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by Daneal Weiner
From the Orchards of Jerusalem|
The way the Sages set up the Jewish calender, almsot every year Chanukah is preceded by this week's Shabbos
Although we tend to look at Shabbos as the end of the week, it lays the foundation for the upcoming week. Before Pesach is Shabbos Gadol. Before Yom Kippur is Shabbos Shuva. Before any Rosh Chodesh is Shabbos M'varchim. All these special Shabboses are more than just announcements of what is soon to come. G-d willing, we'll come to it.
37:2> "These are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yoseph, at the age of seventeen, was a shepherd of his brothers sheep, but he was a youth with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah and Yoseph brought an evil report to their father."
One of the worst things one can do to themselves and the world is speak lashon horah- gossip, about another person. There are times, however when something has to be said! If your best friend is about to get married to someone you know is an ax murderer, no one will hold it against you to say something to your friend. (Except of course the ax murderer.) There are other reasons that one can speak poorly of other people. The point is, it has to be with the right intentions. Even still, 1)Try talking to the person directly before going 'over their head'. 2) If you do end up having to an authority figure, don't embellish. Give just the facts and no judgments. 3) Have the right intentions involved! Don't be a tattler to just get in good with 'the boss'. We see from the verse Joseph complied with all three!!!
1) One of the things Yoseph told his father was that the sons of Leah were not treating the sons of the Bilhah and Zilpah appropriately. What ever this means from their level of righteousness, the verse tells us that Yoseph was a 'youth with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah' so it was clear that the sons of Leah were not going to listen to him if he spoke to them directly.
"...Yoseph, at the age of seventeen etc." Now that only Yoseph is the focus, Rashi concludes the idea above. This is where the descent to Egypt begins!!! He also brings the Midrash that says, finally settled in Israel, Yaakov hopes to have some peace to which H' says, "Isn't it enough what's prepared for the righteous in the world to come but they seek peace in this world too?" And H' hits Yaakov with the grief of the sale of Yoseph!
The Ry'z, Rabbi Yitschak Zev Soloveitchik, asks: Yaakov started with his brother wanting to kill him, spends 20 years by his uncle who every day tried to think of new ways to con him, fights an Angel, confronts Eisav, his wife dies young in child birth, his daughter is raped....and now H' hits him with the grief? He answers that up until now, Yaakov was all Israel. What was his suffering was all Israel's suffering. Even after the birth of the tribes, they shared the pain. But now the only one to suffer is Yaakov. All the brothers know that Yoseph is alive and even Yitschak knows, through divine inspiration. The grief is Yaakov's and Yaakov's alone.
"...but he was a youth..." Following through with his theme, Rashi says the Yoseph was acting immaturely. He was doing his hair and his eyes to look handsome. So what's wrong with a 17 year old acting like a 17 year old?
The next verse tells us Yaakov loved Yoseph more than all the others since Yoseph was a 'ben zikunim'- a son of his old age. The obvious question; Yaakov was older when he had Binyamin!?
Rashi then mentions that Targum Onkelos' Aramaic translation of the word 'zikunim' is 'wisdom'. Yoseph was Yaakov's wisest son. Yaakov taught Yoseph everything he learned from the Yeshiva's of Shem v'Ehver. Remember, 2 parshas back, before Yaakov ran to Lavan he spent 14 years in Shem's Yeshiva. After just spending his life learning from Yitschak, why did Yaakov need 14 more years by Shem? We answered that Yitschak lived his whole life in Israel but Shem lived through the time of the flood and the dispersion. The kind of Torah that Yaakov was going to need by Lavan was Shem's lessons on the Torah- how to survive in a hostile environment. Interesting that Rashi points out that what Yaakov is teaching Yoseph is not everything he learned but what he learned from Shem!
Remembering that Rashi is working on a theme, the setting the stage for the descent into Egypt, how do these commentaries fall into place? Rav Dessler explains that there is a special divine assistance that is rewarded to the righteous. A Tsaddik's thoughts are always on Torah. The problem is, sometimes a Tsaddik has to cross the street. I'm sure it's happened to you at least once that your mind was one place but your body was entering the intersection. Thank G-d, a friend or a good blast of a horn kept things from getting nasty. Most of the time, we look both ways. Most of the time the Tsaddik isn't aware of the intersection to think to look both ways. G-d helps him out. There are many stories of Talmid Chachamim and Rosh Yeshiva's who would begin a 10 minute walk home and 1 hour later their wives were wondering why they hadn't come home for lunch. They'd cross the street, and the next street, and the next street, and the next and the next....This is one kind of the assistance Rav Dessler is referring to.
