Yosef's brothers wanted to sentence Yosef to the death penalty. (The reasons are complicated and beyond the scope of "Kinder Torah.") Reuven convinced them to lower him into a pit instead. His plan was to return to the pit, take Yosef out, and return him to their father Yaakov. His plan ultimately failed, as the brothers drew Yosef up out of the pit and sold him to a band of Ishmaelites. Rav Boruch Halevi Epstein zt"l, (who is known to us as the Torah Temima) writes that even though Reuven's plan failed, the Torah still mentions it because it is fitting to give credit to someone who does a mitzvah. In fact, there is a halacha in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 249:13) based on this. The Rema (Rav Moshe Issurles zt"l) writes that it is permissible for a benefactor to inscribe his name on an object or building, in order to publicize the good deed.
Children . . .
Let's start a good news campaign. Let's talk only about good deeds. Oy, don't we hear enough bad news in the world? When our brother says blessings with kavannah (concen-tration), let's talk about it! Did you hear how well Chaim said that blessing? When our sister straightens her room, tell Imma about it! How about that Esti, she's such a mitzvah girl! When our neighbor gives up his seat on the bus for an older person, tell his parents! Ahuva has such good middos (character traits)! We'll all be so much happier when we focus on the good.
Against All Odds
Last week's parsha ends with an entire chapter (43 verses!) listing the descendants of Eisav. Parshas Vayeishev subsequently begins by describing one descendant of Yaakov, namely Yosef. Rashi writes that Yaakov saw the whole list of Eisav's family members, (who were all his enemies, dedicated to destroy him), and wondered how he could conquer all of them. Rashi answers with a parable. A flax dealer came to the market with his camels laden with flax. A blacksmith wondered, "How will this huge volume of flax be able to enter into the shop?" One bright person came along and said, "Don't worry, one spark from your hammer can burn up all of the flax." The parable is telling us that one tiny spark can reduce a huge volume of flax to nothing. Similarly, one man, Yosef HaTzaddik, can come along and defeat all of Eisav's armies.
This is also one of the messages of Chanukah. The special prayers for Chanukah state that Hashem delivered the many into the hands of the few. The Greeks tried to prevent the Jews from keeping mitzvos. Judah HaMaccabe and those Jews loyal to Hashem and the Torah fought against the mighty Greek Empire. They were tremendously outnumbered. This did not deter their emunah (faith) and bitachon (trust) in Hashem. They knew that they had to keep the mitzvos, no matter what the odds. They were victorious. They did what Hashem wanted, therefore He gave them the siyata dishmaya (heavenly assistance) to succeed.
Children . . .
Size and might mean nothing when it comes to Hashem's Torah and mitzvos. Just as Hashem gave Yosef the siyata dishmaya to overcome forces much greater than him, so too He will give us siyata dishmaya to overcome big challenges. How am I ever going to get all of this homework done? How will I ever make shalom with that neighbor? Everyone is going to the park and I cannot go; how can I ever face them all? I'll be so embarrassed. Don't worry children. Hashem helped Yosef Hatzaddik overcome his challenges. He helped the Chashmonayim defeat their enemies. When you do what He wants, He will help you too.
He Listens to Every Word
The Torah writes that Yosef spoke badly about his brothers to their father Yaakov. The Medrash Rabba (84:7) explains that Yosef reported that the brothers were eating meat that was not shechted (properly slaughtered). Secondly, they were considering marrying girls that were not suited for them. Thirdly, they were degrading the sons of the handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpa, calling them servants. Hashem punished Yosef, middah kineged middah (in exact accordance with the crime commit-ted). For reporting that they ate unshechted meat, the brothers shechted a goat to dip Yosef's coat in its blood. In exchange for the report about unsuitable wives, Yosef was sent to prison by Potiphar's wife. For reporting that some of his brothers called the others servants, Yosef was sold into slavery.
Children . . .
As we have said many times before, what we say is so very important. Hashem hears every word. Yosef spoke badly, and was punished for each and every bad thing that he said. We surely do not want to speak badly about people. How do we guard our tongues? The Chofetz Chaim zt"l explained all of the laws in his famous book, "Chofetz Chaim". B'ezras Hashem, we should follow the directions of Rav Yehuda Zev Segel zt"l and learn two laws from the book every day. Then we will never speak any loshon hora!
Enjoy your Shabbos Table!
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