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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


It happened at the end of two years to the day, and Pharaoh dreamed. (41:1) The commentators explain that the "two years" that preceded Pharaoh's dream is a reference to the two years that followed Yosef's interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh's chamberlains. After two years the chief cup- bearer "remembered" how Yosef had successfully interpreted his dream. The Midrash explains the word "mikeitz," as "keitz sam la'choshech," Hashem ended the darkness to which Yosef had been subjected, and he was subsequently taken from prison. The Bais Halevi comments that this parsha serves as the key to understanding Divine Providence, to comprehending the true concept of sibah and mesovev, cause and effect.

Horav Matisyahu Solomon, Shlita, explains this in the following manner: Simply, one would say that the course of events seems apparent. Pharaoh had a strange dream, which no one could interpret for him acceptably. The chief cup-bearer finally remembered that there was a gifted young Jewish slave in jail who could successfully interpret dreams. He suggested to Pharaoh that he might ask Yosef to interpret his dream. The rest is history. The sibah, cause and reason, for initiating the cycle of events "seems" to be Pharaoh's dream. The pasuk doesn't indicate this when it says, "It happened at the end of two years to the day." This implies that the cause was the fact that two years had passed; Yosef's tenure in prison had come to an end. Thus, Pharaoh had a dream that would eventually facilitate Yosef's release from prison. The "sibah" is Yosef's need to be released - not Pharaoh's dream. On the contrary, Pharaoh dreamed because Yosef was destined to be released!

We derive from here that our concept of cause and effect is distorted. What we think is the cause is, for the most part, the effect and visa versa. The sibah, cause for everything that occurs, is Hashem's decree. Throughout Jewish history, from our very first episode of galus, exile, we have experienced incidents of hester panim, Divine concealment, in which Hashem hides His presence and guiding Hand. He causes people to perform actions inadvertently that are irrational and unexplainable. This is part of His sibah, cause, for "arranging" a certain result. Hashem does not punish us for a shogeg, inadvertent action. The Ramban claims that in mechiras Yosef, sale of Yosef, everyone was taken to task for their inadvertent actions. Yosef erred in misjudging his brothers, wrongly accusing them of transgression. They also misconstrued Yosef's actions as reflecting hostile and aggressive attitude towards them. They were both chastised for their misconceptions. Yaakov Avinu also erred in assuming that the brothers hated Yosef. Yaakov was not punished for his error. Ramban remarks that there is a profound lesson to be derived herein. Hashem causes every "shegagah," involuntary action/error, for a reason. Each one of the errors of Yosef and his brothers serves to teach us this lesson. This is why one is not responsible and is not punished for a shegagah: because he errs in response to Hashem's will.

Horav Solomon cites an incredible passage in Chazal which corroborates this idea. The Talmud in Gittin 56 quotes the dialogue between the Caesar and Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai that preceded the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. The Caesar instructed Rabbi Yochanan, "tell me, what do you want and I will grant it." Rabbi Yochanan responded, "Give me a doctor to heal Rabbi Zadok. Give me Yavne and its scholars, etc." The Talmud questions why he did not ask Caesar to spare Yerushalayim. Chazal respond that when Hashem makes a decree, when He wants something to happen, it happens. Suddenly, all the wise men become deficient. To paraphrase Horav Solomon, "This is an example of hester panim, Hashem's concealment; people do things that are not ordinary or rational." What we are being taught is simple: There are incidents or situations in life when we notice people who are -- to the best of our knowledge -- normal, intelligent human beings acting in a manner totally out of character. We must view these irrational moments as Divinely ordained. Before we disparage a person, we should reflect on the source of his behavior.

It happened at the end of two years to the day. (41:1)

Yosef was incarcerated for two years longer than his original sentence dictated because he had asked Pharaoh's sar hamashkim, chief cup-bearer, to remember him to Pharaoh. For trusting in a human being, rather than relying solely upon Hashem, Yosef was subjected to this extra time in prison. Hashem demands His tzaddikim to purify even the slightest vestige of sin. Why is this? Why should one who gives so much of himself be expected to give even more? Horav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld, zl, explains that when one builds a tall building, he must be sure to prepare a solid and deep foundation. Otherwise, the support system for the structure will be weak and undermine the stability of the entire structure. The tzaddikim of every generation form the foundation upon which Klal Yisrael is built. They are the support system for their generation. Hashem is precise in making sure that the foundation upon which Klal Yisrael is to develop is strong. There is no room for leniency in dealing with a spiritual deficiency, regardless of the fact that this deficiency may be commensurate with the tzaddik's lofty spiritual plateau. The righteous are acutely aware of the therapeutic effect of yisurim/pain, affliction. Consequently, they welcome the opportunity to purify themselves, so that they can better serve the klal, community.

Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, "see! I have placed you in charge of all the land of Egypt." (41:41)

Upon reading the text, one might wonder why Pharaoh felt the need to remind Yosef that he had appointed him to the position of viceroy over Egypt. After all, who else would have given him that position, if not Pharaoh? Later on in pasuk 44, Pharaoh tells Yosef, "Ani Pharaoh," "I am Pharaoh". Did Yosef not know that he was Pharaoh? Horav Sholom Shwadron, zl, cites a pshat, exposition, of this pasuk that gives us a profound and practical insight into human nature.

When the angel came to tell Manoach and his wife of the future birth of their son, whom we know as Shimshon, they were at first uncertain of the individual who brought these tidings: was he a human or an angel? The pasuk concludes that when the "angel" no longer returned to them, they knew for certain that he was an angel. Why? Why did his "not returning" determine his spiritual essence? Human nature dictates that when one does a favor for another person, he seeks recognition for his service. This recognition does not necessarily have to be manifest in terms of repayment or tribute, just a special smile indicating an acknowledgement of favors received. Indeed, the need to receive this recognition provokes the benefactor to go out of his way to "walk by" the beneficiary just to get that special smile or "hello." He will walk by, with a big "knowing" smile on his face, to give the beneficiary of his favor a great big "gut Shabbos" - only to see a special reaction. This is human nature: We do favors, and we want to receive recognition.

Pharaoh was implying to Yosef that he was not interested in any special kavod, glory, from him. He only asked that whenever he sat back to reflect upon his unique sovereign position in Egypt, he should remember who it was that gave him that position. "I did. I am Pharaoh, and whatever you have emanates from me."

Yosef called the name of his firstborn Menashe, for "G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's household." And the name of the second he called Ephraim, for "G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." (41:51,52) Yosef was blessed with two sons, whom he named Menashe and Ephraim. The stated reasons for their names draws the attention of commentators. Menashe, the elder son, was given this name, "ki nashani Elokim," "Hashem made me forget my house." Ephraim's name is derived from, "ki hifrani Elokim," "Hashem has made me fruitful." In both these names, Yosef was acknowledging Hashem's guiding Hand throughout his sojourn in Egypt. In a homiletic rendering of these pesukim, Horav Moshe Swift, zl, attributes Yosef's intentions to the fact that these names allude to the two reasons for abandoning the faith of one's people and one's father's house. One cause of assimilation is that the current situation causes the individual to forget the past. He comes to a new country; he does not know the language; he has no money, no friends, no home. The depression that ensues will quickly impede his patience for davening, learning, and - eventually - mitzvah observance. Very quickly, he is made to forget the past, to build a new life, a different life, a life no longer associated with the traditions of the past.

An individual may manifest another approach: One wants to forget. "ki hifrani", "I have become fruitful." He wants to impress new friends in the new society he has found. His child goes to new schools, joins new clubs, lives in a neighborhood that has long divorced itself from the past. He no longer wants to daven, to observe mitzvos, to maintain a Torah way of life.

Two types of Jews become lost to our heritage: The first is the Jew who is made to forget. Examples include the Jews of Russia, of foreign countries, who -- through hate, scorn and persecution -- were forced to forget their past. Those are the "Menashes" who, despite the years of anti-Semitism and persecution, are coming back into the fold. The second type is the prototype of Ephraim, the Jew who fell prey to the blandishments of fame and fortune, who wanted to ignore his heritage for the gold and glitter. These Jews are also returning. Their children are beginning to realize the folly of their fathers' decision, the foolishness of running away from the stability of the past.

This, perhaps, is why we bless our sons on Friday night with the words, "Yesimcha Elokim k'Ephraim u'Menashe." "Hashem shall make you like Ephraim and Menashe." Regardless of what is imposed upon you, be it suffering or prosperity, do not forget your past; do not ignore your mesorah, tradition. In suffering, do not forget; in prosperity, do not abandon. Ephraim and Menashe represented two people who maintained the balance between the past and the present, between the world that was and the world that is. They were faced with challenges; they withstood the trials. They built their present upon the foundation of the past, so that their offspring would have a future. They comprised the links between the generations.

