FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"And behold, seven cows rose up from the river"
The Ramban zs"l explains, "Since the Egyptians drank from the river, and
is thus their source of hunger and prosperity, he saw them rising from the
river. The cows symbolize plowing, while the sheaves symbolize the
as Yosef said to his brothers, '.that there is no plowing or harvest.'
Pharaoh thus saw that the river would rise only a little bit, and there
therefore be no plowing. And where there will be a bit of planting in the
moist areas, an eastern wind will come and consume them, as he saw them
withered by the eastern winds."
"And behold, seven cows rose up from the river"
Many commentaries have asked, why did Yosef volunteer advice to Pharaoh?
Did the king appoint him as an advisor? Rav Ovadia Seforno zs"l answers
that, in truth, the solution suggested by Yosef was actually part of the
interpretation of the dream, and was thus warranted as part of the task for
which he was brought. If the seven healthy cows symbolized the seven years
of prosperity and the seven emaciated cows represented the seven years of
famine, then why did the dream present the two groups of cows as standing
next to each other? What significance is there to the fact that the two
groups of cows were situated near each other? It must be that the seven
years of famine would be "right next to" the years of plenty. This was
facilitated through Yosefs plan of storing grain during the years of plenty
to prepare the impending famine.
"And behold, seven cows rose up from the river"
Although we do not claim proficiency in the hidden areas of Torah, it is
worthwhile to at least get a glimpse into the sheer depth of our sacred
Torah. The "Siftei Kohen" zs"l, one of the students of theAr"I zs"l, cites
from the Zohar that this dream refers to Yosef and his sublime quality,
specifically the quality of "yesod" which receives gives sustenance, as it
were, to the seven "sefirot" of goodness and blessing. The river, which
provided water for the entire land of Egypt, alludes to Yosef, who
Egypt during the years of famine, as "Nilus" (Hebrew for "Nile") has the
same numerical value as Yosef. The seven cows represent the seven
which receive their sustenance through him. "Olot sheva parot" ("Seven
rose") has the same numerical value as "shefa" (bounty, sustenance) - and
thus, the entire dream symbolizes the hidden workings of the Upper Worlds.
"And behold, seven cows rose up from the river"
Rabbenu Behayei zs"l writes (his source being the Midrash in our parashah)
that the seven healthy cows and the seven emaciated cows in Pharaohs dream
equals fourteen; he then recalled the dream to Yosef, another fourteen;
Yosef repeated the dream over the course of his interpretation, for a total
of forty-two. Now two years into the famine, Yaakov came down to Egypt and
the famine ended as a result of the blessing which accompanied him.
However, the promise of the forty-two years was still to be fulfilled, as
over a thousand years later the pasuk states, "Egypt will be desolate, it
will not be settled for forty years" (Yehezkel 29) - thus completing the
total of forty-two years of famine.
"It was, after two years"
The Hid"a zs"l cites from Rabbenu Efrayim zs"l that this expression
to Hanukah, as each letter of this phrase - "Vayehi mikess shenatayim
- stands for a word: "Vkaasher Yohanan hishmid yevanim mibet kodshenu,
ssivanu shenadlik nerot tamnia yomei MeHanukah, yanihenah missad yamin
mehayossei" - "And when Yohanan defeated the Greeks from our sacred house,
he commanded us that we should light candles throughout the eight days of
Hanukah, it should be placed on the right side when leaving."
THE GOLDEN AGE
Rabbi Yosef Hamaaravi zs"l
Rosh Hodesh Tevet marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Yosef
Hamaaravi zs"l, who is buried in Elhamamah, Tunisia. Commemorations of the
day will take place in several locations throughout Israel, the central one
being in the Bet Kenesset named for him, in Ramlah.
Rabbi Yosef Hamaaravi seems to have come from one of the North-African
countries to Ssefat and became one the of great students of the Ar"I zs"l.
It is told that when the Ar"I gathered in Meron to teach his students the
hidden secrets of the Torah, he arranged his students in the same
arrangement as was used by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai with his students. The
Ar"I sat in the spot where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai sat, he had one of his
students sit in the spot where Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yohai, sat, a second was told to sit in the place of Rabbi Yehudah, a third
in the seat of Rabbi Abba, and Rabbi Yosef Hamaaravi was seated in the
of Rabbi Yossi, as he emanated from the root of Rabbi Yossis soul.
Once, the Ar"I and his students went out into the field to receive the
Shabbat, and he suddenly asked them, "Do you want to receive Shabbat in
Yerushalayim? We can go there, right now [with a miraculous kefissat
haderech]!" His students hesitated a moment: their wives would be worried,
their husbands suddenly leaving the city. After a moment of their
hesitation, the Ar"I clapped his hands in frustration and said, "Oh! If
would have immediately responded with fervor that you want to go, it would
have been a moment of appeasement before the Almighty, and the redemption
would have arrived. But because you hesitated, the redemption has been
delayed!" He continued that for this hesitation, anger has been aroused in
the Heavens and a death penalty has been issued for them, but the ArI
intervened on their behalf, and they would instead be exiled.
Rabbi Yosef Hamaaravi was one of these students, and he was exiled to
Tunisia, settling in El Hamamah where he disseminated the Torah of his
mentor until his death. May his merit protect us, forever.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
There exist thirty-eight species of snakes in Israel, including eight
of poisonous snakes. The most common and most dangerous of these is the
viper, the topic of our discussion this week.
The viper belongs to the same family as the horned snake and the
rattlesnake. However, whereas these are found mostly in desert regions,
viper can be found in settled areas, as well, not only in fields and
orchards, but often it will penetrate into storage houses, stables and
chicken coups, as well. It grows up to a meter-and-a-quarter long, its
is thick and its three-part head is covered with small scales, smaller at
least then the scales on the rest of its body. Glands secreting poison are
located on each side of its head. As these glands are quite large, the
snakes head appears significantly larger than its actual size. The danger
involved in approaching the viper lies not in the tongue, which it thrusts
out to smell, and not even its frightening breath - but rather in its
poisonous teeth. Its teeth are quite sophisticated, long and hollow, and
they are doubled backwards. When the viper comes upon potential prey, it
straightens its neck, and at the same time its two poisonous teeth
straighten in the upper cheek and then penetrate straight into the particle
like a syringe into a persons flesh. The poison is then transferred from
the glands in the cheek into the victims body. Like other snakes, the
viper does not bite of its own initiative, nor will it chase after someone
without provocation. Most cases of tragedy occur when a person unknowingly
sticks his hand or foot into a place where the viper happens to be
The biting is the snakes method of defense against either real or apparent
danger which looms before him. Today, after years of research and
experimentation, victims of snakebites are treated with a special
After the injection, the chances of fatality are lowered, but people should
still be warned not to place their bare hands or feet in potentially
When discussing poisonous snakes who have the capacity to kill a person
with their poison, we are immediately reminded of Hazals comment, "The best
of snakes - crush its brain!" If this militant attitude applies to the
snake which threatens our physical existence, certainly we must apply this
message to the "snake" which endangers us spiritually, the evil
When he attacks, either with sly words of enticement, fear or in the form
a kind, gentle snake, a person must stand strong and withstand the appeal.
He must gird himself with strength and discipline and, quite simply, "crush
its brain." One must never argue with his yesser hara or even try to
explain - just deal him a mighty blow, thereby achieving a further level in
his service of Hashem.
Measure for Measure (20)
Flashback: A rich man once, through his insensitivity, led to the untimely
death of an impoverished Torah scholar. The scholars soul was denied entry
into Gan Eden since the wealthy man was decreed to die on account of the
poor man. The poor man was, however, granted permission to appear to the
wealthy man and guide him along a path of repentance. He ordered the
wealthy man to dress up as a peasant and study Torah day and night,
food from everyone. When he was hungry he was allowed to ask food only
his own family. When he went to his home, they beat him and laughed at
allowing him to eat only from the bread left out for the chickens. His
constant return to his home to receive insults, blows and stale bread
him a widespread reputation as an insane and mentally disturbed person.
And thus, when the peasant proceeded to get something to eat together with
the mockery of beatings, a procession of children accompanied him, and they
called him names and threw dirt along the way. This vocal entourage
escorted him all the way until the magnificent house of the wealthy miser,
and the family went to see what all the commotion was about. They saw this
stubborn peasant who stuck to their home like an awfully strange visitor,
continually subjecting himself to shame and mockery, not to mention punches
and kicks. They saw the group of frivolous children who accompanied the
peasant with a cacophonous chorus of hisses, insults and curses. They,
assumed the behavior of these immature schoolchildren, forgetting for a
moment their anguish over the loss of the head of the family who suddenly
disappeared. They joined the brigade of clowns, clapping their hands at
peasant who was surrounded by insults and shameful laughter. They cried
delightfully, "Behold, the lunatic comes!" As he humbly approached their
home to ask for something to eat, his own children ran up to him. He
so much to hug them and hold them tightly against his chest. But they
not smile at him - they laughed at him. One pulled his hair, the other at
his beard. While one would hold his clothing, the other dragged his feet,
as others jumped on his back or obstructed his path. They laughed
uncontrollably when he fell to the ground. They had acquired a new game, a
game which cost them only a few pieces of stale bread. They could even add
some vegetable peels, as well. And so, with song and glee, the children
escorted him - for the first time - into their home.
to be continued
"HE PUT AN END TO THE DARKNESS"
The young Yosef, the victim of false charges, is cast into the dungeon, an
eternal prison. He managed well in his prison cell, attending to the needs
of the inmates and eventually earning special privileges. But his
was irreversible, as he remained a lowly slave, forgotten by all, with no
family to lobby for his release. A small ray of light appeared when the
wine-bearer was freed from the cell and promised to plead on Yosefs behalf
upon being freed. A half a year, a year, two years pass by - and nothing
And then, all of a sudden, with amazing speed - "They hurried him from the
dungeon, he cut his hair and changed his clothing, and he stood before
Pharaoh." Before he knew it, he was the viceroy of Egypt.
How did all this happen? "It was after two years" The Midrash associates
this term, "mikess," with the pasuk, "He [Hashem] put an end [kess] to the
darkness." It only appeared that the darkness would remain forever, that
the situation would never be changed. But there was a limit to the
darkness, and once the moment arrived - there occurred a quick turn of
events, and Yosef emerged from darkness to the ultimate light!
Indeed, so will occur when the time comes for our ultimate redemption.
moment, we will be stuck in the mire of exile, with all the national and
individual crises, problems of health and poverty from which we suffer.
And then, in an instant, the light of salvation will shine through,
us to the highest of peaks. May this unfold speedily, in our day!
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Collection of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Daat
Chapter 4: The Laws of Washing Ones Hands in the Morning
Continued From Last Week
If one hears one of the "devarim shebikdushah" - such as
"kadish," kedushah" or "borchu" - before washing his hands in he
morning, or, similarly, if he hears a berachah before washing his hands, he
should quickly wipe his hands on some surface (for we are afraid that he
touched unclean parts of the body) and answer that which needs to be
recited. Similarly, if one hears thunder in the middle of the night or in
the morning before washing his hands he should wipe his hands on a surface
and then recite the appropriate berachah. If he does not plan on going
to sleep afterwards, then he should wash his hands first. One who is
stringent to wash his hands before even thinking about matters of Torah is
deserving of blessing.
The Berachah, "Al Netilat Yadayim"
One must recite the berachah of "al netilat yadayim" after washing his
hands in the morning. Optimally, the blessing should be recited before
drying his hands. However, if one did not recite the berachah before
his hands, he may recite the berachah afterwards.
Similarly, if one cannot recite the berachah before drying his hands, such
as if he is in an unclean room, he should recite the berachah afterward.
Even one who recites the berachah in the Bet Kenesset has authorities on
whom to rely. In any event, it is preferable to recite the berachah as
after the drying as possible. (All this applies specifically to the
in the morning. Regarding hand-washing prior to meals, however, the
berachah may not be recited after the hands are dried, because a berachah
never recited when its requirement is in doubt.)
One who cannot wash both hands, such as one who has a cast or bandage on
one hand which he cannot get wet, or one who only has one hand - may still
recite the berachah "al netilat yadayim," both when he washes in the
and when he washes prior to eating.
Washing Ones Face and Rinsing Ones Mouth
The Berayta (Shabbat 50b) states that a person must wash his face, hands
and feet each day for the sake of his Creator, as the pasuk states (Mishlei
16:4), "Everything which Hashem has done is for His sake." According to
Rambam (Hilchot Tefilah 4:3), this refers to washing in the morning before
tefilah. However, as far as the actual halachah is concerned, it seems
there is no requirement to wash ones feet in the morning. One should
preferably wash his face in the morning after washing his hands before
reciting Shaharit. One should rinse his mouth, as well.
The Berachah of "Asher Yassar" in the Morning
The custom of the Sefaradim and Eastern communities is not to recite
yassar" in the morning if one did not perform his bodily functions. Some
Ashkenazim have the custom of reciting "asher yassar" in the morning upon
waking, together with "al netilat yadayim," regardless whether one had
performed his bodily functions. After waking up, however, one does not
recite "asher yassar" unless he performs his bodily functions.
Even according to this custom of the Askenazim, one should preferably
perform his functions in the morning so that he can recite the berachah
according to all opinions and thereby avoid a situation of doubt. The same
applies to the Sefaradim and Eastern communities.
THE PREPARATION FOR WAR
A story appears in Sefer Hashmonaim. This work is not part of the
canonized Tanach as it was not written with "ruah hakodesh." However,
experts claim that this book was written by people of that period and
presents an accurate testimony of the history of the time. The book tells
of the revolt against the Hellenists, of Yehudah the Maccabis brilliant
leadership of a tiny army, with just a small arsenal, overturning the
of the Greek overpowering empire. First, they defeated the enemy post in
Samaria which was led by Apolonius. Siron, the general of Aram, drafted
the soldiers in the region, but the
Hasmoneans defeated them in the battle of Bet Horon. But the empire
responded when Antiochus assembled all his forces under the charge of three
experienced generals: Gorgiash, Ptolmey and Niknor. The army numbered
40,000 soldiers and seven-thousand horsemen, and all the soldiers received
their salary from Antiochus in advance. He allocated this budget by
ninety Jewish slaves, confident that he would win them back in victory.
Greek army encamped in the Amaus Valley and
filled the valley to capacity.
How did Yehudah prepare for this battle, which seemed doomed to failure?
Incredibly, he gathered his soldiers for a day of fasting and prayer in
Misspah, near Jerusalem, which was, by that time, desolate and under
conquest. Instead of bringing entertainers and food, he ordered a day of
fast and crying, he actually weakened the strength of his fighters by
withholding food and insisting upon repentance and prayer.
Yehudahs tactic can be better understood through the following story.
Secular Jews in the city of Brisk, in an attempt to make a mockery of the
religious community, staged a play depicting what a religious army under
Torah authority would have looked like. The curtain rose over a group of
soldiers dressed in black as the kohen spoke to the group: "Whoever has
built a new home and did not dedicate it - should return to his home, lest
he die in battle and another dedicate it" A group of soldiers marched and
left their position. The kohen continued, "Whoever has planted a vineyard
and did not perform hilul or who was betrothed to a woman and did not
marry her - should return to his home" Again, a handful of got up and
left. The kohen then proceeded to announce the final release: "Whoever is
afraid and soft of heart - referring to those afraid on sins which they
committed - should return to their homes"
Immediately, panic broke out among the soldiers. Who has not committed
sin or another? Who has never spoken any "lashon hara" or wasted any time
from Torah study? They all picked themselves up and left.
On the stage stood only three people - the kohen, and two elderly men.
first was the Vilna Gaon, and the second was the author of "Shaagat Aryeh."
They engaged in an involved "halachic" discussion as to which one of them
has the privilege of beginning the battle against the enemy. The frivolous
audience broke out in hysterical laughter.
Understandably, the secularists relished this or any opportunity to poke
fun at the Torah. The religious community, however, turned to Rabbi Hayim
of Brisk to ask for his response.
Reb Hayim answered, "What can I say - they are correct! This is exactly
how it appeared when the Jewish people went out to fight. Bu the actors
forgot just one thing - those two won the battle!"
Strange as it may seem, there is precedent for such a lopsided defeat.
Humash tells how Mosheh sent spies to scout the region of Yazer, and they
proceeded to actually conquer the entire area (Rashi, Bemidbar 21:32).
Similarly, Shimon and Levi themselves captured the city of Shechem, and
Yehonatan, son of Shaul, defeated an entire Philistine battalion with his
servant (Shemuel I, 14).
When the Creator is on our side, then we merit the fulfillment of the
pasuk, "Five of you will chase after one hundred, and a hundred of you will
chase ten thousand." When our Creator wishes, even just two are more than
needed. Not a single individual chased after Pharaoh and his army - they
themselves went into the sea to drown therein. Large stones
fell from the heavens upon the Philistines, the Kishon river swept the
entire army of Sisra, Hashem scattered the army of Aram in every which
direction, and 180,000 soldiers in Sanherivs army suddenly died one night
as they besieged the city of Jerusalem.
Our most critical job is to ensure that the Almighty is on our side. Once
we accomplish this, "These come with chariots, others come with horses -
we come with the mentioning of Name of Hashem our God.
They - leaned and fell, but we stood up and were jubilant. Hashem save
the King will answer us on the day when we call Him!"
All we have to do is call out to Him and await His salvation.
It is no small wonder that Yehudah the Maccabi acted this way. He stood
with just several hundred soldiers opposite an organized, well-trained army
of forty-thousand. What chance did he have? He therefore called for a day
of teshuvah, of fasting and prayer, and after the fast he led his troops
along an all-night march from Misspah until the Amaus Valley. At daybreak,
he and his men overpowered the forty-thousand enemy troops. "For salvation
belongs to the Almighty, on Your blessed nation, Selah!"