by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS VA'YEISHEV 5761 BS"D
L'ILUY NISHMAS OVI MORI R' CHAIM B"R SIMCHOH Z"L HK"M
Ch. 37, v. 14: "Mei'ei'mek Chevron" - Rashi (M.R. 84:13) asks that Chevron was an elevated city, as is written "Va'yaalu vaNegev va'yovo ad Chevron" (Bmidbar 13:22), so what is the meaning of "mei'ei'mek Chevron," from the DEPTH of Chevron. Rashi answers that this is an allusion to the completion of the depth of the counsel that Avrohom received from Hashem when advised that the bnei Yisroel would eventually be exiled. This trip of Yoseif's would set the wheels into motion. However, the Chizkuni says in a simple manner, that Yaakov accompanied Yoseif part way beyond the city limits until the valley outside of Chevron. He adds that this is the meaning of the words of our Rabbis who say that the last subject that Yaakov taught Yoseif was the laws of "egloh arufoh." The teaching included the actualization of not allowing someone to leave the city without an escort for part of the way.
Ch. 37, v. 25: "Va'yeishvu le'echol lechem" - Surprisingly, Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates "Va'yeishvu" as "and they RETURNED." It seems that they were in the middle of a meal when Yoseif came and after throwing him into the pit they returned to their meal. Sforno says that the verse relates this to tell us that Yoseif's brothers felt no compunctions about what they had just done and were able to partake of a full meal. Perhaps there is another indication that their consciences were clear. The verse says "Va'yeishvu." Just as our Rabbis say that the first word of our parsha, "Va'yeishev," indicates that Yaakov desired to dwell in PEACE, so also "Va'yeishvu" indicates that they sat down to the meal with a serene mind.
A possible insight into why the verse tells us that they sat down to eat BREAD can be derived from the words of the Sefer Chasidim #1,143. The Sefer Chasidim writes that when one murders a person and later comes back to the murder person's body, the site of the injury inflicted upon the murdered begins to flow blood. If one were suspected of being the murderer he would be brought to the corpse for this test. There was therefore a practice of murderers to eat dry bread, which would keep this unusual phenomenon from happening. The Torah therefore tells the judges of the court who have given a death verdict to not eat bread, since they acted properly and are not to be considered murderers. This is the intention of the verse "Lo sochlu al hadom" (Vayikroh 19:26).
Similarly, the Paa'nei'ach Rozo on Vayikroh 19:26 writes that people who murdered someone would eat bread immediately afterwards to ward off any revenge that would otherwise be taken against them. This explains the juxtaposition in the verse to "v'lo s'nachashu." The Chizkuni writes that blood avengers would eat bread at the burial site of a murdered person before proceeding to take action. The verse says "lo sochlu al hadom," meaning that no one should avenge the blood of one who was killed by the verdict of a beis din, as it acted properly.
Although the brothers now agreed with Reuvane's suggestion to throw Yoseif into a pit rather than kill him directly with their own hands, they might have had a shadow of doubt as to the righteousness of their actions, and to play it safe they ate bread to cover up any possibility of being brought in front Yoseif's corpse later and having it start flowing forth blood, thus implicating them in his death.
Ch. 37, v. 28: "Va'yaalu es Yoseif min habore va'yim'k'ru es Yoseif" - There is much controversy over who pulled Yoseif out of the pit and who sold him to the Yish'm'eilim.
1) Rashi says that the brothers pulled him out and sold him to the Yish'm'eilim. (See Ramban)
2) Rashbam, Chizkuni, Rabbeinu Bachyei, and one opinion in the Moshav Z'keinim say that while the brothers ate their meal at a distance from the pit they saw a caravan of Yish'm'eilim coming by. They agreed to Yehudoh's plan to sell Yoseif to the Yish'm'eilim. In the meantime Midyonim came upon the scene and extracted Yoseif from the pit, and they sold him to the Yish'm'eilim, and in actuality the brothers never sold Yoseif. In the Moshav Z'keinim there are other opinions with minor variations as to the details of the sale to the Yish'm'eilim, but in the main they are the same as the Rashbam, Chizkuni, and Rabbeinu Bachyei.
