chumash4ss.jpg (17308 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues


Ch. 37, v. 1: "Vayeishev" - The Rosh says that although Yaakov hoped for tranquility, "Yud, Shin and Beis, the problems of Yosef, Shimon and Binyomin, were in the offing. "Vayeishev" can be read as "Vei" (woe), concerning "yud, shin and beis, the problems regarding Yosef, Shimon and Binyomin.

Ch. 37, v. 1: "Vayeishev" - Tosfos Hasholeim points out that every verse in our parsha begins with the phonetic sound "vei", meaning "woe", except for eight verses, similar to the book of Rus. This indicates that our parsha is laden with difficulties for Yaakov and his sons.

Ch. 37, v. 2: "Dibosom ro'oh" - The Baal Haturim says that the numerical value of these words equals "sheheim ochlu eiver min hachai," (see Medrash Rabboh 84:7).

Ch. 37, v. 3: "Ben z'kunim" - Why is Yosef considered the "ben z'kunim" if Binyomin was born afterwards?

1) The Ibn Ezra answers that Yosef was one of Yaakov's "bnei z'kunim." The Ramban asks on this from the words "mikol bonov," indicating even over Binyomin.

2) The Ramban therefore answers that Yosef stayed at home to care for his father, and Binyomin was too young to do so.

3) The Rashbam answers that there were seven years between the births of Yosef and Binyomin, during which time Yosef was the "ben z'kunim." Even after the birth of Binyomin, Yaakov's affinity for Yosef remained.

4) Targum Yonasan ben Uziel translates "z'kunim" to mean "ziv ikuno", that their facial appearances were similar (see Medrash Rabboh 84:8).

5) Onkoles translates "z'kunim" to mean "bar chakim," a very wise son. Translate "zokain" as "zeh she'kono chochmo."

6) The Chizkuni answers that Yaakov's love for Binyomin was diminished through the death of Rochel at the time of Binyomin's birth.

7) The Kli Yokor says that "z'kunim" means the elevated position of being a first born. The birthright was passed from Reuven to Yosef because of the incident with Bilhoh.

Ch. 37, v. 3: "K'sones pasim" - The Baalei Tosfos and the Daas Z'keinim both say that this was not a coat but rather a wrist band (pasim, pas yodo). This would explain the gemara Shabbos 10b, which tells us that the weight of this garment was only that of two "selah" coins. The Kli Yokor says that Yaakov specifically chose to give Yosef a unique garment to indicate to all the brothers that he was now the b'chor, similar to a kohein, who wears unique garments.

The gemara Shabbos 10b says: "Rav said that one should never show favouritism toward one son over another. For the paltry sum of two "selah" coins weight of silk, Yosef's brothers became jealous of him, and this resulted in our forefathers' descending to Egypt. The Tzadik Rebbi Nochum'ke of Horodna explains this gemara as follows: The gemara P'sochim 113b says that Hashem hates one who sees a wrong action done by his friend and testifies as a lone witness. Yosef had done this, as stated in v. 2, "vayovei Yosef dibosom." This was viewed very negatively by Yaakov, as the verse ends, "ro'oh el avihem," it was bad in Yaakov's eyes that Yosef was a lone witness. Yosef should have been admonished in a direct manner. However, "Yaakov loved Yosef more than all his other sons," and this somewhat covered over Yosef's wrongdoing. Instead, Yaakov chose to admonish him indirectly. Chazal say (Megilloh 18a) "If speech is worth one "selah," then remaining quiet is worth two." He therefore gave Yosef a garment whose weight was that of two "selah" to hint that Yosef must refrain from speaking (shtikoh bitrei). However, Yosef didn't grasp the message. Because Yaakov treated Yosef differently from his brothers, and did not give direct admonition, our forefathers' descent to Egypt evolved.

Ch.37, v. 3: "Pasim" - Tosfos Hasholeim says that the letters of "pasim" foretell and indicate that Yosef would be a king for (pei) eighty years, as he became king at age thirty (41:46), and that he would live a total of (samach, yud, mem) one hundred and ten years (50:26).

Ch. 37, v. 8: "Hamoloch, Hamoshol" - The Ibn Ezra says that "moloch" means ruling by virtue of the approval of the populace, and "moshol" means ruling by force.

