefore his faith became strengthened. When things are tough for us, we have to look for small signs which show us the Hand of G-d and this in turn will make the going easier. These small signs are all around us. We just have to open up our eyes and see the Divine Providence and this will help us build our faith to go through the ups and downs of life. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Jacob settled in the land of his fathers' dwelling in the land of Canaan" (Beresheet 37:1)

Jacob finally comes peacefully to the land of Israel, the place where his father and grandfather, Abraham and Yitzhak, lived. The opening verse of our perashah specifically tells us this information. However, we know that the Torah doesn't repeat itself, so why are we being told the fact after it was already mentioned at the end of last week's perashah (see 35:27)? In addition, why doesn't the Torah tell us in which city Jacob lived?

Rabbi Nissan Alpert learns from these questions an important fact of life that we all feel is true. At this time Hashem was about to begin the next important chapter in our history - the exile to Egypt. However, before this long, difficult period begins, Hashem wanted to implant into Jacob and his family a love of the holy land, to feel the spiritual uplift of living there. Hashem also wanted them to feel secure in the land from all enemies, so he caused Esav to agree to leave Jacob alone and go to his own land.

This is the message of our verse, to tell us that now Jacob lived in the land and became filled with the love of the land. It really doesn't matter which part of the land it was. Why is this important? Because whenever and to wherever Israel must leave the land, they will always yearn to go back. That's why if we ever travel we say, "I'm going to visit London," or, "I am going to visit Paris." We never say we are visiting Israel, even if it is the first trip we say, "I am going to Israel." This shows that we have a yearning to go home. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And Ya'akob dwelt in the land where his fathers settled" (Beresheet 37:1)

Rashi comments: Ya'akob desired to dwell in peace. And as a result the troubles of Yosef befell him. The righteous desire to dwell in peace! Hashem said, "Is it not sufficient for the righteous that which is prepared for them in Olam Haba, but they seek also in this world?"

This Rashi needs explanation. It is hard to say that Hashem begrudges the righteous the benefits of this world. The Torah does not refer to the "retirement" of the righteous and their desire for various rewards. The reference is to the education and training of one's children. Ya'akob was under the impression that since his children were all faithful and righteous, there was no further need to supervise them. The education which they had received would continue to maintain them. Consequently the troubles of Yosef began. This is a lesson for us not to be complacent regarding our children; rather we must continually imbue them with as many Torah values as possible. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Why do you appear so downtrodden today?" (Beresheet 40:7)

Let's recreate the scene. Yosef had been languishing in prison for a crime he did not commit. After ten years, two of Pharaoh's servants were sent to the same prison as Yosef. Soon after, these two servants both had a troubling dream on the same night. On the subsequent morning, Yosef noticed that they were both in a state of distress, and asked them what was troubling them. When they related their dreams to Yosef, he explained to them the interpretation of the dreams. Three days later, true to Yosef's prediction, the butler was freed from prison. Two years later, when Pharaoh had dreams that needed to be interpreted, the butler recommended Yosef, who was then brought before Pharaoh.

Think for a moment about Yosef's state of mind when the butler and baker had their dreams. Here is a man who had enormous potential, who had been sold by his brothers and taken from his father's home, and had thus far served ten years of an unjust sentence with no end in sight. Given these circumstances, it would have been entirely justified if Yosef had been so immersed in self-pity that he wouldn't even notice anyone else's suffering, much less have any sympathy for them. But not Yosef. No matter what he was going through in his own personal life, he continued to reach out to others in support. His unwavering belief that everything comes from Hashem enabled him to withstand his own suffering, and continue to help others in need.

What would have happened if Yosef did not ask them why they were distressed? Most likely, they would not have told Yosef their dreams. If that's so, then the butler would not have known about Yosef's ability to interpret dreams and would not have recommended him to Pharaoh. How would Yosef have ever gotten out of prison? We see that these four words of concern changed the course of Yosef's life.

Question: When things are not going well for you, are you able to put your own problems aside and help other people who are having a rough time? How much do you actually pay attention when someone is telling you his problems?


Question: Ashrei is taken from chapter 145 of Tehillim. Why do we conclude it with the verse from chapter 115, "Va'anahnu nebarech..."?

Answer: One who recites Ashrei three times a day is guaranteed a portion in Olam Haba. This additional pasuk is a prayer that, through recitation of Ashrei, we should merit to praise Hashem also in Olam Haba. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


This Week's Haftarah: : Amos 2:6 - 3:8.

In this week's Perashah, the brothers sell Yosef into slavery. In the haftarah, the prophet Amos tells the nation that even though they bring sacrifices and celebrate Holy Days, Hashem is going to punish them and exile them. One of the reasons for this severe punishment is that the people are "selling the righteous for money." This is the same sin that the brothers committed against Yosef.

Being dutiful to Hashem is not enough, says the prophet. You must also be dutiful to your fellow man. (Tell it from the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: : : Twenty silver pieces.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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