The Chizkuni adds that Reuvane was the first to know that Yoseif was not in the pit, and when the brothers said "chayoh ro'oh acholos'hu" they were telling the truth, assuming that that was what happened. He adds that this would explain why the brothers never engendered the thought that the Viceroy of Egypt was Yoseif, in spite of numerous matters that indicated so, i.e. why didn't they recognize him by appearance (This question is answered in the gemara Y'vomos 82a and B.M. 39b), by voice, or by his seating them at the meal in order of age. Since they truly believed that Yoseif was dead this thought never entered their minds. One might add that this also answers why they said "v'ho'echod einenu" (42:13), and "v'ochiv meis" (44:20). Baa'lei Tosfos answer this question by saying that if they had said "He might be alive but we don't know his whereabouts," they would have the fear that the viceroy would demand that they bring him. However, according to the Chizkuni it is simply their truthful, albeit incorrect, assumption.
Getting back to the earlier point raised by the Chizkuni, that the brothers told the truth when saying "chayoh ro'oh acholos'hu," we actually do not find in the verse that anyone said "chayoh ro'oh acholos'hu" to Yaakov, but rather, when shown the torn bloodied garment, Yaakov said "chayoh ro'oh acholos'hu." We must assume that the Chizkuni posits that since the brothers earlier planned to kill Yoseif and say "chayoh ro'oh acholos'hu" (see verse 20), that they carried through and actually said these words although it is not recorded later in verse 32. If so, what is gained by Chizkuni's saying that they told the truth, since earlier in verse 20 they were planning to lie?
An approach to this might be as follows: Baa'lei Tosfos and other commentators say that Yoseif's bringing negative reports about his brothers and their claiming innocence revolved around their disagreeing if they had the status of bnei Noach, as Yoseif posited, and they were guilty as per Yoseif's claims, and the brothers held that they had the status of bnei Yisroel, and were not guilty. Perhaps with the maxim that Hashem does not count an evil thought of a ben Yisroel as though it were actually carried through (Kidushin 40a), and the brothers of Yoseif considered themselves as bnei Yisroel, they would end up blameless of falsehood, as in verse 20 it was only a plan, and when they did verbalize it (not recorded in the verse, but taking place at the time of verse 32), they were telling the truth according to their assumption. According to the opinion of Yoseif that they had the status of bnei Noach, they were held accountable for planning to lie and say that Yoseif was eaten by a predator. According to the Rashbam, Chizkuni, and Rabbeinu Bachyei this might well explain why Yoseif was removed from the pit unbeknown to the brothers, and they suffered the anguish of thinking that he was killed by a wild animal, measure for measure for their planning to lie and say that that was exactly what took place.
According to the Rashbam, Chizkuni, and Rabbeinu Bachyei that the brothers never sold Yoseif, they themselves raise the question of why Yoseif later said "Asher M'CHARTEM osi" (45:4). They both say that these words are to be interpreted as "you have CAUSED me to be sold." If so, why indeed didn't Yoseif say "Asher GRAMTEM limchirosi?" Perhaps this is again the result of Yoseif's position that the bnei Yaakov had the status of bnei Noach, and regarding bnei Noach Hashem considers an evil thought as if it were actually perpetrated, "asher m'chartem."
3) A new scenario unfolds according to yet another opinion in the Moshav Z'keinim. The brothers planned to sell Yoseif to the Yish'm'eilim and committed themselves to conclude the transaction. Midyonim passed by the pit and heard screaming. They found Yoseif in the pit, extracted him, and took him along, continuing on their way. Reuvane came to fetch Yoseif to deliver him to the Yishm'eilim but found him gone. He rent his garments and came back to his brothers wailing "Ha'yeled einenu vaani onoh ani vo" (verses 29,30). His concern was that the Yish'm'eilim, upon being angered at the brothers reneging from their commitment would likely inquire and find out who they were and then go running to their father Yaakov and complain. They would thus incur the wrath and condemnation of their father. To avoid this at all costs they spread out all over and found the Midyonim with Yoseif who was of sickly pallor after experiencing a frightful encounter with snakes and scorpions in the pit. They grabbed a poor shepherd boy who was healthy and of ruddy appearance and forcefully suggested to the Midyonim to exchange the sick captive for this healthy specimen. So as not to totally give away their desperation they asked for the paltry sum of a pair of shoes for this "bargain" exchange. The Midyonim agreed and the brothers quickly brought Yoseif to the Yish'm'eilim and concluded their agreed upon deal of earlier, selling him for cash. This scenerio fits most literally into the words of the Prophet Omos 2:6, "Al michrom tzadik (Yoseif) ba'kesef, v'evione (and a poor shepherd boy whom they kidnapped) baavur naaloyim."