Ch. 37, v. 8: "Chalomosov" - Why is the PLURAL form used, as the Torah has only told us one dream so far? Some answers:

1) This includes his future dream as well. (Daas Z'keinim, Tos. Hasholeim)

2) He repeated the dream numerous times. (Daas Z'keinim)

3) This includes the dream of v. 5. The reason the Torah does not detail this dream is because what it indicated never came to fruition. (Chizkuni)

4) This includes the dream mentioned in Rashi (50:21) that ten fires cannot extinguish one fire. This might be the dream of v. 5. (Tos. Hasholeim)

Ch. 37, v. 9: " Hashemesh" - When Yehoshua was at war, he requested of the sun to not set at its regular time, to allow for his victory (Yehoshua 10:12, "shemesh b'Givon dome"). The sun did not want to cooperate. Yehoshua responded, "I am a descendant of Yosef (Bmidbar 13:8). You must bow to my wishes, as in Yosef's dream the sun bowed down to Yosef." The sun then cooperated.

Ch. 37, v. 17: "Nossu mi'zeh" - Rashi says that they departed from the attribute of brotherly love. The Daas Z'keinim says that this is alluded to in the word "mi'zeh." They left "zeh," which equals twelve, indicating the closeness of twelve brothers, and now planned to only be left with only eleven brothers.

The Medrash Rabboh 84:14 says that they departed from the characteristic of Hashem. The Rebbe R' Heshel explains this with the statement of Chazal that when the brothers saw in a prophetic vision that Yosef's descendant would be Yirovom ben N'vot, they decided to kill him. This does not conform with Hashem's attribute of judging one in accordance with his present status (see 21:17).

Ch. 37, v. 20: - "Ma y'h'yu chalomosov" - Rashi says that Ruach Hakodesh said these words, as it is impossible for the brothers to have said them, since they planned to kill Yosef. The Ramban suggests that it is possible for the brothers to have said this in a SARCASTIC manner.

Ch. 37, v. 23: - "Es kutonto ES k'soness hapasim" - The Holy Ohr Hachaim says that the second "ES" should be translated as "WITH." Read, "And they removed from him his coat along with the "pasim" coat." He says that even Yosef's undercoat was hurriedly removed in their great anger.

Ch. 37, v. 24: "Ein bo mayim" - Rashi quotes the gemara Shabbos 22a that although there was no water in the pit, there were venomous snakes and scorpions present. The Baalei Tosfos say that this is alluded to in the letters of the word "EIN," ayin = "avol," yud = "yeish," nun = "n'choshim." The Kol Bo on Chanukah goes further. He also includes the word "BO." These five letters are an acronym for "Avol N'choshim V'akravim Yeish Bo."

Ch. 37, v. 26: - "Ma BETZA" - Tosfos Hasholeim says that Yehudoh said that if we don't hearken to the supplications of our brother and don't have mercy on him, then, "ma BETZA," what worth will our own prayers have when we entreat Hashem to have mercy upon us? The letters of BETZA are, beis = "Boker," tzaddi = "TZohoroyim," ayin = "Erev," the three daily prayers.

Ch. 37, v. 26: - "Ma betza ki naharog es ochinu v'chisinu es domo" - The Rosh and R' Yosef Karo (Baal Tosfos) translate these words as follows: "What financial gain will we have if we kill our brother? Rather, let us pocket (miloshon "kis") his monetary value (miloshon "domim").

Ch. 37, v. 28: "Va'yimkru" - See the commentaries of the Rashbam and the Chizkuni. They both say that the brothers DID NOT SELL Yosef.

Ch. 37, v. 28: "B'esrim kesef" - There are numerous opinions as to the amount given for the sale of Yosef.

1) Twenty silver coins in total.

2) Twenty silver coins for each brother, including Reuvane, although he was not present, totalling 200 silver coins.

3) Twenty silver coins for Yosef, and shoes for a garment to cover him.

4) Twenty silver coins originally agreed upon, and when Yosef was elevated from the pit and his healthy colouring returned, shoes were added to the sale price.

5) Twenty silver coins was only a partial payment, which covered the cost of their meal (v. 25).

