Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 16   No. 9

This issue is sponsored
by Rabbi and Mrs. Leibush Hecht
in honour of their childrens' visit

Parshas Vayeishev

Malchus Beis-David
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The twins that Tamar bore to Yehudah were called Zerach and Peretz. Zerach (which means shine) symbolizes the sun, Rabeinu Bachye explains, whereas Peretz (which means breach - sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller [Ramban]) symbolizes the moon.


Peretz, as we know, was the father of Malchus Beis David, so it is no coincidence that the month consists of twenty-nine days, and that starting with Peretz, there were twenty-nine 'generations' until the last king of Yehudah, Tzidkiyah Hamelech … Peretz, Chetzron, Ram, Avinadav, Nachshon, Salmon, Bo'az, Oveid, Yishai, David; followed by nineteen kings, each one the son of the king who had preceded him: Sh'lomoh, Rechavam, Aviyah, Asa, Yehoshafat, Yehoram, Achazyahu, Amatzyah, Uziyahu, Yosam, Achaz, Chizkiahu, Menasheh, Omon, Yoshiyahu, Yeho'achaz, Yehoyakim, Yehoyachin and Tzidkiyahu - twenty-nine generations (kings) corresponding to the twenty-nine days of the months. And just as the moon sets (temporarily) after twenty-nine days, so too, did Malchus Beis-David come to a temporary end with the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash and the exile of Tzidkiyahu Hamelech.


R. Bachye himself however, cites a Medrash which explains it differently. According to the Medrash, the rise of Malchus Yisrael starts with Avraham Avinu (whom according to Chazal, the nations crowned king, and) about whom the Navi Yeshayah writes "Who began to shine from the east?". It continues through Yitzchak and Ya'akov, Yehudah, Chetzron … until, like the moon, it reached its zenith with the fifteenth generation, Sh'lomoh Hamelech (in whose days the Pasuk testifies "each man sat under his vine and under his fig-tree"). About Shlomoh it is written that he sat "on the Throne of Hashem"; the Throne of Hashem was supported by a lion, and there were lions on the throne of Shlomoh. About the throne of Shlomoh it is written "And the work of the Ofanim (wheel-like angels) resembled the work of the Ofan of the Merkavah (the Throne of Hashem)"; No evil emanates from the Throne of Hashem, and about the throne of Shlomoh the Pasuk writes that there was "no adversary and no misfortune".

Following Malchus Shlomoh, again like the moon, Malchus Beis-David began to wane, until the thirtieth generation, Tzidkiyahu Hamelech, whose eyes Nevuchadnetzar blinded (corresponding to the disappearance of the light of the moon on the thirtieth day).


Note, that in Rabeinu Bachye's first explanation, he lists eighteen kings after Sh'lomoh; whereas in his second, he only lists fifteen. The reason for this is because whereas his first explanation refers to the actual kings, the second refers to the generations. Consequently, bearing in mind that Tzidkiyahu (like Yehoyakim and Yeho'achaz) was a son of Yoshiyahu, and it was during his reign that the Beis-Hamikdash was destroyed, he lists only him, omitting his two brothers as well as his nephew Yehoyachin, who only reigned for three months anyway, from the list (see also footnote here and in Vayechi 49, towards the end of Pasuk 9).


Like the moon at the end of the month, Malchus Beis David terminated with the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash and the exile of Tzidkiyahu Hamelech.

However, just as the moon inevitably reappears after a brief respite, so too, are we assured that after a (not so) brief respite, Mashi'ach ben David will reappear, and just as the moon will then shine stronger than it ever did before, so too, may we merit to see Malchus Beis David rule in greater glory than it ever did before!

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Like Ya'akov, Like Yosef

"These are the generations of Ya'akov, Yosef … " (37:2). Rashi, citing the Medrash, points out that not only did Yosef resemble Ya'akov in looks, but that a number of events in their lives took on the same twists … that Ya'akov only worked fourteen years because of Yosef, that both were hated by their respective siblings and that those siblings attempted to kill them.

Rabeinu Bachye adds the following fourteen similarities to the list.

The mothers of both Ya'akov (Rivkah) and Yosef (Rachel) were initially barren;

Both Ya'akov and Yosef were born circumcised;

Both their mothers had painful childbirths, and each of them bore two children;

Just as Ya'akov was a shepherd, so too was Yosef;

Just as Ya'akov married in Chutz la'Aretz, so too, did Yosef;

Angels accompanied Ya'akov and so too, did they accompany Yosef (as the Torah indicates later in the Parshah [37:15]);

Ya'akov became great through a dream, and so too, did Yosef;

When Ya'akov was staying with Lavan, the latter's house was blessed on account of Ya'akov, and in similar fashion;

Potifar's house was blessed on account of Yosef.

Just as Ya'akov went down to Egypt and stopped the famine, so too, did Yosef;

Both Ya'akov and Yosef died in Egypt; …

Both of them were embalmed, and finally …

Yosef's bones, just like Ya'akov's, were taken to Cana'an and buried there.


Granted, some of these similarities extended to Yosef's brothers as well, but still, the list is most impressive, and certainly helps to explain the Torah's comparison of Yosef to Ya'akov.


The Unwitting Admission

"And behold we were binding sheaves …and behold my sheaf arose and also it remained standing (ve'gam nitzovoh) and behold your sheaves … prostrated themselves … And his brothers said to him 'Will you rule over us … ?' "(37:7/8).

In their deep wisdom, says R. Bachye, the brothers understood that the simple interpretation of the dream had to do with Malchus, perhaps from the insertion of the word "Nitzavim", which has such connotations (as we find in Melachim 1 22:48). Be that as it may, he comments, given their hatred towards Yosef, what they should have done was to find a more negative interpretation of the dream, for so Chazal have taught 'All dreams go after their interpretations'! By giving the interpretation that they did, they merely acknowledged Yosef's superiority over them, at the same time sealing the veracity of precisely what they were trying to deny. True, they did so in a cynical manner, but that was only because they had no way of knowing that Yosef's appointment to the throne of Egypt came about as the result of produce, in the way that it did.


There is no logical way of explaining this, other than that their interpretation fitted G-d's plans, and so they had no option but to interpret it the way they did. In fact, he says, it is as if G-d placed the words into their mouths. And we have a similar incident in T'nach In an incident related in Shoftim (7:14), G-d instructed Gid'on the Shofet of Yisrael, to go down to the Midionite Camp in the middle of the night to eavesdrop on the enemy's camp and to hear what they were saying. Upon arrival there, he heard one soldier relate a dream that he had just had, in which a barley-loaf came rolling into the camp and overturned the tent; to which his friend replied "This can only be the sword of Gid'on ben Yo'ash … G-d has delivered into his hand the entire camp of Midyan". There too, it was clear that G-d had caused the Midianite soldier to have the dream, and his friend to interpret it the way he did, just to reinforce Gid'on's spirit; which is precisely what it did.


The Three Journeys

Three times the word "and behold" appears in the first Pasuk. This hints, says R. Bachye, at the three journeys the brothers subsequently made to go and see him, by each of which they had to bow down to him and humiliate themselves before him. The first time, on account of the famine; the second time, when he revealed his identity to them, and the third time when they returned with Ya'akov, and when all the details of the dreams were finally fulfilled.


Un-brotherly Strategies

" … because I heard them say they have gone to Doyson" (37:17).

Based on the acronym of the word Doyson, Rashi explains that what the angel was hinting to Yosef was that his brothers had distanced themselves from the 'brotherhood', and were seeking strategies to kill him. R. Bachye adds that what the brothers were looking for was a way to kill Yosef indirectly, so that they would not be branded as murderers.

Hence the Medrash describes how they initially set dogs on him (only the dogs did not harm him).

The footnote cites the Roke'ach, who, citing Chazal that whoever speaks Lashon ha'Ra deserves to be thrown to the dogs, ascribes there decision to do that to the fact that Yosef had spoken Lashon ha'Ra to his father about them.


Playing Innocent

"And he (Reuven) said to them 'Let us not spill blood' (37:21).

Reuven set out to save Yosef's life without letting on that he felt the least sympathy for him, says R. Bachye. That's why he added the word "Nefesh" to his words 'Lo nakenu!', implying that it was not killing Yosef that bothered him but the act of murder itself.

And it was for the same reason that he said (not 'al tishp'chu domo' [don't spill his blood!], but) "al tishp'chu dom" (don't spill blood).


A Not So Empty Pit

"And the pit was empty, there was no water in it" (37:24).

If the pit contained a little water, R. Bachye explains, it would technically still be called empty; so the Torah needed to add that there was no water in it at all, to teach us that it was completely dry.

Rashi however, citing Chazal, extrapolates from the Pasuk that although there was no water in the pit, there were snakes. One way of understanding this is by means of the principle that wherever there are two consecutive exclusions, the second one actually comes to include something.

Whereas Rabeinu Tam attributes the Chazal to the Torah's use of the words "ein bo mayim", by the fact that it uses virtually the same words in Devarim (8:15), where it writes "ve'tzimo'on (and thirst) asher ein mayim". And in the very same Pasuk, the Torah describes there how the same desert that contained no water, contained snakes.


The brothers however did not know, that the pit contained snakes, which lurked in holes leading off the side of the pit; because if they had, they would have been forced to admit that their brother was a saintly man, who enjoyed Divine protection, and they would have immediately relinquished all their plans to harm him (much in the same way as the Pasuk in Daniel which says the same thing in connection with Daniel in the lions' den. When the starving lions refused to turn against him).

* * *


'And it was when the baby withdrew his hand, his brother emerged first; and she said "with what strength did you assert yourself!" And so you should, for you are destined to inherit the throne … " ' (38:29).


'In another three days, Paroh will behead you with a sword and hang you on a tree … ' (40:19).


'And he returned the chief butler to his former post, once it was discovered that he was not involved in the plot … ' (40:21).


'And it was because Yosef forsook the Divine kindness and placed his trust instead in the butler, a mere human being; therefore the butler did not remember Yosef and he forgot him up to the time that G-d had designated for him to go free' (40:23).

* * *


(Adapted from the Mamleches Kohanim -
Medreshei Chanukah)

In the days of the evil Greek Empire, they initiated religious persecution against Yisrael. First they began by forbidding them to study Torah. But Yisrael ignored the decree, and proceeded to learn Torah in secret. Then they decreed that any Jew who owned an ox (and in those days, many did) should cut a groove in its horns, on which he was to engrave a cross and that he has no portion in the G-d of Yisrael. So Yisrael promptly sold their oxen. Next the Greeks decreed that no Jew was permitted to perform the Mitzvah of Milah on their new-born babies, and that no woman was permitted to Tovel in a Mikvah. They also obligated every Jew to engrave a cross on the bolt of his door, but the Jews simply removed the bolts from their doors. Then they decreed that every bride was to spend the first night of her marriage with the local army general. This decree continued for three years and eight months, until the sages of Yisrael saw that this was leading to people not marrying and not having children, and took steps to circumvent it. They instituted that, from henceforth, whoever gave birth to a baby boy should kindle new lamps outside the courtyard on the eighth day, to inform the Jews that a B'ris was taking place there, without the Greeks being aware of it; and that whenever a marriage was to take place that day, they would grind on the roof-top, so that their fellow-Jews would know about the wedding, but not the Greeks. And so the people would attend the respective ceremonies clandestinely under the very noses of the Greeks, without the latter being aware of what was going on.


And G-d performed a miracle with Yisrael, and not one woman was defiled, until the wedding day of the daughter of the Chashmona'i Kohen Gadol arrived. This was something that, due to her father's high position, it was impossible to hide from the king. Sure enough, the King got to know about it, and he immediately sent the general to claim his due.


Her father and all the elders were seated at the wedding table, when the messenger arrived summoning the bride to the general. When the bride heard that they had come to take her to the general, she figured that if she went, the general would defile her, and all the other Jewish women would conclude that what is good for the Kohen Gadol's daughter is good for them, resulting in a terrible Chilul Hashem. So she decided that, rather than create a Chilul Hashem, she would die al Kidush Hashem. So what did she do? She removed all her ornaments and exchanged her wedding clothes for rags. Then, she proceeded to pour wine for all the guests.

Meanwhile, when all the guests saw her, they hid their faces in shame, and exclaimed 'Daughter of the Kohen Gadol, what are you doing?' At which she burst into tears, and replied 'Oy, Tzadikim, sons of Tzadikim; Chasidim, sons of Chasidim! You are embarrassed because I have donned rags! Why are you not embarrassed before Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that you want to hand me over to that uncircumcised Tamei to defile me?'


Without more ado, Yehudah and the elders sat down to discuss strategy, and they came up with the following plan. They brought myrtle branches, branches from various species of fragrant-smelling trees, and brushwood, which they formed into a series of Chupos that led from the house of the Chashmona'im to the general's residence, and then they walked in procession along the avenue of Chupos, creating the impression that they were paying homage to the general and celebrating with him in his simchah.

The wicked general was indeed highly flattered by this gesture, and after making a remark to that effect to his men, he bade them take leave as he prepared to meet the delegation of Jewish dignitaries (or so he thought). But Yehudah and his men had other plans for him. The moment they were ushered into his presence, Yehudah drew his sword and decapitated him, tossing his head into the Greek camp. When the Greek soldiers realized that their general was dead, they promptly fled, pursued by Yehudah and his men as far as Alexandria of Egypt, which is where they were centered. They killed many of the enemy before returning to Acco.


When Aliporni, King of Greece, heard what the Jews had done to his general and his troops, he gathered a vast army and led it against Yerushalayim. When Yisrael saw the large contingent of forces arraigned against them, they were terror-stricken and did complete Teshuvah before Hashem. They began performing kindness with one another and learning Torah day and night. A Greek general there by the name of Achlud, who was conversant with astrology, informed the king that since the Jewish people were now diligently pursuing Torah and Mitzvos, his attack was doomed to fail. But Aliporni did not accept his prediction. The enraged king immediately had Achlud seized and hung up alive facing the walls of Yerushalayim. 'When the walls of Yerushalayim fall', he boasted, 'Achlud will be the first person to die!'. And when the Jews on the walls of Yerushalayim shouted to him as to why he was hanging there, he replied that it was because he had spoken in their favour.


How the righteous Yehudis single-handedly saved Yerushalayim, and Achlud ended up a free man is a story on its own (which we presented in an earlier volume).

* * *

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