Ch. 37, v. 32: ""VA'Y'SHALCHU es kso'nes hapasim" - The common translation of "va'y'shalchu" is "and they SENT." However, the Rosh and the Sforno translate this word to mean "and they pierced with a sword," as we find in Iyov 33:18, "mei'avor baSHOLACH," - from being pierced through with a sword. They did this besides dipping the garment into blood to even more accurately simulate the appearance of an attack by a wild animal.
Ch. 39, v. 9: "V'eich e'e'seh horo'oh ...... v'chotosI" - Since Yoseif refused to sin with the wife of Potiphar, an act that would have required the participation of both of them, should he not have said, "v'eich NA'A'SEH horo'oh ...... V'CHOTONU?" Rabbi Simchoh Bunim of Parshis'cha in Kol Simchoh answers that since the wife of Potiphar attempted to seduce Yoseif, he wanted to distance himself from her as far as possible and would not even express himself verbally in a manner that would include her with himself. Perhaps in a similar manner we can answer a question raised by the Beis haLevi in parshas Chayei Soroh. When Avrohom detailed to Eliezer the conditions for an appropriate wife for his son Yitzchok he said "v'lokachto ishoh livni L'YITZCHOK" in 24:4. However in 24:40 when speaking to the family of Rivkoh, Eliezer only mentions ''livni.'' The Beis haLevi explains that Avrohom told Eliezer to relate to the prospective m'chutonim that Rivkoh's being married to Yitzchok would have two advantages. One is, "livni," he is the son of Avrohom who is a righteous and wealthy man, respected by all throughout the land. The second advantage is "l'Yitzchok," that Yitzchok is a righteous person in his own merit. However, when Eliezer met the m'chutonim, he felt that the second point would detract from their interest. They might accept Rivkoh being married to the son of a tzadik, but didn't seem eager for her to have a husband who is a tzadik himself, thus depriving her of the illusionary "good life." Therefore, he only mentioned "livni."
If we carry the concept of Rabbi Simchoh Bunim over to these verses, it might be possible to answer that when Avrohom spoke to Eliezer, they were in Eretz Yisroel and therefore Avrohom added the word "l'Yitzchok." However, when Eliezer spoke to Rivkoh's family, he was in chutz lo'oretz. Not only was Yitzchok not allowed out of Eretz Yisroel, as he was considered a perfect "oloh" sacrifice, as pointed out by Rashi on 26:2, but even mentioning his name outside of Eretz Yisroel was inappropriate, as he was totally connected to Eretz Yisroel. Hence Eliezer only said "v'lokachto ishoh livni."
Although we find that Yaakov does mention his father Yitzchok by name when confronted by Lovon after Yaakov's escape, and this was in chutz lo'oretz, perhaps because Yitzchok was already blind at that time it was considered as if he were dead, as pointed out by the M.R., hence mentioning his name at that point in time was not considered profaning his high stature as a totally Eretz Yisroel centred person.
The activities that we do which uniquely symbolize Chanukah are the kindling of Chanukah lights and adding the Al Hanisim prayer in Shmoneh Esrei and Birkas Hamazon. Although we also say the complete Hallel throughout Chanukah, this is not unique to Chanukah, since we also say the complete Hallel on some Yomim Tovim.
It is interesting to note that the act of kindling the Chanukah lights does not encompass any remembrance of the miraculous victory against the Greeks (although there is an opinion that one day of lighting is done to commemorate the victory of war) and the text of Al Hanisim makes no mention of the miracle of the oil. Although we accompany the lighting with the text of "Haneiros Halolu" (Its source is Maseches Sofrim ch. 20.) which does mention the miracle of the war, nonetheless, this is not part of the mitzvoh itself. Why indeed are these two unique Chanukah activities each bereft of one of the major themes of Chanukah?
We find in Medrash Maasei Chanukah that the Greeks decreed that the Bnei Yisroel may not keep the Shabbos, nor do Bris Miloh, nor announce when the new lunar month would begin or add a new month to the calendar by court injunction - "Kiddush hachodesh v'ibur hashonoh al y'dei Beis Din," and that they may not have doors on their homes. Why did they pick on these specific matters?
