Back to this week's Parsha

Peninim on the Torah

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Previous issues

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children and your children's children...and all that is yours. (45:10) Why did Hashem choose Goshen as the home for the newly arriving Jewish immigrants? Rashi in Sefer Vayikra comments that Goshen was the most morally depraved area in Egypt. The Egyptian people were the most licentious, immoral people in the world and Goshen was the nadir of Egyptian depravity. This makes our question even stronger: Why Goshen? Furthermore, Yosef seems to emphasize that if they were to live in Goshen, they and their children and grandchildren would remain closer to him. What is it about Goshen that would potentially catalyze this closeness?

Horav Zaidel Epstein, Shlita, suggests that this question alludes to the age- old debate: Is it better to send our children to be among those people who are of low moral character, who are clearly base and reprehensible -- or to those that are beinonim, average people, who like so many around us maintain a semblance of decency while concealing that they are acceding to our society's present state of morality? Simply, one would believe that it is best to remain among the average person rather than to be exposed to apparent evil. There is a school of thought that disagrees, however, contending that it is easier to raise children in an environment in which the lines of demarcation between "them" and "us" are clearly discernible. It is more difficult to protect our children from those who outwardly "act" moral, "speak" virtuous, go through the "motions" of being observant, but inwardly are the converse. Yosef felt that in Goshen, the nadir of Egypt's depravity, he could more easily define the difference between good and bad. Thus, he would be better able to protect his brothers, their families, and the ensuing generations. If they were to live in Goshen, so that they would remain close to him geographically, they could not err in assimilating with a people that was clearly immoral. This geographic proximity would serve to maintain their spiritual integrity and relationship to Yosef and his way of life.

And he (Yaakov) saw the wagons that Yosef had sent...then the spirit of their father Yaakov was revived. (45:27)

The last area of Torah study in which Yaakov and Yosef had engaged together was the law of eglah arufah, the calf whose neck is broken to expiate the sin of an unsolved murder. The word agalah, wagon, is similar to that of eglah, calf. Yosef was giving his father a sign that he was observant; he still remembered the last subject they had studied together. The commentators further explain the meaning of Yosef's message to his father via the wagons he sent and their relation to the eglah arufah. The Veitzener Rav, Horav Tzvi Hirsch Meisels, zl, cites Targum Yonasan who says that worms had emerged from the victim's corpse, tracing a trail to the murderer.

They would afflict him to the point that he confessed to his crime.

The lessons to be derived herein are twofold: First, eventually one's sins become evident. One should not think that he can conceal his iniquity forever. Second, yesurim, pain/affliction/suffering, exist to expiate sin, to help the individual to realize that he did something wrong and should repent. This is the lesson of eglah arufah that Yaakov taught Yosef: Do not be concerned that something will happen to you in the field and the perpetrators will not become known. Hashem has many agents to carry news and to publicize what has happened. Yosef sent his wagons to his father, symbolizing the lessons he had learned from eglah arufah: "Yes, father, I have understood the challenge to my spirituality. I realize that I have experienced my tzaros for a purpose, and I have only been hidden from you temporarily. I knew that one day you would find out what happened on that fateful day that you sent me to attend to my brothers." We cannot hide from Hashem. When we think we can elude Him, we are only eluding reality. The only ones we truly fool are ourselves.

He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Yosef, to prepare ahead of him in Goshen...and he arrived in the region of Goshen. (46:28)

The word "goshen" -- comprised of the letters gimel, shin, nun, hay -- has the same gematria, numerical value, as Moshiach: mem, shin, yud, ches. Bnei Yissaschar explains the relationship between these two terms in the following manner: Moshiach Tzidkeinu is called upon to redeem us from the exile imposed upon us by the four nations -- Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and the Romans. Moshiach ben David, who will be our redeemer, will be preceded by Moshiach ben Yosef. Yaakov Avinu hoped to see this meeting of his two sons, the forebears of this messianic mission. Yosef represents the ten lost tribes, and Yehudah represents the two tribes that remained faithful. The merging of these two, Yehudah and Yosef, in Goshnah - Moshiach, was to pave the way for the redemption through their descendants, many generations later.

