DECEMBER 26-27, 2003 2 TEBET 5764
"What can we say to my lord? How can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? G-d has uncovered the sin of your servants." (Beresheet 44:16)
Years have passed since the brothers, the sons of Jacob, had sold Joseph as a slave. An in-depth study of last week's perashah will reveal that they were righteously motivated to do what they did. Now they are confronted by an Egyptian ruler, who is their brother, Joseph, in disguise. Joseph plots against them with a claim that they are thieves, with hard evidence of a stolen silver goblet in the sack of Benjamin. The brothers are cornered into submission to the ruler. Judah says, "What can we say? Hashem has revealed our sin." Rashi explains Judah's words: We know we committed no wrong in this matter. Rather it comes from Hashem because he wants to punish us for an earlier sin, the sale of Joseph.
The commentary, Ohr Hahayim, analyzes the words that Judah used. First he said "Mah nomar -what shall we say." Secondly he says "Mah nedaber - what shall we speak." Thirdly, "Mah nistadek - how can we justify." The word "say" means to speak softly with love. The word "speak" means to talk with a threat. To justify is to try to explain and negotiate, thereby getting the other party to agree. Judah is saying, "We tried to talk to you softly but it didn't help. We tried to threaten you, but that didn't get us anywhere. We tried to negotiate with you, and we reached a dead end. Therefore he concludes, "Hashem has uncovered our sin." The only logical explanation left is that this is from Hashem because of our sin. We need to repent for our sin.
Dayan Aharon Dunner applies this explanation to our current confrontation with the Arabs. We have an axiom that what happens to our forefathers is a prediction of the events to come in the future. We have tried everything with the Arabs. We spoke to them softly, we have given them jobs and an education, and we have given them money. Not only are they ungrateful, but they use it against us. We have threatened them with our sophisticated weapons. They have responded with their bodies booby-trapped to kill many of our innocents. We tried negotiating, only to be followed by increased terror. There is only one conclusion to draw. Hashem has uncovered our sins. Peace in the Land will follow Torah in the Land, and we must pray constantly for Israel. We love Israel with all of our hearts. If the Jewish nation as a whole returns to Hashem, the Arabs will turn into our best friends.
Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"What has Hashem done to us?" (Beresheet 42:28)
When Yosef's brothers went to Egypt to buy grain, they were brought before the viceroy (Yosef) and he suspected them of spying. Although they vehemently denied the charges, they were accused of a serious offense and the only way to clear their name was to go back home and bring their younger brother, Binyamin. On the way home, when one of the brothers checked his sack of grain, he found the original money in the sack and he cried out, "What has Hashem done to us?"
We see from here how a G-d-fearing person should speak. When things go wrong (as they invariably do) we try to find someone to blame. If we lose something in the house, we question who moved our things. If business is off, we look for causes and reasons to be able to pin it on. The sons of Ya'akob were holy men who realized that when something goes awry, it is from Hashem, and they asked, "What does Hashem want from us?" We must reinforce such behavior in our lives and in our homes. When things go right we say "Baruch Hashem," and if there is a problem we look to Hashem for the reason. When we train ourselves and our children in this manner, we will constantly be living with Hashem and He will dwell amongst us, which will only bring us blessings. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
Question: Why do some say, "Hashem imachem," before the blessings? Answer: 1) The oleh wishes to receive the blessings of the congregation before he begins the Torah reading. This does happen, since the oleh says, "Hashem imachem (may G-d be with you)" and the congregation responds, "Yebarech'cha Hashem (G-d should bless you)."
2) This exchange is found in Megilat Ruth. It takes place between Boaz and his men. Since Megillat Ruth is read on Shabuot, and is therefore connected to Matan Torah (receiving the Torah at Har Sinai), we recreate it at the time of an aliyah. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"Ya'akob said to his sons, 'Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?'" (Beresheet 42:1)
In the second year of the famine, Ya'akob sent his sons to Egypt to buy provisions. The Gemara (Ta'anit 10b) teaches that Ya'akob and his children really had enough to eat during the famine. The only reason that Ya'akob sent them to buy food was so that the others who were starving would not see that they were well off and become jealous. Ya'akob understood that, especially when people are in need, they are inclined to be envious of those who are well to do, even if the wealth was acquired by honest means.
This is a lesson that applies as much today as it did then. There are many people who are struggling to make ends meet. If you are in a better situation than your friend, you should try not to do anything that would make the other person feel sorry for himself or envy towards you.
Question: When making a major purchase (car, jewelry, etc.), do you consider the status of the people around you when making your selection? How do you feel when someone displays his wealth in front of people who are struggling?
This week's Haftarah: Melachim I 7:40-50
. The usual haftarah, like our perashah, tells of the dream of a king and what came about as a result of the dream. Shelomo, the new king of Israel, is told by Hashem that he can make one request for himself. Shelomo requested wisdom so that he could judge his people fairly. The haftarah then tells the famous case of the two women who both claimed a baby to be their own. When his ruling that the baby should be cut in half revealed the true mother, his wisdom was demonstrated to the world.
However, just like last week, we read a special haftarah for Hanukah this week. This haftarah tells about the construction of the Menorah for the First Bet Hamikdash in Shelomo's time. Even though last week's haftarah for Hanukah discussed events from the time of the Second Bet Hamikdash (chronologically later than this week's haftarah), it still took precedence over this haftarah is because the miracle of Hanukah occurred during the era of the Second Bet Hamikdash.
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