An analysis of the Greeks' intention leads us to realize that all of these decrees have a common denominator. The Greeks were not against studying Torah as an intellectual pursuit but were bitterly against the study of Torah which led to a belief that the Torah is a guiding light for people's actions which even reaches into the realm of affecting, mastering over, and even sanctifying the physical. We see this from the text of Al Hanisim, where we say that the Greeks intended "l'hashkichom Toro'seCHO," - to make them forget YOUR TORAH. The Greeks said that the Bnei Yisroel may study the Torah as an intellectual pursuit but not accept it as Divinely given. They may in general fulfill the Torah's commandments, but only as acts of ethnic culture, "u'l'haavirom machukei ritzon'eCHO," - to drive them away from the statutes of YOUR DIVINE WILL.
We see this point demonstrated as well further on in the Medrash Maasei Chanukah, which relates that the Greeks told the bnei Yisroel, "Write upon the horn of your ox, - al keren hashore," that you have no portion in the G-d of Israel. On a simple level, this was like having a bumper sticker upon which this declaration would have to be written. In an agrarian society, most people had oxen to till the ground. People spent much time standing behind their oxen while guiding them in the fields and had the ox's horns directly in their view.
However, this can be understood on a deeper level. There is a ruling of "keren hashore." There are financial responsibilities when one's ox or other animal gores another animal or someone's property. If this was done to another ben Yisroel, the financial responsibility is limited to half the value of the damage the first three times this would occur. If however the owner of the ox is a non-Jew, he is responsible to pay the full damage. This irked the Greeks no end. They could accept that the Jews had their unique customs and laws in the sphere of spiritual pursuits, but when it came to the realm of the physical, namely damages of physical properties, they could not accept that the Jews were different because of their being the "people of the book," which permeated even their physical beings and set them apart from all other nations.
This is the meaning of write for yourselves "al keren hashore," regarding the law of damages by goring, that you do not have a portion in the G-d of Israel and are no different from us.
Shabbos symbolizes a unique relationship between G-d and bnei Yisroel as stated in the Ten Commandments that Shabbos is a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt which is uniquely a Hashem-bnei Yisroel experience. We stress this in our Shabbos prayers - "Beini u'vein bnei Yisroel ose hee l'olom." Heralding in the new month or adding a month to the calendar year by an edict of the Jewish court also embodies the concept of the power of the Torah to permeate and master over the physical. There is a physical phenomenon that a girl under the age of three retains her virginity no matter what has been done to her. The Talmud Yerushalmi K'subos 2:1, N'dorim 6:8, and Sanhedrin 1:2 derives from the verse in T'hilim 57:3, "Lo'Keil gomeir oloy" that if a girl had passed her third birthday in the month of Adar and had then lost her virginity, if the court afterwards decides to add an additional month of Adar, this will push her birthday forward by a month, and she slips back to being under three years of age. The moment the court announces the additional month, her virginity physically returns. Similarly, if her third birthday was the first of the month and she lost her virginity on that day and then the court announced that that day would be changed to be the 30th of the previous month, her virginity would physically return. The Greeks could not accept this concept of the power of the Torah mastering over the physical and therefore attempted to abolish the court announcing the new moon or adding an additional month to the lunar calendar.
The Greeks also issued the devastating edict that none of the bnei Yisroel may have doors on their homes. This totally destroyed the honour and privacy of the home and family life. Only after the victory in combat were the bnei Yisroel able to replace the doors of their homes.
Perhaps there was a much deeper and diabolical intention in the Greeks' edict. The Rambam in hilchos mezuzoh 6:1 states that there are ten conditions to be met before one is responsible to place a mezuzoh. One condition is that the doorway must have a door. By prohibiting the bnei Yisroel from having doors on their homes the Greeks effectively negated the mitzvoh of mezuzoh. The Rambam in hilchos mezuzoh 6:13 states that when a person passes by a mezuzoh it should arouse him from his spiritual slumber, bring him back to his senses, and kindle in him a desire to go on a proper path. It also serves as a reminder to not sin, as if an angel is looking on and restraining him from sinning.
The Greeks would not allow the mitzvoh of mezuzoh to be performed, even though all that it is, is a physical piece of parchment and ink, since they understood that it encompassed all that they stood against.