The Bnei Yissaschar continues, noting the fact that the four letters of the word Goshnah are the same as the letters inscribed on the Chanukah dreidel. Chanukah is celebrated during the same time of the year that Parashas Vayigash is read in the Torah. The letters are the initials of those forces within man which, when corrupted, cause the sufferings of the exile imposed by the nations mentioned above. Through the vehicle of exile and suffering this corruption is purged. These forces consist of the physical, emotional, and intellectual elements of the soul, in addition to the general force, which comprises the totality of human capabilities. Guf = physical - gimel, seichel = intellectual - shin; nefesh = emotional - nun; hakol = everything / totality of human aptitudes = hay. The first letters of these words coincide with the word Goshnah. On the festival of Chanukah, when the flame / light of our messianic hope begins to shine forth in the darkness of our exile, the dreidel becomes the symbol of the four kingdoms that dominated us as a result of our four-fold deterioration. Concomitant to this reminder of our exile and its cause, we reflect upon the other meaning of these letters: the message of Moshiach and the hope of redemption. As the dreidel spins, we are reminded that all human history "rotates" around the axis of Moshiach and that everything will one day lead to Goshnah = Moshiach. May he come speedily in our days!

He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Yosef, to prepare ahead of him in Goshen. (46:28)

The Midrash interprets the word "l'horos" as to teach. This implies that Yehudah's mission was more than making physical arrangements for the arriving family. He was to establish a house of study, a place from where horaah, Torah instruction and direction, would emanate outward to the community. In addition, Yaakov was teaching the importance of the centrality of Torah study in our lives. The first priority in establishing a Jewish community is establishing an educational system. Torah is our soul, and without it our communities will dissipate Jewishly. We have only to peruse Jewish history in this country to notice what has happened to the many communities that have hosted great Torah scholars, who for reasons -- for the most part beyond their control -- were not able to build a Jewish Day School. These communities, and the descendants of those people, are lost to Torah and its way of life. Acculturation catalyzed the disease; assimilation followed; and spiritual death marked the end. Without Torah, we are not a nation.

The word "l'horos" is a totally new concept in the vernacular to which we have been accustomed in previous parshios. We have studied the concept of yeshivah, as in the Yeshivah of Shem and Ever. We know that Rivkah went "lidrosh es Hashem" at the "bais ha'medrash." Why does Yehudah's yeshivah in Goshen carry the name of "bais horaah"? Horav Shlomo Margolis, Shlita, in his sefer Darkei Hashleimus, suggests a practical reason for this "new" type of yeshivah or -- more exactly -- new focus in Torah institutional study. Until this juncture in their development, the Jewish people consisted of a small band of Jews, a family unit. Although it was powerful and self- sufficient, it was but a small group. That the Jews were hated by the Egyptians, as well as the rest of their neighbors, is evident by the manner in which the sar ha'mashkim, Pharaoh's chief cupbearer, referred to Yosef -- as a lowly Hebrew slave. With Yosef's rise to power, however, the name of the Jew was to be greatly enhanced. He would be revered and desired. He would be invited to join in with the elite Egyptian society. The hatred would still be there, but it would be camouflaged for diplomatic and political purposes. Yaakov sought to fortify his children and descendants for this new way of life, to prepare them for acceptance by Egyptian society. He feared their acculturation. Thus, he tried to offset it via Torah-study that would instruct them about how to live in a society that presents such spiritual challenges. His children would need a "bais horaah," a yeshivah that would teach. This educational institution would strengthen their spiritual resolve and instruct them concerning coping with the challenges of the contemporary world.

We suggest an alternative approach towards understanding Yaakov Avinu's underlying motif in dispatching Yehudah to establish a bais horaah: The word horaah has a deeper meaning. It means to paskin, render judgement, adjudicate the law. Yaakov was conveying an important message to us regarding Torah chinuch, education. We do not establish schools that are mediocre. When we undertake to build a school or yeshivah, our goals must be lofty. All too often, we build according to necessity, not according to purpose. It is not enough for us to build merely for survival; we must build so that Judaism should flourish. When we build schools that are mediocre, we are only paving the way for others - less scrupulous and less spiritually inclined -- to take over and destroy the community that we have been attempting to save. Yaakov did not want a yeshivah just to fulfill the community's current needs. He instructed Yehudah to establish an institution from which would emanate horaah, the highest level of Torah-learning - lomdus, psak, adjudicating the law, areas of Torah-learning reserved for the greatest, most erudite Torah institutions. When we build, we must develop a strong institution with lofty goals, or we will be left with nothing.

