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"Now Yosef could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him, so he called out, 'Remove everyone from before me!' Thus no one remained with him when Yosef made himself known to his brothers" (Bereishis 45:1).

Rashi explains that Yosef did not want his brothers to be embarrassed before the Egyptians when he revealed himself to them; therefore he had the palace cleared so that they could all be alone.

We have already discussed the terrible sin of embarrassing someone in public; which the Sages declared is worse than killing him and for which he forfeits his share in the World-to-Come. The following fantastic story is recounted in the fabulous sefer Ish Lere'eihu, in the name of Rabbi Shemuel Baruch Werner z"l, who was the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv.

When Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohain Kook z"l was the Chief Rabbi of Yafo, an immigrant couple from Bialistok came before him. The woman complained terribly about her husband's behavior and demanded a divorce. After meeting with them for a while, the Rabbi saw that there was no chance of making peace between them and agreed that divorce was the only solution. However, the cruel husband refused to free the woman from the torture she suffered at his hands and would not agree to divorce her. The Rabbi tried to persuade him, but to no avail. This went on for two years.

One day, the couple returned to the Rabbi with good news: the husband finally agreed to give his wife the divorce. Everyone realized the urgency of the situation and the Rav rushed to summon the members of his Rabbinical Court, the scribe and the witnesses. The Rabbi asked the couple their complete Hebrew names and the scribe wrote the certificate of divorce. However, before the actual ceremony, the Rabbi suddenly announced that he wanted to pray the Afternoon Service first. Everyone agreed, and they began to pray.

Uncharacteristically, the Rabbi prayed unusually long. By the time the Service was over, the Rabbi looked at the clock and announced his apologies. He explained that since the sun had already set, the date in the certificate was no longer accurate; rendering it unfit to use. He asked the couple to return tomorrow when he would have it rewritten. The woman's family was very upset, for who knows if the husband would not change his mind by tomorrow, but they had no choice but to cooperate with the Rabbi.

That very night, by some strange "coincidence," the Rabbi was visited by an acquaintance from Bialistok. During the conversation, the Rabbi happened to mention the divorce he was in the midst of performing. The fellow was aghast. "Why did you write her name as Rivil," he asked. "She used to live in my neighborhood, and I know for sure that her name is Ester Rivka!" The Rabbi was shocked at what he heard and grilled his guest who insisted that he has no doubt as to her real name since she lived near him for many years. The Rabbi realized that had he gone through with the divorce, she would still be legally married and no one would have known. Were she to remarry and have children, they would be considered illegitimate, G-d forbid.

The next day, when the couple returned, the Rabbi began, once again, by asking them their complete Hebrew names. The woman again claimed that her name was Rivil, but when the Rav persisted in questioning her she admitted that her friends had told her that the more names one had, the more complicated it was to write a certificate of divorce. She chose, therefore, to use her nickname, which seemed simpler to her.

The entire city of Yafo tummelled about the "miracle" of their great Rabbi. However, the real reason how he was saved from making a tragic mistake is just as fascinating.

One of the witnesses who was brought before the Rabbi to sign on the certificate of divorce, was a prominent member of the community who worked in a public institution. The Rabbi had noticed recently that the man was sending him letters on the stationary of the firm where he worked. The Rabbi, therefore, thought to himself: According to the Torah, this man is considered a thief; notwithstanding the small amount he is taking without permission from his company. Consequently, he is disqualified from acting as a witness. If I allow the husband to present his wife with the certificate which he signed upon, the proceeding will not be valid since it does not bear the signature of two valid witnesses. On the other hand, if I tell the fellow now that he is disqualified from acting as a witness I will embarrass him publicly; something which I surely may not do. Therefore, the Rabbi decided to stall for time and reschedule the entire ceremony for the next day when he would invite someone else to be a valid witness.

"Since I was careful not to embarrass a fellow Jew," the Rabbi later exclaimed, "I received Divine Assistance on a matter which I was totally unaware of; the real name of the woman!"

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel