Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 37, v. 34: "Va'yisa'beil al b'no yomim rabim" - And he mourned for his son many years - Rashi explains that Yaakov mourned for the loss of Yoseif for 22 years, the same amount of time that he was away from his parents (save time spent in Yeshivas Eiver). Yitzchok told Yaakov to leave home to pursue finding a wife so why is this time counted against him?

2) Ch. 37, v. 35: "Va'yimo'ein l'hisnacheim" - And he refused to console himself - Rashi explains that although Hashem set into a person's psyche to forget the sorrow of the death of a loved one after the passing of a year (gemara P'sochim 54b), there is no consolation when the assumed deceased is actually alive (maseches Sofrim ch. #21). If so, why didn't Yaakov himself realize that Yoseif must still be alive?

3) Ch. 38, v. 14: "Va'teishev b'fesach einayim" - And she sat at a road junction - This is Rashi's interpretation. The reason that a road junction is called "pesach einayim" is because one has to open his eyes, i.e. pay special attention at a junction, so that he continues his trip on the proper path (Rabbeinu Menachem and Pirush al Targum Yonoson ben Uziel). If this is so, why in verse 21 do we only have "vo'einayim al ha'derech," without "pesach"?

4) Ch. 38, v. 25: "V'hee sholchoh el chomihoh" - And she sent to her father-in-law - Rashi (gemara Brochos 43b) says that Tomor did not simply say that Yehudoh impregnated her. Rather she only sent the payment, saying, "The man to whom these items belong is responsible for my pregnancy. If he admits it fine, and if not, let them burn me rather than my embarrassing him." From this we derive that it is preferable for a person to throw himself into a fiery cauldron rather than embarrassing his fellow man.

The Baal Haturim and Rabbi Yehudoh Chosid say that Yehudoh's words of the previous verse, "Hotziuhoh v'siso'reif," do not mean that she was to be burned to death, but rather, that a mark be made on her face with a burning brand, as a constant sign to her sin. If so, what is the proof that it is preferable to be burned to death, as that wasn't going to be her punishment? As well, how do we derive that it is preferable to "throw oneself" as she was not about to do this to herself, but rather, it would be done by others?

5) Ch. 39, v. 9: "V'chotosi lEilokim" - And I will have sinned against Elokim - Yoseif did not justify his refusal on moral grounds, i.e. adultery is a morally wrong act, or that he might be caught. He simply said that this was against Hashem's wishes. Why did he not say the former?



One answer is that once he delayed his return he was responsible for all the years he was away. Rabbi Yehudoh Chosid #573 writes that even if a parent forgoes his honour and a child thus does not transgress the positive commandment to honour one's parents, nevertheless, there can be heavenly retribution. This surely was the case with Yoseif. (Bris Olom on Sefer Chasidim)

This explanation is puzzling. Yoseif was caught in a catch 22 situation. If he leaves to Padan Aram, then he forgoes honouring his parents. If he doesn't leave he transgresses his father's command. How can there be heavenly retribution for complying with his father's wishes, even though they bring in their wake an absence?

In a similar vein to Rabbi Yehudoh Chosid's opinion, responsa Radva"z 1:524 writes that even though a father has foregone his honour, it is only insofar as his son's not being punished for not according him honour, but the mitzvoh of "kibud av" is not fulfilled.


There is grieving and mourning for a relative that is based on yearning for the deceased. This type of mourning dissipates after a year. There is however, another type of mourning, the suffering a person has by having the attitude that since Hashem took away a relative it reflects on the survivor, indicating that he is sinful and therefore was punished. This type of grieving does not necessarily dissipate after a year. As Rashi mentions, Yaakov was very disturbed by the incorrectly assumed death of Yoseif because he was privy to the knowledge that if all his sons would outlive him he would merit "olom habo." His pain was twofold, but beyond the first year he assumed it was for his assessment of his dismal future in regard to "olom habo." (Michlal Yofi)


A few other explanations for "pesach einayim," and it will be self-evident that some of them alleviate this problem.

1) It is the name of a city, as Tapuach and Einom (Paanei'ach Rozo)

2) "Eiyin" means a path. (Sforno)

3) There were two wellsprings there and their shape was similar to a door opening. (Ibn Ezra)

4) These words are an allusion to the opening/opportunity to be an ancestor of "V'hu admoni im y'fei einayim" (Shmuel 1:16:12). Medrash Hagodol)


The answer lies in Rashi's words "mikan omru." "Kan," here, is not the happening in the verse, as the lesson taught is refuted in two manners, as per the questions just raised. Rather, "mikan," is from the words of Tomor, as recorded in the M.R. Tomor said, "Even if they were to throw me into a fiery cauldron I will not embarrass him." This was not the punishment they were about to administer. We thus derive that she was ready to suffer an extremely greater punishment, and this is called "throwing oneself into " At the same time we derive that even suffering death by fire is preferable to embarrassing your fellow man.

Paa'nei'ach Rozo writes that it is forbidden to believe that the Baal Haturim wrote this comment.

Another insight into the term "oneself" of the gemara Brochos 43b: The Ramban asks why Tomor should be given the death penalty since she was single at the time. He answers that it was because of her causing Yehudoh, who had the status of king, embarrassment. The mishnoh in the gemara Arochin 7a says that if a pregnant woman is to put to death by the court we do not wait for her to give birth. The Rambam in his commentary on the mishnoh says that this is based on the verse in Dvorim 22:22, "Umeisu GAM SHNEIHEM."

This ruling only applies when the court administers the death penalty for a sin that the Torah says carries capital punishment, and not that which is meted out by the king as an infraction of his honour. Therefore, since Tomor realized that she carried Yehudoh's child, a ben Yisroel should be saved. As we know from the incident of selling Yoseif, Yehudoh, and his brothers except for Yoseif, posited that they had the status of bnei Yisroel. Yehudoh did not realize that the child was his and was ready to have her put to death immediately. This explains why Tomor attempted to save herself by offering the items given her for her services, with the hope that Yehudoh would admit on his own, and if not, at least use some excuse to delay carrying out the death penalty until after the child was born once he realized that he was the father. By offering the items given as payment for her services, Tomor attempted to save the child but not herself. If only her life was at stake she would not have shown the signet ring and garment. This is why the gemara says "she'yapil es ATZMO." (Kovetz Ohel Mo'eid)


The Rambam hilchos yesodei haTorah 5:10 writes: One who refrains from sinning or does a mitzvoh should not do so because of any reason in the world, not out of fear or for honour, but rather, only because of the Holy One blessed be He, just as Yoseif refrained himself from sinning with his master's wife. This is true sanctification of Hashem's Name.



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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