This idea is relevant to all areas of Judaism: We must aim higher, we must have loftier goals. Many of us have regrettably become satisfied with token Judaism: going to shul and davening - a little; going to a shiur and listening - a little; getting involved in Jewish organizations - a little. We do things by rote, skimming across the surface of Jewish life, never reaching higher by undertaking goals that are significant and meaningful. This attitude has affected the way we raise our children. We do not want to place demands on them for fear it might burden them. We spoon-feed them educationally and are proud of their accomplishments - even if they are insignificant at best. Our goals for their future are defined by the amount of material success they will achieve. We do not want to burden them! What we do not realize is that our attitude towards Jewish life and growth reflects an element of acculturation. We do not want to face the fact that the statements we make, and our goals for ourselves and our children, are the results of living in a society whose values represent the antithesis of Torah values.

Yosef gathered all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan...and Yosef brought the money into Pharaoh's palace. (47:14)

Yosef's brilliance in gathering all the wealth in Egypt and Canaan is exceeded only by his fidelity to Pharaoh. He kept nothing for himself. As noted by Sforno, he had every right to ask for a "commission" for all of his hard work. Not Yosef; his life's endeavor exemplified loyalty, virtue, and, consequently, Kiddush Hashem. Ramban reiterates this idea as he praises Yosef's faithfulness to Pharaoh when a lesser person might have "permitted" himself access to some of this incredible wealth. This idea is evident earlier, when Pharaoh literally commands Yosef to take wagons and send them to his father. Everyone was acutely aware of Yosef's impeccable integrity and loyalty to the king, assured that he would never abuse his royal position for personal gain. Abarbanel says that if Yosef had not been commanded to take the wagons, he would not have sent them on his own. This is but a glimpse of the man who personally amassed for Pharaoh practically all of the wealth in the world, a man who had access to everything, but never took personal advantage of his position.

This idea is confirmed by the Talmud in Pesachim 119 where Rabbi Yehudah cites Shmuel who states that Yosef gathered all of the gold and silver in Egypt and Canaan in order to give it to Pharaoh. The Talmud concludes that when Klal Yisrael left Egypt, they took all of this material gain with them. Incredible! To paraphrase Horav Matisyahu Solomon, Shlita: One who understands what is happening should be amazed with what he sees, as the guiding Hand of Hashem becomes apparent throughout this maze of affairs. All of the money ended up in Egypt. All of the money eventually ends up in the hands of the Jewish People as they leave Egypt. Why?

This is all part of the Bris Bein Ha'Besarim, Covenant of the Parts, when Hashem informed Avraham of Klal Yisrael's impending incarceration and exile in Egypt. He also told him that when they leave, "afterwards they shall leave with great wealth" (Bereishis 10:14). How little do we understand of the present! How minute is our perception of current events! It is only in the future that we are afforded a glimpse of Hashem's Divine plan. Right now, all we can and should do is to believe and to trust be'emunah sheleimah, with complete faith in the Almighty.


1. Did Yehudah fear Yosef or the Egyptians?
2. How did Yosef's brothers react when he revealed his true identity to them?
3. How many years of the famine had passed when Yosef met his brothers?
4. In whose portion of Eretz Yisrael was the Mishkan Shiloh erected?
5. What was the area of Torah law that Yosef had last studied with Yaakov prior to being sold?
6. For whom is one obligated to give more honor: a father or grandfather?
7. a. How many descendants of Leah entered Egypt with Yaakov?
b. How many names does the Torah enumerate?


1. No.
2. They backed off in shame.
3. Two years.
4. Yosef's portion.
5. Eglah Arufah.
6. Father.
7. a. 33.
b. The Torah actually names only 32 descendants, but includes Yocheved bas Levi who was born upon their entry into the city.

Sponsored in memory
of our dear father and grandfather
Harry Weiss
Morry & Judy Weiss,
Erwin & Myra Weiss and Grandchildren
Gary & Hildee Weiss,
Jeff & Karen Weiss,
Zev & Rachel Weiss,
Elie & Sara Weiss, and Brian
"Love and memories are gifts from G-d that death cannot destroy"


Peninim on the Torah is in its 7th year of publication. The first five years have been published in book form.

The fifth volume is available at your local book seller or directly from Rabbi Scheinbaum.

He can be contacted at 216-321-5838 ext. 165 or by fax at 216-321-0588.

Discounts are available for bulk orders or Chinuch/Kiruv organizations.

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