How appropriate it is to light the menorah when it is positioned across from the mezuzoh of the home. The Medrash Mishlei 31:21 says on the words "Ki chol beiso lovush SHONIM," that the word SHONIM should be read SHNAYIM, meaning "in pairs." The medrash goes on to give us examples of mitzvos done in pairs, including the kindling of Chanukah lights and the mitzvoh of mezuzoh. The Medrash Shir Hashirim on the words "Mah yofis u'mah no'amt" (7:6), also pairs the kindling of Chanukah lights with the mitzvoh of mezuzoh.
When our Rabbis give us a mitzvoh related to a happening, they introduce an act that symbolizes the gist of the matter at hand. The miracle of finding oil that was sufficient for lighting for only one day and having it miraculously last for eight embodies the pivotal point of the disagreement between the Greeks and the Torah. The Greeks posited that the physical realm cannot be intruded upon and surely not mastered by the spiritual. The physical limitation of oil sufficient for only one day, yet lasting eight days because the spiritual need required it, saliently laid to rest the thrust of the Greeks' arguments. The spiritual vanquished the physical. We are to have this concept in mind when kindling our Chanukah lights. The gemara Shabbos 21b says that the lighting of the Chanukah lights should be done while it is noticed by the public. This is expressed as "ad shetichle regel min hashuk, - until pedestrians no longer traverse the marketplace (streets)." According to the concept explained above we can say that one must have in mind when he kindles the lights of Chanukah that Hashem masters over the physical world and it is not left to happenstance, "ad shetichle regel min hashuk," until the thought comes to an end, "shetichle," that the happenings of our physical world are by happenstance, "R'GILUS min hashuk." The Rabbis therefore instituted the lighting of the menorah as the only mitzvoh of Chanukah. More was not needed as this symbolic reminder of the miracle of the oil encapsulates the victory of the Torah position over the Greek position. There is no need to incorporate anything symbolizing the miraculous victory at war as a mitzvoh act.
On the other hand, in the blessing of "Modim" in Shmoneh Esrei the theme is to give thanks to Hashem for all the good He has done for us. Here giving thanks for the miraculous victory at war is appropriate and there is no need to mention the miracle of the cruse of oil.
This dvar Torah is a compilation of the thoughts of many commentators. Please excuse me for not giving proper attribution.
Chanukah often falls during parshas Miketz. Connections between Chanukah and parshas Miketz follow.
Ch. 41, v. 1: "Shnosayim" - Tosfos Hasholeim and the Shiltei Hagiborim say that this word is an acronym for "Smole Neiros Tadlik, Y'min Mezuzoh."
Ch. 43, v. 16: "Utvoach tevaCH V'HoCHeiN" - The Tonnoh D'vei Eliyohuo says that the last letter of "tevaCH" and the word "V'HoCHeiN" spell "Chanukah." As well, the gematria of "utvoach tevach" is 44, equal to the total number of lights kindled on Chanukah, including the shamoshim. It is no coincidence that Chanukah is alluded to in these words. The gemara Chulin 91a says that the preparation indicated by the word "v'hochein" refers to the removal of the "gid hanosheh." The Holy Zohar says that the word "nosheh" means forgetfulness. One who eats from the gid hanosheh forgets some of his Torah knowledge. The Greeks put great effort into attempting to make us forget Hashem's Holy Torah, "l'hashkichom Torah'secho." Hence with the removal of the gid hanosheh, Yoseif did an act which symbolized a response to the attack of the Greeks.
The Likutei Maharan says that in Bmidbar 14:19 the first letters of the words, "Hazeh K'godel CHasdecho V'cha'asher Nososo" spell Chanukah. The Rokei'ach says that the source word "OHR" appears in the Torah 22 times, many times with prefixes and suffixes. We also have the word "m'oros," three times. This adds six, as "m'oros" is plural. The source word, "NER" appears eight times, also mostly with prefixes and suffixes. This gives us a total of 36, the total number of lights kindled on Chanukah. As well, the maximum number of eight lights is alluded to in the eight appearances of the "NER" word form. He adds that at the first appearance of the word "OHR" (1:4) in the Torah, it says "ki Tov." The letter "Tes" of TOV, which usually has three crowns (tagin) on it, has four, to also allude to the 36 "neiros Chanukah," as the letter Tes equals 9, x 4 (four tagin) which equal 36.
Although the Mishneh does not discuss its halochos, Chanukah is mentioned in the Mishneh six times. Where are these six places?
A gutten Shabbos Kodesh and a freilichen Chanukah.
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