DECEMBER 17-18, 2004 6 TEBET 5765
"And G-d has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival in the land." (Beresheet 45:7)
Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers who had sold him as a slave. They sold him as a slave but he became the most powerful and respected man in the civilized world. They were crushed by the thought of how wrong they were about Joseph. He tries to calm them by telling them that it was all for the best because Hashem wanted him to be sent to Egypt ahead of the family of Jacob. Joseph was sent to Egypt first to make sure they survive the ordeal of the famine and ultimately the long exile in Egypt.
The holy Alshich explains that Joseph paved the way for the family in Egypt, but in a way that was even more important than food and their physical survival. The land of Egypt was the most immoral country in the world. The Alshich quotes the Zohar and says that even the heavenly angels could get caught up with the immorality of this country. The Jewish people who went to Egypt actually descended to the low level of the forty-ninth level of impurity, largely due to the immorality of the people of Egypt. There was one thing that helped them and prevented them from sinking even further. Years ago, Joseph was put to the ultimate moral test. The wife of Potifar seduced him over and over again, and every time he refused her advances. As a result of this, the Jewish people were more protected from immorality. This merit of Joseph prevented them from falling to the fiftieth level of impurity. This is what Joseph meant when he said that he was sent before them to Egypt to ensure their survival - moral survival, that is. The verse quoted above continues, "and to sustain you for a great deliverance." This refers to the splitting of the Red Sea. The merit of Joseph is what caused the sea to split. The Midrash explains that since Joseph ran away from the wife of Potifar, the sea "ran away" and split before the Jews. So Joseph is telling his holy brothers: Hashem sent me here in advance to withstand that test, so you can also survive.
There is no question that we are adversely influenced by the immorality around us to a certain extent. It became acceptable and tolerable to dress the way the fashion designers dictate to the secular world. Our weddings and our gatherings have lost their sanctity due to the inappropriate dresses being worn. We are sinking, and we are all sinking together. No one is immune. We didn't have Joseph in America before we came. What's the solution?
Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Ya'akob saw the wagons that Yosef sent him." (Beresheet 45:27)
Rashi tells us that Yosef sent his father, Ya'akob, a sign that he still remembers the Torah that he was taught, and he reminded Ya'akob of the last subject they had learned together. When Ya'akob saw that, he knew that his son was truly alive in a spiritual sense, and he rejoiced! Similarly, when Ya'akob sent his son, Yehudah, to Egypt before the whole family, he instructed him to establish a Torah academy so that they could study Torah in Egypt. We see from here how important the Torah was to our forefathers. Although we only read of their deeds and their character in the perashah, the Midrash is teaching us how pivotal the study of Torah was to them. They were engaged in it constantly, and this is what kept them alive. Ya'akob mourned very deeply for his son for twenty-two years, yet the only thing that kept him strong was Torah study. Yosef was in a very difficult position for many years in Egypt, spending twelve years in jail, yet his faith and trust never wavered because he was constantly reviewing the Torah he learned.
This should be an inspiration for us to strengthen our Torah learning, especially when the going gets tough. The more we are connected to Hashem through Torah study, the more we can endure all of life's challenges. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"So now it was not you who sent me here but Hashem" (Beresheet 45:8)
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz stated that the nature of many people is that when they do an act of kindness for someone, they do not want to receive anything in return. This is not necessarily because they have such a deep desire to do kindness. Just the opposite. They want the other person to feel indebted to them forever. Therefore they take nothing in return to prevent the other person from feeling that he has already repaid the debt. But the obligation to do a complete act of kindness requires that when you do someone a favor you should allow him to give you something or do something for you in return. In this manner you are freeing the person from his debt of gratitude.
Similarly, when someone wrongs another person there is a tendency for that person to want him to feel guilty forever after. This gives the wronged person a feeling of being "one-up" and the other person of being "one-down." There is an elevated level of forgiving someone even though you know that he is not entirely sincere when he asks you for forgiveness. Just by the fact of his asking forgiveness you can allow him to feel the pleasure of thinking that you believe he is sincere. This is an act of kindness on your part towards that person.
We see this principle with Yosef and his brothers. Yosef wanted to do an act of kindness so that they should not feel guilty for what they had done to him. Therefore, Yosef said to them that they were not the ones who sent him to Egypt. Rather it was Hashem who sent him to become a leader over all of Egypt. They should not think that what they did was harmful. They did him the greatest kindness possible. He was saying to them that he was even grateful to them for all the good that he gained from their selling him.
When someone asks you for forgiveness, be sensitive to his feelings of guilt and regret. Show him how you did not really lose so much. This is the opposite of what people do in keeping grudges against others for a very long time. Your goal should be to save other people from emotional stress and suffering. Always ask yourself, "What can I do or say now that will help make this person feel better?" (Growth through Torah)
Question: Why do we repeat the words, "Hashem Elokechem Emet" at the end of Shema?
Answer: This is in order to bring the total word count of Shema to 248, which corresponds to the 248 limbs in a person's body. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 37:15-28.
In this haftarah, the prophet Yehezkel, who witnessed the destruction of the First Bet Hamikdash, speaks about the future reunification of the twelve tribes. The Jewish nation had been divided to two separate kingdoms, Judah (together with Binyamin) and Israel (the Ten Tribes led by the tribe of Efrayim, descendants of Yosef). This is similar to our perashah in which Yosef and Yehudah confront one another, which leads to the reunification of the brothers.
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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