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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


So Pharaoh went and summoned Yosef, and they rushed him from the dungeon. (41:14)

The parshah commences with Pharaoh's dreams: his inability to make sense out of them; and his magicians' ineffectiveness to interpret them to his satisfaction. Pharaoh's butler remembered that when he had last been incarcerated, a Hebrew slave was also a prisoner in the dungeon. This slave had the talent for interpreting dreams, and, lo and behold, the butler was reinstated exactly as the slave had foretold. Based upon this recommendation, Yosef was "rushed" from the prison and presented to Pharaoh. The Zohar HaKadosh goes to some length to explain the pasuk concerning Yosef's release, especially focusing on the word vayaritzuhu, "and they rushed him."

The Zohar cites the pasuk in Tehillim 147:11, "G-d shows favor to those who fear Him those who hope for His kindness." Hashem has great desire for tzaddikim, because they make peace above and below. Hashem cares deeply for those who fear him, doing everything to "appease" them. This is analogous to Yosef's situation. He was thrown into a dungeon and deprived of physical, emotional, and intellectual opportunity for growth. He was extremely depressed. Thus, when Pharaoh sent for him, the pasuk uses the word vayaritzuhu, "and they rushed him." The word vayaritzuhu can also be interpreted as "and they appeased him," as in ritzui, appeasement, or rotzeh, favor. This can mean that "they appeased him" by speaking to him words of joy and solace, easing the pain of his mind as they eased him out of his pit. The Zohar concludes: "Come and see. At the onset, he was in the pit, and from the pit he arose to greatness." We must endeavor to understand the type of appeasement with which Hashem reaches out to tzaddikim.

The Shem MiShmuel cites the Talmud Yerushalmi, Horayos, 3:4, which relates the story of Abba Yehudah, a very righteous person who was plagued by a severe financial crisis. To add to his misery, one day while he was plowing his field, his cow slipped and broke its leg. That seemed to be the end both for the cow and for Abba Yehudah, who now had no other means of support. As he was about to remove the cow form the field, Hashem enlightened his eyes, and he discovered a hidden treasure. He exclaimed, "My cow broke her leg for my good!"

Abba Yehudah came to the realization that whatever adversity he had experienced had ultimately been for his good - even if at the time that it occurred it seemed like it was to his detriment. The "appeasement" which Hashem gives to tzaddikim and which He gave to Yosef was the appreciation that everything that takes place is for a specific purpose and part of a Divine master plan. In order to achieve this great purpose, all of the little parts of the master puzzle must occur and fit in.

The Shem MiShmuel notes that whatever hardship one must endure on his path to achieving his goal, is invariably outweighed by the benefit it accrues. For instance, eating takes effort. Eating, chewing, and swallowing are not effortless. No one would ever suggest that the effort expended supersedes the benefit one derives from the food once it has been digested. Indeed, any rational person will choose the effort entailed in eating over the option of not doing so and starving! Therefore, in all areas of life, the difficulties along the road to success and achievement pale in comparison with the end result to which all these "troubles" lead. We can even go as far as to say that the more difficult path engenders greater value and, therefore, greater long-term gain.

If this is the case, why do we have to wait until the end of the journey to realize that everything is for an ultimate purpose? Surely, Yosef and Abba Yehudah would have tolerated the challenge much more easily had they known that it was part of a Master Plan. The answer is that we forget how crucial uncertainty is for our development. "No pain, no gain" is the popular dictum for physical exercise. It applies equally with regard to spiritual ascension. Without the uncertainty that the sufferer experiences at the onset and continues during his travails, there would be no test, andhence, no gain. If we know from the beginning that whatever adversity we are enduring is part of a purpose, a component in a comprehensive design, it would be easy to tolerate and, concomitantly, of little value. After the test, however, Hashem does show us the value of our experience. This is the "appeasement" to which the Zohar refers.

When one undertakes what appears to be a difficult situation, it is important that he keeps this idea in mind. In this manner, he will be able to shoulder whatever troubles or adversity come his way. Indeed, if we train ourselves always to emphasize the ultimate value of every experience, we will be able to appreciate and triumph over our adversities. Our vision should always be foresighted, never relying on hindsight and never giving in to myopia.

The Machnovke Rebbe, Horav Avrohom Twersky, zl, was an individual of unusual intensity, a genuine tzaddik, whose diligence in Torah study and warmth and sensitivity to every human were evidenced in his life. He never uttered an unessential word. He feared nothing that was part of this world. His shul was home to Jews of all walks of life who came to experience the presence of a truly holy man. One Yom Kippur evening, his shul was filled to capacity. Among the throng of worshippers was a man in his late sixties who had walked several miles to attend the services in the Machnovke Bais Medrash. This individual was not religious. Why was he there? Certainly, he could have found a shul that was closer to his home. When questioned why he had come, he gave the following reply.

"As a young man in Russia, my father told me about the Machnovke/Moscow Rebbe. He was a great and holy individual to whom I should turn when necessary. I emigrated to Eretz Yisrael and raised my family there, regrettably distancing myself from religion. During the Yom Kippur war, my only son was called to naval duty. I remembered my father's instructions to go to the Machnovke Rebbe when I needed a blessing. That night, I, with my young soldier son in hand, entered the spiritual realm of the tzaddik. We presented the son's military orders to the Rebbe and asked for his blessing for a safe return.

"'Do not join your company until tomorrow morning,' the Rebbe said.

"'But I will be court-martialed if I am late,' my son protested. The Rebbe would not yield. Under no circumstances was the young soldier to join that night. Later that night, in the midst of our anxious ferment, we were informed that the entire unit which he was to have joined had been decimated by an Egyptian warship. There were no survivors.

"At first, I neither understood nor agreed with the Rebbe, but my father taught me to listen to a tzaddik. I, therefore, sided with the Rebbe and denied my son from joining his unit. This action saved his life. This is why I always come here in Yom Kippur - to appreciate, to pay gratitude, to be in the Rebbe's presence."

It happens all of the time. We have questions; the answers we receive only intensify our questions. If we wait, we might merit to be appeased by Hashem when His actions become crystal clear through the rationale time affords us.

Yosef answered Pharaoh saying, "This is beyond me! (Only) G-d will respond to Pharaoh's welfare." (41:15,16)

We may derive many ideas from the Chanukah connection to Parashas Mikeitz beyond their corresponding relationship on the calendar. There are seminal lessons to be gleaned from Yosef's interaction with his brothers and the Chanukah story. Rabbi Boruch Leff, in "Forever His Students," cites Horav Yaakov Weinberg, zl, who focuses on Yosef's reply to Pharaoh's reaction to Yosef's interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams. "This is beyond me! (Only) G-d will respond to Pharaoh's welfare." Yosef had been languishing in prison. He finally had an opportunity to achieve freedom, respectability and even some real power. He was standing before the greatest and most powerful ruler of the civilized world. This ruler needed him - badly. Yosef could have asked for anything. It was all in his hands. What did he do? Did he respond the way any other person would have responded? No! Yosef took a chance, risking everything, by refusing to conceal the true Source of his power - Hashem!

Pharaoh could have easily responded by saying, "Oh if that is the case, I will not need your services at all. I will use G-d. He will interpret my dreams, and you will return to your cell." He did not. He reacted in a manner atypical of the caliber of integrity possessed by the members of the pagan society in which he lived. Yosef did not know that this would be Pharaoh's reaction. He did not take a chance. He did what he believed was the proper thing to do: thank Hashem, because whatever he had achieved had really been Hashem's doing. Yosef wanted to credit Hashem, especially in the presence of the world's leader, because this was the ideal way to publicize Hashem's power and wisdom. He would do what was right, even if it placed him in harm's way.

Rav Weinberg notes that the attitude manifest by Matisyahu and the Chashmonaim paralleled that of Yosef. They could easily have viewed their staggering and unexpected victory over the Greeks as an indication of their own military intrepidity and strategy. It would not have been the first time in history that a strong and powerful army fell prey to the incursions of a unified guerilla group.

The Chashmonaim knew the truth: their success had been Divinely orchestrated. How could they take credit for something that Hashem had done? To make a big "to do" about themselves to the world as the all powerful nation that brilliantly and mightily vanquished the Greeks would be blasphemous. They did not react by establishing an annual victory parade, showing off to the world their latest technology and weaponry. Instead, they did the correct and proper thing: they made a Yom Tov, a festival commemorating the miracles of which they were the beneficiaries. By establishing the festival of Chanukah and lighting the Menorah for the entire world to see, they demonstrated that everything that they had achieved was a miracle. Hashem granted them victory over the Greeks.

This concept is evident throughout the Al Ha'Nissim prayer which we insert into the Shemoneh Esrai and Bentching during Chanukah. This prayer does not discuss our strength and military strategy. It is only about our gratitude to Hashem, Who delivered us from the Greeks. We concede that we were the few and the weak, but we had Hashem on our side. That is why we won. We conclude the prayer by noting that the entire purpose of Chanukah is to serve as an expression of gratitude and praise to the Almighty for granting us these miracles. We do not take credit. We give it where it is due. This constitutes true victory.

The Rosh Yeshivah adds that our victory over the Greeks extended beyond the physical. We defeated them spiritually, as well. In the Greek philosophy of life, man plays the dominant role. His power and wisdom are all that matter. This is, of course, the antithesis of the Torah outlook. We believe in the power of the spirit and that the closer one gets to the Divine, the greater he becomes and the more he achieves. This is why the Greeks had such a "problem" with the Jews. We represented the truth. Their life of distortion and misrepresentation was in danger of exposure by the Jews. Indeed, when the Greeks lay siege to the Jews, they changed their tactics.

When they invaded other lands, they acted with benevolence, reaching out to their new citizens. This was how they could teach their new ideas concerning the supremacy of man, the significance of science, sports and statues. They were a people who neither attributed success to themselves (only to G-d), nor were they interested in worshipping human achievement, viewing him as nothing more than a soldier on a royal mission, a vessel to be used to execute the Divine will. The Jews were interested in only serving and thanking G-d. Such a philosophy could be dangerous to the future of Greek beliefs. It threatened their very existence. The Jew and the Greek could not mix. The Jew would have to be eliminated.

Chanukah is a celebration of G-d and His dedication to the eradication of evil, the defeat of the Greek philosophy and those who espoused its tenets. It commemorates the end of Greek civilization, a culture that sought to wipe out the concept of Divinity from the lexicon of humanity. It is only when we keep this in mind that we are able to "stay the course" of being a believing Jew in a world obsessed with physical power and human prowess.

And let them gather all of the food of those approaching good years…the food will be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine. (41:35, 36)

Human nature dictates that when misfortune strikes someone, he generally addresses the problem at hand, invariably forgetting the good fortune that he had experienced in the past. He has questions, complaints, criticism, but almost never remembers that just a short while ago the One he is questioning had blessed him with wonderful gifts from Above. We must store up the good fortune that we experience and save it, preserve it for another time when our fortune is not as positive. When we realize that the "good" and the "bad" are both from the same Source, we are able to understand that there really is no such thing as "bad." This was Yosef's message to Pharaoh: Do not allow seven years of plenty to go by without preserving the abundance of a time of blessing for a later date when this blessing will be sorely lacking. Save it; preserve it, so that you will be able to use it when you need it.

Horav Yisrael Belsky, Shlita, feels that this principle is at the root of the mitzvos of Chanukah. During the time of the original neis, miracle of Chanukah, Klal Yisrael experienced wondrous miracles. They were the recipients of a resounding military victory. Finding the flask of oil still sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol was in itself a miracle. That it burned for eight days only compounded and magnified the miracle. Understandably, the joy and thanksgiving were immense. One would have expected the power of the Chanukah blessing to dissipate with the passage of time. Thus, Chazal decreed that Chanukah should become a festival that is celebrated annually. By doing this, they took the wondrous miracles of Chanukah and instilled them deeply in every Jew for generations. We reiterate our gratitude to the Almighty when we recite the special liturgical inserts that have been added to the Shemoneh Esrai and Bircas Hamazon. Two thousand years later, the Jewish People still draw inspiration from the miracles of yesteryear. Those distant events play a powerful role today as we begin to understand and reflect upon the miracles we experience daily in our lives.

