by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEISHEV 5775 BS"DCh. 37, v. 24: "Va'yikochuhu va'yashlichu oso haboroh v'habor reik ein bo moyim" - And they took him and they threw him into the pit and the pit was empty it was devoid of water - The gemara Shabbos 23 says that although it was devoid of water there were serpents and scorpions in it. Many commentators ask what gain there was given that Yoseif would surely be killed by the snakes and scorpions.
The gemara Taanis 21a relates the story of Reb Yochanan and Ilfa who were both learning in Yeshiva. Their financial situation became grave. Reb Yochanan suggested to Ilfa that they leave the Yeshiva and pursue a livelihood, so as to fulfill the dictum of "Efes ki lo yi'h'yeh v'cho evyon."
As they wandered in pursuit of a livelihood, the weather became extremely hot, and they sought refuge in the shadow of the desolate remains of a building. Reb Yochanan was aroused from his mid-day sleep by a heavenly voice which said, "They are forsaking pursuit of eternal life and are pursuing temporal life. Let us throw this wall down upon them and kill them." A second voice responded, "Although they are deserving of such a fate, let us not do it, because one of them is destined to a great position."
When Ilfa arose, Rebbi Yochanan asked him if he had heard any voices. Ilfa responded in the negative. Rebbi Yochanan realized that this was a clear sign that the message was for himself, and that if he were to return to the Yeshiva, he would be appointed the Rosh Yeshiva. He told Ilfa that he had changed his mind and that he was returning to Yeshiva, and in spite of his dire financial situation, he quoted the second verse, "Ki lo yechdal evyon mi'kerev ho'oretz." Indeed, Rebbi Yochanan returned and shortly afterwards became Rosh Yeshiva.
We might apply this here. The issue was whether or not Yoseif was right in stating that he would master over all his siblings. If he was indeed destined for greatness, as was Rabbi Yochonon in the above-mentioned incident, he would likewise be saved from death as Rabbi Yochonon was saved from a wall that was about to topple (af sh'yesh l'cha'leik b'pashtus). (n.l.)
Ch. 37, v. 26,27: "Va'yomer Yehudoh el echov mah betza ki naharoge es ochinu v'chisinu es domo, L'chu v'nim'k'renu" - And Yehudoh said to his brothers what gain is there when we will kill him and we will hide his blood, Let us go and sell him - No doubt they all felt that Yoseif was deserving of death or else a dissenting voice would have been heard. Why all of a sudden did Yehudoh change his mind and suggest selling Yoseif? The holy sons of Yaakov did not decide that Yoseif should be killed because of their displeasure or anger with him, no matter how extreme it might have been. They deliberated and came to an halachic decision that by law he should be killed. If they were so sure of themselves they had no reason to fear Yaakov's anger and a possible curse. Notwithstanding Yaakov's great pain, when he would be explained all the "court proceedings" he would accept it as the right thing to do and not be angry at the brothers in the slightest. It was when Yehudoh saw that a cover-up was in the making, by faking Yoseif's tunic being torn asunder by a wild animal and laden with human-looking blood, that Yehudoh realized that they felt they could not successfully convince their father that they were in the right for what they had done. If so, there was actual doubt to some small extent in Yoseif'as actually being deserving of being put to death. Yehudoh said, "What moral value is there in putting Yoseif to death if you are also preparing a cover-up? He may not be put to death. Instead let us sell him and get this nuisance out of the way." (Rebbe Reb Bunim of Parshizcha)
Ch. 37, v. 35: "Ki eireid el bni o'veil sh'oloh" - Because I will descend to my son in the grave mourning - Rashi explains that this means that Yaakov said that he would always be in mourning over the loss of his son until he himself would die and be buried.
The Daas Z'keinim on Breishis 47:8 cites a medrash stating that because Yaakov responded to Paroh's query of how old he was that the days of his life were not many and they were difficult he lost 33 years of his life, as otherwise he would have lived as long as his father Yitzchok, 180 years. The reduction of 33 years is based on the 33 words in the verses of Paroh's query and Yaakov's response.
Yaakov's words in our verse might well contain a spark of prophecy of the loss of 33 years. He said that he would descend to the grave "o'veil." The numeric value of this word is 33. (Chasam Sofer)
Ch. 39, v. 3: "Va'yar adonov ki Hashem ito v'chol asher hu o'seh Hashem matzliach" - And his master saw that Hashem is with him and all that he does Hashem brings success - Rashi comments that the Name of Hashem was always mentioned by Yoseif. This is most puzzling. The verse clearly states that his master realized this through the success of his work, not through what he spoke. How did Yoseif's master know that it was because of Hashem being with him that Yoseif was successful? We also find success by evil doers. Hashem allows them much success so that they receive their merits in this world.
Rashi tells us to read our verse as, "And whatever Yoseif did (that was successful) he said 'Hashem matzliach,'" that Hashem brought the desired result. This is exactly what Rashi is saying. His master realized that it came through Hashem because the Name of Hashem was always on Yoseif's lips since he always attributed the success to Hashem. (Divrei Yisroel of Modzitz)
Ch. 39, v. 10: "Va'y'hi k'dabroh el Yoseif yom yom" - And it was as she spoke to Yoseif daily - Rashi (B.R. 85:2) says that Poti Fera's wife saw through astrology that she was destined to produce great descendants with Yoseif and told this to Yoseif. No doubt that Yoseif had similar thoughts floating in his mind, as our Rabbis tell us that this was a phenomenal test for him, and if it was all a matter of physical attraction the test would not be very great at all for a righteous person. If so, how indeed did Yoseif know if this was or wasn't the good inclination pushing him? Since she pestered him daily, "yom yom," he realized that it was the evil inclination. When a person has a drive to do the right thing and he pushes it off, it doesn't come back to him time and again, enticing him to act. It is only the evil inclination that does not let up and comes "yom yom." (Rabbi Boruch of Mezebizh)
Ch. 39, v. 23: "Ein sar beis hasohar ro'eh es kol m'umoh b'yodo baasher Hashem ito" - The prison warden does not see anything that is in his hand since Hashem is with him - The jail warden saw Yoseif being successful and he correctly surmised that this was a result of some special service to Hashem in which Yoseif was engaged. However, he discerned nothing because Yoseif was exceedingly discrete in his service of Hashem. (Botzina Dinhora)
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