Horav Swift notes that of the three Patriarchs, Yitzchak Avinu exemplified the middah, attribute, of gevurah, strength. Avraham Avinu, the "founder" of Judaism, challenged a world totally subjugated by paganism. Yaakov Avinu battled with Eisav's guardian angel and triumphed. Yet, Yitzchak was called the gibor. He was the middle link in the chain of tradition. He must be the strongest, because he holds together the other two links. He received the Torah that Avraham taught him and transmitted it to Yaakov. He connected the past with the future. He exemplifies true strength.

This is the underlying reason for Hillel's procedure for lighting the Menorah on Chanukah. On the first night, we light one candle and recite a brachah, blessing. On the second night we light two - one for that night and one for the previous night. This continues on for every night of Chanukah. We work backwards: today, yesterday, the day before. To make a brachah today, we must see to it that yesterday is included along with it. The Jew who does not relate to a past has very little prospect for a future. Certainly, Hashem could have performed a greater miracle and poured olive oil from Heaven. Why did He leave an old flask with an old drop of oil that would only last for one day? He taught us that one drop of old oil is much more significant than all the new "oils." The new does not always survive; the old obviously has. If yesterday goes hand in hand with today, then there is hope that tomorrow will continue along the same path.

They served him separately, and them separately and the Egyptians who ate with him separately, for the Egyptians could not bear to eat food with the Ivrim, it being loathsome to the Egyptians. (43:32)

Sforno comments that Yosef ate neither with his brothers nor with the Egyptians. In other words, Yosef ate alone, his brothers ate alone, and the Egyptians ate alone. He is implying that the Egyptians did not eat with Yosef because he was a Jew. Indeed, all of Egypt knew that their viceroy had once been a Jewish slave who had ascended to royalty. We must ask ourselves: How did an entire country know that Yosef was Jewish, while his brothers did not? Nachlas Tzvi contends Hashem is "capable" of preventing an individual from becoming aware of a reality - even if the others around him are aware of that reality. Hashem did not want Yosef's identity to be revealed to his brothers. Even if there were signs all over Egypt "screaming out" Yosef's lineage and ancestry, the brothers would remain unaware.

He says that this notion is especially true in the area of shidduchim, marriage matches. The whole world may be aware of certain characteristics or behaviors of one of the sides, but if the shidduch is "bashert," destined to occur, the other side will never find out.

He cites an incident involving the Imrei Emes, Gerrer Rebbe, to validate this point. A Jew once came to the Imrei Emes to ask him advice and receive his blessing concerning a specific shidduch/family that lived in another city. The Imrei Emes told him to go to that city and seek "information" about the family with whom he was considering arranging a shidduch. He followed the Rebbe's advice. Upon arriving in the city, he asked the first Jew that he met about the family in question. The man responded by lauding the family, citing the father/mechutan as being one of exemplary character, particularly devoted to chesed, acts of loving kindness. Following the Rebbe's advice, he consented to the shidduch, and the boy and girl became engaged.

The very next day, this person went to shul to daven Shacharis, attend the morning prayers. He heard how everybody in the shul was disparaging his new mechutan as being a selfish and evil man. Upon hearing this, the Jew who had followed the Rebbe's advice immediately returned home to relate to the Rebbe the series of events surrounding the shidduch. "Why did the Rebbe advise me to go through with the shidduch with such an irreputable mechutan?" asked the Jew of the Imrei Emes. The Rebbe answered, "Listen carefully to what I will tell you. I knew that this person is in conflict with the people of that city. I knew, however, that there is one Jew with whom he has not yet fought. I figured that if you come to the city and "happen" to meet that specific person who was not in contention with your mechutan, it was surely by design. It was a sign from Heaven that this shidduch was meant to be. What is bashert is bashert."


1) Which other famous king had a dream?
2) According to the protocols of Egypt, Yosef could not become a ruler. Why?
3) What was the Torah implying by relating the fact that Pharaoh's dream was repeated?
4) Did the Egyptian famine have any effect beyond Egypt?
5) Before Yosef gave grain to the Egyptians, he demanded that they first do something. What was this?
6) Who was the first one of the brothers to find his money in his saddlebag?


1) Nevuchanezar.
2) He was a slave, and a slave may never rule.
3) The Torah implied that it would be fulfilled very soon.
4) It affected the entire world.
5) He demanded that they circumcise themselves.
6) Levi


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