A miracle that we experience should be internalized in our minds and externalized through our actions, serving as a source of inspiration for us. By concretizing the extraordinary event in which we have been privileged to participate, we perpetuate its effect. Horav Yechezkel Shraga (Lipshitz) Halberstam, zl, the Stropkover Rebbe, miraculously survived Auschwitz. Despite the indescribable suffering and anguish that were intrinsic to his life during the tragic years of World War II, including the loss of his wife and five children, his dedication to Hashem and His Torah was prodigious. He made superhuman efforts not to miss the performance of even relatively obscure mitzvos. He was a brilliant and talented individual, whose warm personality served as a magnet for those who were alienated from the Torah way. When the Rebbe arrived in Eretz Yisrael, he settled in the city of Ramleh, a city not known for its large observant population. This did not deter the Rebbe. He was there temporarily until he would be able to move to Yerushalayim. Nonetheless, while he was there, despite his poor state of health, the Rebbe managed to construct a mikveh with his own hands that conformed to every halachic stringency - even those of his great- grandfather, the saintly Sanzer Rav, zl. There was a reason for this endeavor: it was the fulfillment of a vow he had made while he was interred in Auschwitz.

In his preface to the sefer, Divrei Chaim, he wrote: "Blessed be Hashem Who rescued me from the murderous hands of the Germans and of other nations, and from the extermination camps where millions of our brethren breathed their last. May Hashem avenge their blood. During those bitter times, while in Auschwitz, Dachau, Mildorf, and other notorious camps, I witnessed daily the sight of many of our dear brothers who expired from starvation and disease. Many a time I was myself at the threshold of death, only to be miraculously spared by Hashem with His great mercy."

One miracle, which occurred on the first day that he arrived at Auschwitz, prompted his self-imposed obligation to build a mikveh in Ramleh. He was standing in line, waiting to be examined by the ruthless butcher, Dr. Mengele. An S.S. officer came through the line and questioned the new arrivals whether any of them had any expertise in the areas of construction, plumbing or electrical work. It goes without saying that whoever could convince the Nazi beasts that he was a skilled craftsman, would buy some time for himself. Otherwise, the alternatives were ominous. The Nazi was very scrupulous in presenting technical questions to the applicants to ascertain whether they were really skilled craftsmen.

Determined to stay alive as long as possible, the Rebbe decided to claim that he had achieved proficiency in construction. He convinced a young man standing next to him, who was actually a skilled construction worker, to teach him any simple concept concerning construction. The man was happy to oblige, teaching the Rebbe the basics of constructing a ninety-degree angle.

Miracle of miracles: the S.S. officer posed that very question to the Rebbe. The ruse worked, and the officer believed the Rebbe, assigning him to a work brigade. He believed the Rebbe to the extent that he rebuked the other members of the group saying, "This Jew is the only honest member of the group. He is an experienced craftsman."

At that very moment the Rebbe made a vow that if he survived the war, he would employ his "professional construction skills" to construct a mikveh with every halachic stringency, even those of his great-grandfather, the Divrei Chaim. He understood that when one experiences a miracle, he is obliged to eternalize it so that it serves as future inspiration for both himself and others.

Va'ani Tefillah

- Ivdu es Hashem b'simchah bo'u lefanav birnanah

Serve Hashem with joy, come before Him with jubilation.

The Zohar HaKadosh distinguishes between simchah, joy, which is b'lev, in one's heart, and renanah, jubilation, which is expressed orally. In order for a service performed for Hashem to be complete, it must be composed of ratzon b'lev, a willingness of heart which generates joy. How then does one offer a korban, sacrifice, to atone for his transgression? Does he not have to approach the Sanctuary with a lowly spirit and a broken heart? The Zohar explains that the mere fact that one's heart is broken over his misdeed is in itself the greatest source of simchah. The Kohanim and Leviim rejoice seeing the penitent's dejection over his act of disobedience and engendered with a feeling of satisfaction and joy for Hashem, whose child has returned.

Alternatively, the Zohar says that "serving Hashem with simchah" refers to the prayers of the morning, and "coming before Him with jubilation" is a reference to the prayers of the evening. Alternatively, simchah coincides with Olam Haba, the World To Come, and renanah corresponds to Olam Hazeh, This World.

Siach Yitzchak adds that every mitzvah that we perform is an opportunity which Hashem gives us to serve Him. This alone is reason to carry out the mitzvah with joy. Indeed, the Arizal was wont to say that everything that he was able to perceive in Torah was his reward for performing mitzvos with joy.

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