subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

shore.gif (51285 bytes)

Back to this week's Parsha Archive of previous issues


December 17-18,1999 - 9 Tebet 5760

Pop Quiz: How many years did the famine in Egypt last?

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Yosef said to his brothers, 'I am Yosef. Does my father still live?'" (Beresheet 45:3)

As we all know, we live in a society that moves along at an extremely fast pace. We are all so busy that many times it seems that a day can go by before it began. Most times, we are busy doing good things - either earning a livelihood, running the physical needs of a household, doing misvot, and learning Torah. Sometimes we might work many hours a day, hardly seeing or talking to the children. Some parents think that love is giving their child a Mercedes for his sixteenth birthday. This is not love. Love is spending time with your child and being there when he or she needs you.

Rabbi Frand quotes an important statement of the Rambam: A teacher must love his students as if they were his own children. He explains that perhaps in previous generations this statement would be difficult to understand. Why is this so necessary? However, we live in a generation that at times a teacher may have a student starving for love and he seeks that love in the classroom. Now it's the teacher's job to give a friendly pat on the back to the student. Rabbi Frand tells a true story of a student whose father deserted his family. The student ended up in the corner, in the back of the classroom. The teacher tried many times in vain to get close to the student. He tried inviting him over, he tried bringing him into the class participation, with no luck. One day they were learning the story of Yosef and his brothers. They got up to the climax where Yosef asks his brothers his famous question after he reveals his true identity, "Is my father still alive?" All the commentators ask what he meant. The brothers up until then had been telling him that Ya'akob was alive. The teacher asked the students for their ideas. That forlorn student raised his hand after many months of silence. He said, "Yosef is saying, 'I know YOUR father is still alive, but is MY father still alive? Has my father given up on me? I have been away from home in a strange land for 22 years; do I still have a father who cares about me?'"

That child was not only asking Yosef's question. He was asking his own. Sometimes we have children who are asking in many different ways, "Is my father still alive?" Let's make sure it's not being asked in our home. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

The parashah begins by telling us about the dialogue which Yosef, the ruler of Egypt, was having with his brother, Yehudah, about whether to release Binyamin or not. The Midrash tells us that the debate was very heated and Yehudah threatened to destroy Egypt and all of its inhabitants. When Yosef saw that Yehudah had reached the limit of his patience, he revealed his identity thereby diffusing the entire drama.

The Midrash calls Yosef a wise man who can appease people. It seems that it would be obvious to anyone that this is what Yosef should have done in this situation. What great wisdom is seen from Yosef's actions?

The lesson that can be learned from here is that there is usually a point during an argument when it is wise to back down and retreat. When one is involved in a dispute, it often escalates to levels far beyond the original issues. One needs to look at it with a clear head, and know when to cut it short. Otherwise it reaches another level which can bring pain and destruction. Although it takes wisdom and foresight to be able to concede to someone else, especially during the heat of "battle," one who can muster inner strength like Yosef will diffuse the tension bringing peace and harmony among all parties involved. Shabbat Shalom!


"And Yosef sustained his father and his brothers" (Beresheet 47:12) "And they brought their cattle unto Yosef, and Yosef gave them bread...and he provided them with bread" (Beresheet 47:17)

Rashi understands the word vaynahalem to mean "he led them." He thus interprets the verse, "Yosef controlled the Egyptians by means of the bread which he gave them." This contrasts to the word vaychalkel, "he sustained them," which is emphasized regarding Yosef's brothers. Rav Z. Sorotzkin explains the contrasting choice of words. While vaychalkel means simply "to sustain," vaynahalem also means "to manage" or "to provide."

The committed Jew will not allow himself to be sold in exchange for bread. His commitment to Torah is resolute. Only Esav was prepared to sell his birthright and his soul for a bowl of lentil soup. Although a hungry Jew may be "sustained" by another's bread, he cannot be manipulated by it. The Egyptians, however, accepted Esav's orientation.

They were willing to sacrifice their self-respect by selling their conscience for a slice of bread during the Egyptian famine. Indeed, the Egyptians were even willing to undergo circumcision in order to receive food. Circumcision as a means of spiritual development was totally antithetical to the Egyptian mindset. They agreed to circumcision in order to satisfy their physical hunger.

Rav Sorotzkin applied this idea during a fundraising effort on behalf of the Va'ad HaYeshivot in Israel. A number of people were reluctant to donate on behalf of this cause, citing the ultra traditional orientation of some of the yeshivot. They subsequently went on to stipulate that if the yeshivot would "relax" their philosophy, they would offer their encouragement and support.

Rav Sorotzkin responded in the following manner: The Torah uses two words to describe the provision of food. The word vaychalkel is used when Yosef feeds his family, while the word vaynahalem is used when he is feeding Egyptians. We feed our brothers unconditionally. They are supported with love, without limitations. When providing for a stranger, however, one may make stipulations for his support. The manner in which one individual supports another person indicates the nature of his relationship with him. If there are "strings attached" to his support, then he is not a friend or family member. Rav Sorotzkin turned to the people and concluded his remarks, saying, "Decide among yourselves your attitude towards the yeshivah students. Are they your brothers, or are they strangers?" (Peninim on the Torah)


"Hurry - go up to my father and say to him, 'So said your son, Yosef: G-d has made me master of all Egypt.'" (Beresheet 45:9)

The words "bincha Yosef - your son Yosef" seem superfluous. Why did he not simply instruct them, "Tell father I said...?"

When the brothers returned home after the sale of Yosef, they showed a garment to their father and said, "Please examine it; is it your son's shirt?" Ya'akob sensed in their words hatred and animosity. The mere fact that they did not mention Yosef by name and referred to him as "bincha - your son" conveyed to him their attitude to Yosef. Ya'akob, in pain and anguish, cried out, "This is indeed my son's shirt, and tarof toraf Yosef - [an evil beast devoured him and] Yosef has been torn to bits!"

The word "Yosef" seems extra. "He was torn to bits" would be sufficient. Ya'akob was telling his children, "From your words I see that you have 'torn up' the name 'Yosef.' You hate him to the extent that you are unable to even mention his name."

Yosef, therefore, instructed his brothers, when they returned to Ya'akob, that they should specifically say the words "bincha Yosef - your son, Yosef." Thus, Ya'akob would see that the hatred they bore against Yosef had been erased. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Two years. The famine stopped when Ya'akob arrived in Egypt.

Please preserve the sanctity of this bulletin. It contains words of
Torah and should be treated with respect.

Other Torah e-mail you may enjoy:
send e-mail to and put in the message:
subscribe aram-soba

Please pass this bulletin along to a friend. You may subscribe to
this bulletin by sending e-mail to
and putting in the message: subscribe jersey-shore.
To unsubscribe, send the message 'unsubscribe jersey-shore' to

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel