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: Hashem's Idea Prevails!
We live in dizzying times. Events happen so quickly that situations change before we can get used to them. Economies prosper and collapse, empires change form, in our region great changes take place, and we do not know whether these are for good or bad.
The world is behaving like a "Sevivon" - a spinning top. The top turns fast around itself with energy and gusto. However, it has a handle on top. It does not spin itself - someone had to spin it! Indeed,"someone" directs the changes in our world, running the show from Heaven!
In our Parshah, Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery. What message do we get from this? "You thought to hurt, Hashem thought for good in order to give life to many people" (Bereishit, 50; 2). The brothers heard the dreams of Joseph and wanted to prevent them from becoming reality. What indeed happened proves that whenever man tries to disrupt the Divine plan, he does not succeed in doing so. In addition, he becomes like a pawn in the hands of Hashem, and it is he who unwittingly helps the Divine plan work! They wished to derail Joseph's advancement, and Hashem said, "let us see whose word will reign, mine or theirs" (Rashi Bereishit 37; 20).
This is true for all the events that happen to us, especially now on the eve of the complete and eternal redemption. Hashem is operating a plan and we are caught up in it like in a whirlpool. From all this confusion, the Redemption will emerge and the spinning top will land on the winning letter! May it happen soon!
When did we last faint?
We, who were raised as observant Jews, are familiar with the stories in the Torah and know the end even as we read the beginning of a story. However, the story is told about a village Jew who moved to the big city and finally had the opportunity to hear the Portion of the Week read in the synagogue. When they reached our Parshah, he followed the adventures of Joseph with bated breath. When his brothers wanted to kill him and he was coming closer and closer to where they were, he whispered to Joseph with much feeling: "Joseph, Joseph, don't go, don't go near, run away"! But, alas, Joseph could not hear him and continued, was caught, sold to the Ishmaelites and disappeared in a cloud of dust in the direction of Egypt. The next year, Joseph went again to Shechem and to Dotan, where his brothers again tried to kill him. This time the villager sat there stiff and withdrawn, and uttered angrily: "This time I won't have mercy on you! Last year they played the same trick on you, and you still haven't learned your lesson!"
Unfortunately, this folk story contains a lot of truth relating to the way that we read the Portion of the Torah. We read it as if we are just relating a story that happened a very long time ago, but not actually living the story. In truth, every cycle of the Torah reading should be for us like the turn of a drill that goes deeper and deeper! Other nations of the world count their months and years according to the sun, but the Jewish People counts theirs according to the moon. The turn of the sun is called a year, and the turn of the moon a month. In Hebrew, the term month means "Hodesh", which means renewal. The Jewish People are constantly renewing themselves. There are always Jews who learn the Parshah every year with a different commentary, one year with the Alsheich's commentary, one year with that of the Ohr Hahayim, and the third with the Kli Yakar, in order to renew themselves and to understand more and more.
Let us take, for example, the sale of Joseph. Over the years, we have somehow got used to it, even with all the difficult questions it evokes. We read of a brother whose brothers suspect that he is trying to outdo them and they are envious of his relationship with his father. They wish to kill him, and sell him into slavery! Could we think of the Ohr Hahayim caught up in the emotions of envy, power struggles, or murder? The Ari, or Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai? The Parshah writes about the founders of the Tribes of Israel, who were holier than Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, or Rabbi Akiva, or the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah!
