Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 41, v. 25: "Asher hoElokim oseh HIGID l'Pharoh" - Compare these words about the robust cows with what was said in verse 28 about the emaciated cows, "Asher hoElokim oseh HEROH es Paroh." What is "higid" and what is "heroh?"

2) Ch. 41, v. 31: "V'lo yivoda hasovo bo'oretz mipnei horo'ov hahu acha'rei chein" - A) The placing of the words "achar'ei chein" at the end of the verse seems to indicate that during the time of abundance, the bountiful crop would not be appreciated because of the hunger that would come afterwards. If the intention of the verse was to say that there would be an abundance that would afterwards be forgotten because of the devastating famine following it, the words "acharei chein" should be placed at the beginning of this verse, stating "V'lo yivoda hasovo bo'oretz achar'ei chein mipnei horo'ov hahu." B) Another difficulty that can be raised is, if the bountiful years would be forgotten even at the end of the first year of famine as indicated in 47:18, "Vatitome hashonoh ha'hee," why in the dream were there seven emaciated cows that swallowed the seven robust ones with no noticeable change in their girth, indicating that seven years of hunger would eradicate any vestige of the plentiful years? Should not ONE COW have swallowed the seven cows, as the first year of famine eradicated all the memories of plenty of the previous seven years, albeit there should be seven emaciated cows in the dream to indicate seven years of hunger? C) Lastly, the well known question on this story: Yoseif was only asked to interpret the dream, but not to offer advice as to how to handle the situation, so why did he venture into a realm that was not his?

3) Ch. 41, v. 38: "Hanimtzo CHO'ZEH ish" - CHO'ZEH seems superfluous.

4) Ch. 42, v. 21: "Avol asheimim anachnu al ochinu asher ro'inu b'tzoras NAFSHO b'his'chan'no ei'leinu v'lo shomonu" - If the brothers already felt pangs of guilt, why not for the sale of Yoseif, rather than the lack of response to his entreaties?

5) Ch. 43, v. 12: "V'chesef mishneh k'chu v'yedchem" - Why the need to spell out that they should take the money in their hands?



Rabbi Dovid Tevel, author of Nachalas Dovid, offers an answer to these three questions. As the Torah relates, the populace was required to put aside a portion of the produce during the years of bumper crops to assure an ample supply for the famine years. Our verse tells us that the concern for putting away a large amount put a severe damper on the consumption even during the years of plenty. This is why the verse places "achar'ei chein" at the end. The intention of these words is to say that even during the plentiful years "lo yivoda hasova." This also explains why in the dream there were seven cows that swallowed seven cows. This was not only to indicate that the hunger of later would eradicate any vestige of the plenty of earlier, but to indicate that the concern lurking in everyone's mind about the impending seven years of famine destroyed the enjoyment of the first seven years while they were living through those seven bountiful years, hence SEVEN COWS swallowed the seven robust cows. Lastly, since this was part and parcel of the dream, it indicated that there would be austerity even DURING the years of plenty, thus indicating that a strategy should be put into place to set aside much food for later, and as such is an intrinsic part of the dream, and not Yoseif's taking matters into his own hands and offering unasked for advice.


The word CHO'ZEH seems to indicate that Paroh was pointing to someone else who was similar to Yoseif, or else the word CHOMOHU or CH'YOSEIF would have been used. The Medrash relates that Paroh's officers said that they would not allow him to elevate a jailbird to such a high position. Paroh countered by saying that Yoseif was from a family of high stature. He proved it by saying that in his private chamber he had a drawing in the likeness of Soroh, as when she was in Egypt, Paroh was quite taken with her beauty and had a likeness of her made. Yoseif, her descendant looked quite similar to his great-grandmother Soroh, and Paroh pointed to the drawing of Soroh, and expressed himself with CHO'ZEH, similar to this picture of Soroh. The Holy Zohar (Shmos pg. 29) writes that Paroh had a wooden statue made in the likeness of Soroh.


Rabbi Shlomo Kluger in Imrei Shefer explains that it is natural to directly communicate good tidings. However, if it is necessary to convey negative news, an attempt is usually made to do so indirectly, so as to somewhat deflect the severity of the news. The dream of the seven robust cows portended seven years of abundance, hence HIGID, Hashem directly told Paroh. The dream of the seven emaciated cows foretold of seven years of famine, and this negative news is expressed as HEROH, He showed, but did not tell directly.


Indeed, because of this question Rabbeinu Bachyei joins the camp of commentators who say that the brothers never sold Yoseif, but were only instrumental in his sale. Some "baa'lei mussar" explain this with insight into human nature, saying that even if one coldly calculates to even have someone killed, a most merciless act, when that person is a brother and begs for mercy, some reevaluation is in place.

The Ksav Sofer in his responsa O.Ch. # 37 has a completely different understanding of our verse. The M.R. Bmidbar 21:4 says that one who causes his fellow man to sin has done him a greater disservice than had he killed him. Sin destroys one's closeness to Hashem and his reward in the world to come, while killing a person only destroys his existence in this ephemeral world. This is why the gemara B.B. 8b says that all are responsible to help redeem a captured person, "pidyone shvuyim," as the captured person is kept among idol worshippers and will be exposed to their negative ways. The brothers originally planned to kill Yoseif, but later decided to have him sold as a slave to the Yish'm'eilim. This latter plan was more devastating than the former. "Asher ro'inu b'tzoras NAFSHO b'his'chan'no eileinu" means that he beseeched us regarding his NEFESH, his spirituality. If sold to the Yish'm'eilim he feared that he would likely lose his levels of yiras Shomayim, etc. And yet, we did not hearken to his plea, feeling that he only said this to save his physical life. They felt that this was their sin as they saw that a punishment in kind, midoh k'neged midoh, was unfolding when told that one brother would remain behind in Egypt as a hostage, thus exposing him to the depravities of Egypt.

This also answers a question raised by the Ramban in the following verse where we find Reuvein saying "Ha'lo omarti ...... al techetu va'yeled v'lo shma'tem." He asks that we do not find Reuvein ever having said these words. (I am surprised at his question, because he himself says that although we do not find earlier that Yoseif begged for his life, the Torah leaves out details in one place and fills them in in another.) Says the Ksav Sofer that since Reuvein suggested that Yoseif be thrown into a pit (and according to the brothers' understanding be left there to die) he would have died without having been caused to sin by being sold into bondage and being exposed to sinners. This is what is meant by "al TECHETU va'yeled," do not have him sold and thus do not cause him to SIN. Perhaps we can add to this interpretation that the final words of the verse, "v'gam domo hi'nei nidrosh," mean that just as you admit that you were wrong in regard to Yoseif's spiritual murder that you caused, you might also be wrong regarding physically destroying him, "v'gam domo."


1) Yaakov told them to specifically hold the money in their hands on the return trip because the gemara B.M. 42a says that one is responsible to guard money in a more careful manner than other items. (Taam Vodaas)

2) Rabbi Y.Z. Brisker offers that halacha mandates that one may only return a lost item to a non-Jew when it brings a sanctification of Hashem's Name, namely that it becomes well known that the item was returned by a ben Yisroel. He therefore told them to hold the returned money in their hand for all to see.



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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