The Yerushalmi Sh'kolim 3:3 says that the five "sh'kolim" required for redeeming a first-born son (Bmidbar 18:16) are an atonement for selling Yosef, the first-born son of Rochel, for twenty "kesef." Four "kesef," or zuz, equal one shekel.

The Medrash Rabboh 84:17 says that the twenty kesef amounted to two kesef for each brother, or half a shekel. This is the amount given as an atonement for the sale of Yosef, at the time of the building of the Mishkon (Shmos 30:13,16). Possibly, there might be another correlation. The Medrash says that the money was spent on shoes, as per Omos 2:6, "v'evione baavur naalayim." Shoes are the base upon which a person stands. Similarly, the half-shekel was used for the silver foundation blocks which held up the Mishkon beams.

Opinion #2, that the brothers received a total of 200 silver coins and used them for shoes, is alluded to in the above-mentioned verse, as "naalayim," nun, ayin, lamed, yud, and mem equal 200. (Baalei Tosfos)

Possibly, opinion #3 is alluded to in the words "al michrom ba'kesef tzadik v'evione baavur naalayim." The sale of the Tzadik Yosef was for money. He was also an "evione," one who lacked everything, "to'ev lakol" (see Medrash Mishlei 22), as he did not even have a garment to cover his body. For the garment to cover the "evione" his brothers received shoes.

The Baal Haturim says that twenty kesef was an appropriate amount for which to sell Yosef, as the payment to the Beis Hamikdosh coffers for someone between the ages of five and twenty whose "erech" value was sanctified, is five shkolim, or twenty kesef (Vayikro 27:5). He also says that each of the ten brothers received two kesef, the value of the "k'soness pasim" (see gemara Shabbos 10b).

Ch. 37, v. 31: "Va'yish'chatu s'ir izim" - Goat's blood was used, as it is similar to human blood (Rashi, from Medrash Rabboh 84:17). The Moshav Z'keinim asks from the gemara Gittin 57b that relates that the blood of the murdered kohein Zecharia was compared to the bloods of different sacrifices including that of goats, and did not match. Is this not contradictory to the above Rashi?

1) The Moshav Z'keinim answers that with the passage of time other bloods mixed with Zecharia's.

2) Tosfos Hasholeim answers that the blood of Zecharia was very old, but fresh bloods match.

3) He also answers that they normally match, but Hashem wanted to punish the bnei Yisroel, so this one time it did not match, leading to much more bloodshed.

4) Possibly, the bloods do not match except when absorbed into a garment.

Ch. 37, v. 31: "Va'yit'b'lu" - Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman Hy"d says that this is the source of blood libels being the vehicle of mass destruction of Jewish communities.

Ch. 38, v. 1: "Va'yei'red Yehudoh" - Rashi quotes a Medrash Rabboh Shmos 42:3 that says that Yehudah's brothers deposed him from his position of leadership, because he didn't state his opinion of not wanting to even sell Yosef as a slave. Had he stood strong, his brothers would have been persuaded to change their position. We see from here that a true leader cannot be swayed by public opinion, even when he is but a single voice. If he is swayed, then he doesn't deserve his position. There is a similar incident with Shaul's being swayed by the public in Shmuel 1:15:15. He was soundly reprimanded by Shmuel.

Ch. 39, v. 11: "Laa'sose m'lachto" - Rashi quotes the gemara Sottoh 36b that says that when Yosef's resolve weakened, an image of his father appeared, "d'mus diukno shel oviv NIR'EIS lo." The Holy Admor R' Yitzchok of Vorka translates "NIR'EIS" as "being preferable," as we find this word means in the expression "nirin d'vo'recho." Yosef was dressed as an Egyptian, and now realized that by being similar to them he might have broken down a barrier between himself and Potifar's wife. He now "PREFERRED" the image of his father," dressed as a traditional Jew.