We must think more deeply and try to understand more! Rabbi "Shufrei Deyoseph" from Al Kleya in Morocco opens our eyes when he says that the passage "vayosifu od sno" are the Rashei Tevot of Esau! What does it mean? Very simple. Joseph's brothers knew that Abraham had had two sons. One was beloved and the other sent away. What came from the other one - a wild man whose hand is in everything and the hand of everyone is on him. Yitzhak, their grandfather, had two children, twins. One of them received the blessing of their father, which included the blessing of the grandfather, and the second son was rejected. What happened to him? He was a hunter, a man of the field. The Gemara in Bava Batra teaches us that he was a wicked man who practiced armed robbery. Now, Joseph's brothers were afraid that history was about to repeat itself. Their father has twelve sons, all of them loved and carrying out the wishes of the Creator. However, Joseph tells their father bad things about them, thus putting their father against them. They were afraid that this was leading to Joseph being the continuation of Jacob and they would all become like Esau and Ishmael. This is what they could not take! They could not tolerate the idea that they would lose the spiritual world! To us, this does not make sense! Why did the brothers care so much? We don't have the outlook that the spiritual is more important than the physical. Even though we identify with the Halachah that one may desecrate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Jew, we are not aware of the Halachah that we may desecrate the Sabbath in order to save a Jew from spiritual death, such as conversion to another religion. This is an explicit rule in Shulhan Aruch Siman 306! It also makes sense. If we are commanded to desecrate the Sabbath in order to save a Jew's temporary life in this world, certainly we should save his life in the world-to-come!
We must acquire this outlook for ourselves. If we would view spiritual deterioration in the same way that we view physical sickness, we would not be able to sleep at night. There is a story about a Rabbi of a small town who came to visit the Hafess Haim, zassal,. The Hafess Haim questioned him and discovered that the Mikveh in the town had been closed for quite a while. The wall had fallen but the rich people in the community refused to rebuild it. The Rabbi claimed he had no influence on them, and could not himself rebuild the wall from his meager salary. "What could I do?" said the Rabbi. "What could you do?" cried the Hafess Haim, "At least you could faint"!
The Gaon Rabbi Saul Mekikess Sheli , zassal, was a teacher of Torah in the Isle of Djerba and had thousands of disciples. He was born 120 years ago and passed away in the Land of Israel, at the age of ninety. Besides teaching Torah sheh ba'al peh (the Oral Law), he also wrote the book "Mussar Av" that contains a story that is connected indirectly to our Parshah. Our Sages relate that the brothers said: "Let's kill Joseph, and the Divine Spirit answered: "We will see what will be with his dreams". A man thinks and Hashem laughs.
There is a story about a wine merchant who was very poor and did not earn enough from his business even for the Sabbath expenses. He had an old mother who felt sorry for him and prayed that he would get rich. Every day she came to Hashem with a new suggestion. One day she suggested that her son should win the lottery, the next day that he find a lost treasure, and the third that he invent something everyone would buy. The Sabbath was coming and the son had no food in the house. He remembered that he still had a few barrels of low quality wine in his cellar. Perhaps he could find someone to buy them so that he would have enough money for two Hallot (loaves of bread) for the Sabbath. He asked his mother to offer a pitcher of that wine to a Jewish neighbor. The neighbor took the wine and paid for it. The mother was happy. The purchaser sniffed the wine and made a face. He immediately returned it and asked for his money back. The mother came back crying. Her son said to her, "Don't cry, Hashem will be merciful"!
At that moment they heard a knock on the door. A rich man came in and asked if he had any good wine. The seller was amazed. He said: "Good wine? You will determine whether it is good or not." He gave him that same pitcher that had been rejected before. The man sniffed it and tasted it. His eyes lit up. "How much does it cost?" he asked. "A gold coin" answered the seller. "Do you have more of this wine?" "Oh, yes, I do"! "Good," said the rich man, "I am making a big party and I need large quantities. I will take your entire stock"! In that moment, the poverty-stricken wine seller became rich. His mother told him: "Listen, my son. I have been praying for you for a long time. I made many suggestions to Hashem as to how He might improve your situation. This idea never occurred to me…."!!
Harav Hagaon David Yosef:
· We should be stringent not to pass in front of someone who has concluded his silent prayer and taken three steps back. One should not enter the space of those three steps. If someone attempts to do so, the person should hint to him not to. However, he should not go back to his place to prevent the man from crossing, as he needs to wait to go back to his place at least until the Hazzan begins to repeat the Amidah.
· If the Hazzan reached Kedushah at the same time that a person completed his three steps back, he may immediately return to his place.
· If the congregation began to say "Tahanun" when someone took his three steps back, he can say it with them where he is; however, it is better that he should wait enough time to walk four Amot, and then say the Tahanun.
