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Haftarah: Amos 2:6-3:8

November 26-27, 2010 20 Kislev 5771


"It was at that time that Yehudah went down from his brothers." (Beresheet 38:1)

In our perashah we read how, after the brothers had sold Yosef into slavery, Yehudah married a Canaanite woman and had three sons. The first two sons, Er and Onan, died because of their sins, and then shortly thereafter, Yehudah's wife died. The Seforno explains that Yehudah was made to suffer in this way as a father, because of the grief which he had caused his own father Ya'akob, by instigating the plan to sell Yosef to the Ishmaelites.

Rabbi Yaakov Haber asks that this judgment of Yehudah doesn't seem to fit to what actually happened. According to Rashi, Yehudah's plan to sell Yosef was in order to save his life. According to Rashi, he judged that his brothers would not listen to a proposal to free Yosef completely and return him to their father, so he calculated a compromise proposal that would be acceptable to them. How can this be considered bad? In fact, later on (49:8), when Ya'akob is blessing his sons, Rashi interprets Ya'akob's words to Yehudah as praising him for saving Yosef's life! How can we reconcile these two viewpoints? Was Yehudah being bad or good in instigating the sale of Yosef?

The answer is given by Rashi (38:1) that it was both. Of course he did a good deed in saving his brother's life, but he sinned in trying to judge how far his brothers would be willing to listen to him and how much he should compromise his position accordingly. This is something we should never do, judge someone regarding how far he is willing or able to rise to a challenge, for we are making a judgment on his neshamah, his soul.

We cannot presume to limit what other people are capable of. In fact, Rashi says, if Yehudah had advised his brothers to release Yosef, they would have listened. In fact, later on they had a grudge against him for not doing so.

I feel this is a true picture of our community. A Rabbi should always raise the bar for his people. He should always challenge them to go for a higher religious standard. If not, the people will have a legitimate complaint of why he didn't tell them the true Torah standard. Our people can reach the highest level given enough time and with gradual steps. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

Though we Jews are only a small minority of the world's population, we have been assigned the formidable, seemingly impossible task of enlightening the entire world. The sages have given us a hint as to how this is possible. The halachah states that if a person lit the hanukah lights and the lights subsequently went out, he is not obligated to relight it (although it is preferable if possible). The reason is that "hadlakah osah misvah" - the kindling is the essence of the misvah. This symbolizes that we are charged with the responsibility to start the task of enlightening the world; G-d will see to its successful conclusion.

The lesson is that although we must do our share to promote and preserve Torah observance, and to be an example to the world, we need not be concerned if it seems that the task is not being accomplished. If we do our part, Hashem will intervene and He will see to it that the job is completed. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"[The brothers] were plotting to kill him." (Beresheet 37:18)

Yosef was in Egypt for 22 years before he sent word to his father Ya'akob telling him that he was alive. Why didn't he send word sooner? He must have known that Ya'akob was suffering from this incident.

The Midrash tells that Yosef's brothers set up a court amongst themselves to judge Yosef. He had been bringing incriminating reports to their father about them and they sat down to decide if he should be considered a rodef (pursuer) and treated as such (there is a rule that if someone is pursuing you to kill you, you are permitted to kill him first). In the end, they decided that Yosef was guilty and we all know what happened after that.

Now we can understand Yosef's failure to communicate with Ya'akob. Yosef knew about his brothers' "guilty verdict." He feared that if he were to tell his father that he was still alive, his brothers would come to Egypt to try to kill him! Yosef had only one choice: he somehow had to convince his brothers that they were misguided in their judgment of him, and then he could finally relieve his father of his suffering. We see this happen later in the narrative when the brothers say "G-d has uncovered our guilt." It was now clear to Yosef that his brothers realized their sin and regretted it. He was then able to say to them without fear of danger, "I am Joseph your brother." (Emet LeYa'akob)

Why are goats used on Rosh Hodesh and Yom Kippur to atone for our sins?

The brothers sold Yosef and dipped his beautiful coat in goat's blood (which resembles human blood). We must always remember this act of "sibling rivalry." This is why on Rosh Hodesh and Yom Kippur we must use a goat to atone for our sins. We are thus reminded to do teshubah for this common sin of not getting along within our own family. (Torahific)


People who read Psalms regularly or pray daily recite the last chapter of Tehillim, number 150, hundreds of times a year. In it, David Hamelech says, "Kol Haneshamah te'hallel Yah - Every soul will praise the Lord." Our Sages make a play on words: neshamah, soul, is similar to nesheemah, breath. So, the phrase becomes, "every breath will praise the Lord." We should praise Hashem, they say, for every breath that we take.

There is a practical application for this conceptual teaching. A deep breath can do wonders to relieve tension. When you are tense or nervous, pause and take a few long, slow, deep breaths. A slow exhalation as you think, "Patience, patience" - and you can actually feel the tightness loosen and your blood pressure go down.

Deep breathing works even for people who do not live with trust in Hashem. However, individuals who realize that every breath of life is generously and lovingly provided by our Father in Heaven will gain more and more. They will realize that it doesn't pay to get sick over the temporary trials and tribulations that make up our lives - because Hashem is in control. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)


Candles represent Torah and misvot. "A misvah is like a candle and Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23). Consequently, in Torah and misvot, one should never be content with what was done yesterday. Each day one must strive to do more and improve in the observance of misvot and the study of Torah.

The Hanukah lights commemorate the Menorah of the Bet HaMikdash. Yet there are major differences between them. In the Bet HaMikdash the Menorah was lit in the afternoon and on the inside, where as the Hanukah candles are lit by the entrance facing the street, and after dark. This teaches that a Jew must not only light up his house, as with the Shabbat candles, but he has the additional responsibility to illuminate the "outside" - his social and business environment.

Especially when times are hard spiritually, when it is "dark" outside and the Jews are in exile, it is not sufficient to light a candle alone and maintain it. It is necessary to increase the lights steadily. Constant growing efforts to spread the light of Torah and misvot will dispel the darkness of exile and illuminate the world. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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