The above-mentioned gemara says that an image of his father appeared and admonished him by saying, "Your brothers will have their names appear on the gems of the breast-plate of the Kohein Godol. If you succumb to temptation, your name will not appear and also the verse "V'ro'eh zonos yovad HONE rav, a shepherd of harlots will lose a great treasure" (Mishlei 29:3) will apply to you. Why is this an appropriate verse for Yosef's situation? The Rebbe R' Heshel answers that this gemara also says that if Yosef would remain strong and not succumb to temptation then a letter "hei" would be added to his name to testify to his purity. We find Yosef's name as "Y'hosef" in T'hilim 81:6. The gemara Yoma 73b says that in addition to the names of the tribes appearing on the gems of the Kohein Godol's breast-plate, the names Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and the words "shivtei Y'shurun" were also etched into the stones. This makes a total of seventy-two letters. The Chizkuni on Shmos 28:21 says that these 72 letters correspond to the 72 letter Holy Name of Hashem that is written on parchment and placed into the fold of the Choshen. He adds that each of the twelve stones had six letters. Every tribe's name was on its stone in full, and any shortfall was compensated by using the names Avrohom, Yitzchok, etc. For example, Reuvane has five letters, so the alef of Avrohom is added; Shimon has five letters, so the beis of Avrohom added; Levi has three letters, so the reish, hei, and final mem of Avrohom are added. The name Yosef has four letters (the Chizkuni says that it is not spelled Y'hosef here), so the last two letters of Y'shurun, vov and final nun, are added. Now we see the application of this verse to Yosef's situation. If Yosef were to fail in this test, he would LOSE the addition of the letter "hei" to his name, and the "vov' and a final "nun" on the gem of the Choshen. This is what the verse says," A shepherd of harlots will LOSE "HONE" rav. HONE is spelled "heh, vov, nun."

Ch. 39, v. 20: "Va'yitneihu el beis hasohar" - Why wasn't Yosef put to death? The Medrash Rabboh 87:10 says that Potifar told Yosef that he knew of Yosef's innocence, but had to jail him to cover up for Potifar's wife's lies. The Ramban offers other answers.

The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel on this verse, and the Baalei Tosfos on 47:22 (with a variation of some details), say that the priests of Egypt were judges, and ruled that Yosef was not guilty by virtue of some clear circumstantial evidence. Yosef repaid their honesty (47:22).

Our Chazal say that anyone who judges a trial in full truth (emes l'amito) is considered a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world. The last letters of "borO ElokiM eS" (Breishis 1:1) spell out "emes," alef, mem, sof. Possibly, this statement might refer to this judgement of Yosef. The not guilty verdict kept Yosef alive. He, in appreciation, gave Paroh the idea (see Moshav Z'keinim 47:22) of giving the clergy of the land a stipend, and that they should never be indentured to the king. Paroh enacted this as the permanent law of the land. In turn, this law allowed the tribe of Levi to have freedom from slavery, as they were the Jewish clergy. This allowed for the L'viim to strengthen the bnei Yisroel with Jewish values during the years of slavery, which kept them from falling into the morass of the fiftieth level of impurity, a level from which there is no return. This in turn allowed for the possibility of the bnei Yisroel to accept the Torah. Without the bnei Yisroel accepting the Torah, the world would have been destroyed. The whole existence of the world hinged upon the bnei Yisroel later accepting the Torah (see Rashi on Breishis 1:31 and gemara Shabbos 88a). Had the Egyptian priests not judged Yosef honestly, the world would have been destroyed. Hence, "ANYONE, even an Egyptian judge, who judges a trial in full truth, becomes a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world."

Ch. 40, v. 16-19: How did Yosef know that the dream of the baker indicated that he would be put to death? The Otzar Chaim answers this, based on a story. There was an artist who drew a beautiful picture of a farmer carrying a basket of luscious fruits. This work of art was displayed at a very prestigious gallery which was open to the public. The artist wanted to hear what people's opinions were of his painting. He went to the art gallery incognito and heard the remarks of the people. There was a mixed bag of reviews and the artist felt hurt. He felt he could turn the tide of remarks in his favour by pointing out that a few birds who had made their way into the gallery flew up to the canvas and fluttered in front of it. He said that the painting seemed so real that even birds were fooled into thinking that the fruits were real. An elderly man, although not an expert in art, remarked that the exact opposite was true. Since there was also a man in the painting, birds would never fly that close to a live person. Obviously, the birds realized that this was not a live scene.

This answers our original question. Since in the baker's dream, the birds flew right up to the person carrying the baskets of baked goods, the man in the dream could not have been alive. This is an indication of the baker's impending death sentence.


Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,

provided that this notice is included intact.

Jerusalem, Israel