· If the Hazan has concluded his private prayer and is about to start the repetition, he should first wait in his place the time it takes to walk four Amot, then he should take the three steps back to the place he had said the silent prayer, and only then start the repetition.
· If someone is praying alone, he should preferably be stringent to wait in his place enough time that, had he been with a congregation, the Hazan would have reached the Kedushah; only then should he take the three steps back to where he was and continue the prayer.
· However, if he has to start another Amidah right away, he may wait enough time to walk four Amot, take the three steps forward, and start his second prayer. Examples for this situation are when one needs to recite Mussaf after Shaharit, or if one needs to say a prayer that he forgot to say earlier.
· If someone took a long time over saying the Amidah and only completed it when the Hazan was already in the middle of the repetition, he should be stringent and wait where he went back for enough time for the Hazan to say the repetition from the beginning until the Kedushah.
· If someone concluded the Amidah before the Hazan, he should not turn round to the west until the Hazan finishes his prayer. Some say that the reason for this is that the congregation should not suspect that he skipped part of his silent prayer. Some explain that the reason is that it looks as if he is looking away from the Shechinah, which is in the east. Some explain that if he begins to turn around, he will disrupt the prayer of those who have not yet finished.
· It is preferable to be stringent about not turning round to the west if most of the congregation has not finished the silent prayer, even if the Hazan has already started the repetition.
"Hear, Please, This Dream That I Dreamed":
It was asked in the Gemara: on the one hand it says that Hashem speaks to his servants through a dream, on the other hand it says that dreams are false. The answer was that it depends if the dream was through the agency of an angel or of a demon. Ramhal explains that there are two kinds of dreams. One kind is natural, and most of our dreams are like that. When someone is asleep, the forces of his body are resting, his feelings subdued, and his brain relaxed. The imagination is then free to operate, and to make pictures from things he saw when he was awake. This kind of dream is of no concern to the Gemara. But there is another kind of dream: "A rule that the Creator made, that at the time of sleep the Neshamah detaches a little from the body and wanders in the lofty worlds. Sometimes, it conveys to the soul something of what it saw. The imagination then incorporates these pictures in its dreams. This causes dreams that are sometimes very confused and sometimes clearer. These are the kind of dreams that our Sages investigated whether they are true or not. The answer was that it depends where the Neshamah went during the sleep. If it went to spiritual worlds that are close to natural worlds, that is what was defined as a dream through a demon. One can't rely on these dreams, as they are very confused. However, sometimes the Neshamah is allowed to go into lofty spiritual worlds and to see true visions. In this case, even though there are still some nonsense elements in the dream, there is a general truth to the dream. In order to receive such a dream, one must have a Neshamah that is clean and pure. Not every person attains this level.
In addition to this, there are of course the prophetic dreams where there is no imagination as in other dreams and they are completely clear. This level has been hidden from us but will return, as the Prophets tell us, when the Messiah comes.
Joseph told his brothers of a prophetic dream he had. This, says the Ohr Hahayim, is the reason that he repeats the words "ve-hinay" many times. "Because the dream that is a vision of prophecy and a message from Hashem is as clear as daylight." It is in his eyes as if he saw it when he was wide-awake. That is a sign that it is a prophetic dream. Not like the dreams that the young talk about, where there is confusion and exaggeration. Therefore, Joseph says "ve-hinay" to emphasize the fact that the dreams were clear, and therefore prophetic.
Halachah of Lighting the Sabbath Candles:
1) It is a Missvah to light candles on Erev Shabbat. This Missva applies to every person so that he should be happy on Shabbat. Even though the Missva of Simhah was said explicitly only concerning the Hagim, we learn from the passage: "u've-yom simhatchem u've-moadayhem" that it also applies to Shabbat.
2) Our Sages teach that we should eat three meals on Shabbat because, regarding the Manna, it says three times the word "hayom" - today. All must eat the third meal. The Prophet said, "You shall call the Shabbat enjoyment" and concluded: "Because the mouth of Hashem spoke". This connects the Missvah of Oneg (pleasure, enjoyment) Shabbat to having a source in the Torah. It is also pleasurable to eat where there is light. Today there is electricity, but one should still light candles. If someone does not have any candles, he can say the blessing and then turn on the switch for the electric light. One lights with oil or wax, but olive oil is the best.
3) Maimonides said that it is a Missva to light candles on Erev Shabbat and make the blessing before: "Asher kidshanu bemissvotav vessivanu lehadlik ner shel Shabbat". We make a blessing before lighting the candles, in the same ways as with all Missvot we make a blessing before fulfilling the missvah. One should light the candles immediately after the blessing so as not to have a break in time between the blessing and the Missvah. This law pertains to men lighting candles as well as women.
4) The Rama ruled that women should light the candles and cover them with their hands and then say the blessing so it will be considered before doing the Missvah. This is based on the opinion of the Halachot Gedolot that one "accepts" Shabbat when lighting the candles. The woman, therefore, cannot make the blessing first because if she does so, she would "accept" the Shabbat and would not be able to light the candles. However, many Poskim, such as the Ramban, the Rashba and the Ritva proved that the Halachot Gedolot was wrong. Also the Shibboleh Haleket says that the woman "accepts" Shabbat only when concluding the lighting. His proof is that there are women who light more than two candles. If you say that she "accepts" Shabbat immediately, she would not be allowed to light more. This is also the way that Maran ruled in the Shulhan Aruch and not like the Bahag that connects receiving the Shabbat to the lighting of the candles.
5) The Ben Ish Hai held the opposite view: his opinion - like that of the Rama - was that the woman should first light and then make the blessing. Because of this the women stopped their original practice to make the blessing first, against the opinion of the Rambam and Maran. I know that because of my ruling, thousands of women went back to the original practice and the merit of Maran and the Rambam will protect them! If a woman practiced before to light and then make a blessing and now she wants to change back to the right way, she does not need "Hatarat Nedarim" because before she was saying a blessing in vain.
6) Even Ashkenazi women should make a blessing before lighting, as Rabbi Isser Zalman Melczer said they should do when he came to the Land of Israel, as did the Gaon Yafess. I saw an Ashkenazi book called "Pri Ess Hayim" that says that the reason women put up their hands when they say the blessing is in order that they should not enjoy the light. This is utter nonsense. Therefore every woman should light after reciting the blessing on the candles and she herself will be blessed.
Jewish Cooking of Sufganiyot:
The Festival of Chanukah is coming close. Certainly we are all preparing for it in learning the Halachot and Minhagim that are connected to this Festival. However, here is the place to remind the public about the Kashrut issues involved in the preparation of the Sufganiyot that many of us like to eat. When there are festivities people tend to miss important Halachot!
Sufganiyot are fried. Most Poskim consider frying a form of cooking. It is known that the Bet Yosef and the Rama disagreed regarding the cooking of a non-Jew. The Rama maintained that it is sufficient if the Jew turns on the fire. The Shulhan Aruch maintained that the Jew must place the food on the fire and that lighting it is not enough. This means that, according to Maran, a Jew must be the one who places the Sufganiyot in the hot oil and also the one turning them over!
The job of frying the Sufganiyot is a hard one. Therefore, bakeries give the job to a non-Jew and have the Jew turn on the fire. Indeed our Rabbi, the Light of Israel, ruled in his book "Yechave Da'at" that one can be lenient and eat from the Sufganiyot that were prepared this way. However, when he was asked by the Badass Bet Yosef how to behave in this issue, he answered that, since the Badass Bet Yosef is committed to fulfilling all the stringent rules of our Master, the Bet Yosef, they must demand that the frying of the Sufganiyot should be done by Jews even though this will cause the bakeries to have higher expenses.
Therefore, in these days of celebrating the victory of the Torah over Hellenism, we should strengthen the rulings of the Bet Yosef and support them.
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
Produced by Cong. Bnai Yosef and the Aram Soba Foundation - translated from Ma'ayan Hashavua in Israel
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