by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEISHEV 5772 BS"D
Ch. 37, v. 1: "Va'yeishev Yaakov" - And Yaakov resided - Rashi comments that Yaakov wanted to live in tranquility, and it was at this point that the discord with Yoseif jumped upon him. The gemara Megiloh 17a says that because Yaakov was away from his father for twenty-two years he suffered in kind to have his beloved son Yoseif removed from him for the same amount of time. If so, why is it a result of wanting to live in tranquility?
The gemara on the last folio of Chulin (142a) says that if we posit that there is reward in this world for mitzvos, one who has these merits may ascend even a shaky ladder, where this is a reasonable risk of danger, when he is involved in a mitzvoh. It is only if we posit that there is no reward for mitzvos in this world that one may not rely on the merit of doing a mitzvoh if the circumstances are fraught with danger.
Yaakov had a very plausible excuse for leaving his father, that his brother Eisov wanted to kill him. Even though by staying at home he would have had the mitzvoh of honouring his parents, staying home was fraught with danger. However, this excuse is only valid if Yaakov posited that there is no reward for mitzvos in this world. As soon as Yaakov sought to live in tranquility, meaning that he felt that he wanted to receive reward for his mitzvos, then he awakened the claim against him for leaving his father, notwithstanding that being with Eisov was very dangerous, as in tandem with reward in this world comes the dictum that one who is involved in mitzvos, even in dangerous circumstances, is protected. (Ohr Torah Admor of Ostrovtza)
Ch. 37, v. 2: "Eileh toldos Yaakov Yoseif" - These are the happenings of Yaakov Yoseif - Although Yaakov had already suffered quite a bit at the hands of Eisov and Lovon, all this was negligible compared to the emotional pain he was about to suffer from the loss of Yoseif. Our verse begins with "eileh," which connotes the negation of the earlier, "Eileh posal rishonos." (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)
Ch. 37, v. 15: "V'hi'nei so'eh baso'deh" - And behold he is lost in the field - Why didn't Yoseif learn a lesson from history? Kayin and Hevel were at odds and when the opportunity for Kayin arose, when they were alone, he rose up against Hevel and killed him. Why was Yoseif not afraid that the same might happen to him, and all the more so, given that there were many brothers present? The medrash says that "Va'y'hi bi'h'yosom baso'eh" means that Kayin and Hevel argued over the ownership of a field. Yoseif felt that in such a circumstance it is possible to come to killing, but not over a coat, a pittance in comparison to a field. However, he miscalculated, as once there is jealousy, even if it is embodied in a coat, nevertheless, this could also bring to bloodshed. This is the intention of "so'eh baso'deh," Yoseif was lost, i.e. he miscalculated, the matter of a field by Kayin and Hevel. (Kli Yokor)
Ch. 37, v. 21: "Va'yishma Reuvein va'yatzi'leihu mi'yodom va'yomer lo na'kenu nofesh" - And Reuvein heard and he saved him from their hands and he said let us not kill him - Isn't it obvious that Reuvein saved Yoseif from their hands, as he proposed that they not kill him and they agreed? The gemara Sanhedrin says that when a capital punishment case is being judged, if all the judges conclude that the defendant is guilty, then he is not put to death. Reuvein's saying that Yoseif should not be killed is far from conclusive that he said this to save Yoseif. To the contrary, if his is the only dissenting voice which says "not guilty" then he would be bringing about Yoseif's death. Our verse therefore adds on that he did this to save Yoseif. (R' Ezra Steinbach)
Ch. 39, v. 20: "Va'yitneihu el beis hasohar" - And he put him into the jail - If they found Yoseif guilty why didn't they kill him, and if they found him innocent, why didn't they let him free? Medrash Sefer Ha'yoshor writes that when Potifar's wife complained against Yoseif a baby who was too young to talk was in a crib in the room and miraculously spoke. It said that all that Potifar's wife said about Yoseif was patently a lie and she was the one who wanted to seduce him. Now Potifar was in a bind. He morally felt he should not have the innocent Yoseif killed, but if he were to go off scot-free his wife would be liable for maligning Yoseif. He therefore worked it out so that Yoseif would get off with a light sentence, jail.
Ch. 40, v. 11: "Vo'ekach es ho'anovim vo'es'chat osom el kose Paroh vo'e'tein es hakose al kaf Paroh" - And I took the grapes and I squeezed thm into Paroh's goblet and I placed the goblet onto Paroh's palm - The commentators ask how did Yoseif extract from the narrative of the two ministers that one would live and one would shortly be dead. Numerous answers were offered in previous editions of Sedrah Selections.
We live in an "olom ho'asioh," a world of action, as per the verse, "Uveirach'cho Hashem Elokecho b'chole asher taa'seh" (Dvorim 15:18). The narrative of the minister of baing is replete with action, "And I squeezed, and I placed," indicating life. However, the wine butler related that he was standing with three baskets on his head that contained bakery goods, not that he baked them, that he placed them into baskets. The intransitive tone of his story indicated death. (Rabbi Ehrentreu of London)
Ch. 40, v. 15: "V'gam po lo ossisi m'umoh ki somu osi babor" - And also here I have done nothing that they have placed me into the pit - The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh on parshas Va'yichi writes that Hashem does not take a person away from this world before his allotted time if Hashem sees that in the future he will sin. After all, this is his mission in this world. However, if a person is in a dangerous, life threatening situation where only a miracle can save him and Hashem sees that in the future he will die, to avoid having him sin Hashem does not perform a miracle, the person dies, and he will not sin in the future. This is what Yoseif told the incarcerated ministers. "Here I have done nothing wrong, i.e. I have not molested Potifar's wife. The proof is that they, my brothers, have placed me into the pit that was full of snakes and scorpions, and I miraculously survived. Hashem would not have saved me was I to sin in the future with Potifar's wife." (Pninim Y'korim)
Ch. 40, v. 14: "V'hizkartani el Paroh v'hotzeisani min habayis ha'zeh" - And remember me to Paroh and take me out of this house - How logically would Yoseif be taken out of prison because he would be mentioned to Paroh, even in light of his divining the dreams? He was incarcerated for attacking a minister's wife and how would this be alleviated? Why did Yoseif say that the wine butler would take him out? It would be Paroh who would pardon him.
Ch. 40, v. 16: "Va'yar sar ho'ofim ki tov posor" - And the minister over the bakers saw that he interpreted properly - How did he see this? If Yoseif's explanation was just a shot in the dark he would not have said that its fulfillment would take place in three days. Rather, he would push it off for quite a while and if it came to be then fine, and if not, with the passage of time the whole incident would have faded in everyone's mind and he would not have been confronted with his mistake. (Chizkuni)
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