There is yet another kind of assistance, Rav Dessler explains. It directs the Tsaddik's interactions with his fellow man. Tens and hundreds of people seek the advice of a Tsaddik and to ask him questions. How can he relate to every individual? Just by the number's alone, there are bound to be those who are bothered by his accent, his dress, his mannerisms, his teeth. In this regard Hashem sees to it that everyone walks away if not impressed, certainly not unimpressed. Rav Dessler explains that this is the picture Rashi is painting for us but with one alteration. G-d is NOT giving Yoseph this special attention. Although just 17, Yoseph's wisdom should have him behaving well beyond his years and yet the Torah tells us he's a youth. He's doing his hair and making himself pretty. The stage is being set for the brothers to be very unimpressed with Yoseph. But more than just unimpressed.
The Sifsay Chaim asks what the difference is between the wisdom of the Jews and the wisdom of the non-Jews? The Sages in a Gemorah say if someone tells you there is wisdom by the non-Jew, believe it. If it's said there is Torah by the non-Jew, don't believe it. The Sifsay Chaim's question as the same as asking, "What does this Gemorah mean?" So what does this Gemorah mean?
The Torah tells us in Breishis that luminaries were set up to shine upon the earth. We only have one though, the sun. The moon reflects light but it is not a luminary. Why does the Torah use the plural form. The ıMidrash tells us that there were two suns and one went to G-d and said, "Earth is such a small planet. Does it really need two of us (wink, wink, point, point, wink, point!)? G-d says, "You're right! YOU will go dark!"
Sure enough, a few thousand years later science says "Hey, stars explode, implode, upload..." So why didn't the Torah just write, "G-d put two luminaries in the sky's, one of which went super nova till it collapsed on itself becoming just a big dusty rock orbiting in space"? Because G-d didn't give us the Torah to be the first world book encyclopedia. He gave us the Torah to teach us how to act, how to live, how to perfect ourselves! The message of the Torah is: You have a problem with the guy next to you? You want to change him. YOU change! This is what Torah is. How to become better people. (This explains why the moon is only a reflection of it's former self.)
There was a philosopher who lived in the early 1900's by the name of Bertram Russel. (sp?) He waxed philosophically on ethics and morality. Personally, he was a boor. He was asked how he can speak about what he speaks about and still be what he is, a boor? His answer, "And if I where a mathematician should I become a triangle?" Non-Jewish wisdom isn't for acting upon. It's to make conversation. This is how during the night of Krystallnacht, the university students took all the Jewish literature of the shelves and brought it to the bon fires. This is how 30-40% of all Nazi officers where degreed graduates. This is how (though not as extreme, still, no different) 4 Jewish students of one of the United States' top universities are going to court because they don't want to live in the zoo the university calls a dormitory! I shouldn't call it a zoo though. Animals have some shame.
Is there wisdom by the non-Jews? Absolutely! Is there Torah? A higher standard of conduct? A measuring stick for personal, non-materialistic development? Don't believe it for a minute! This is the Greek culture which American universities are modeled after. The Greek's didn't want to kill the Jew's. Just Judaism. It was the antithesis of their existence. But don't send you're children to Yeshivas or Seminaries. Send them for a 'real' education! What kind of an education would that be?
What the Greeks made progroms against, was Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Circumcision. I heard from a Rabbi Daniel Lapian they didn't like Shabbos because it differentiates between private and public domain. We can't carry between the two. This implies limitations. Respecting personal property. Greek architecture is round open air coliseums and theaters. Poorly defined boundaries. Jerusalem's architecture is very square and very defined. Rosh Chodesh- declaring the new moon because it implies man over nature. No blind obediance to every 'natural' desire. We have to control them. Circumcision because it achieves an improved, perfected state. This means we're not born up to standard. We have to work at it. The Greeks worshipped the human form. How could it possibly need improvement? Talk about plastic surgery, Hellenized Jews had their foreskins replaced! Americanized Jews poking holes in their faces is child's play. And eternal youth was everything. It is no coincidence that the dye to hide those untimely gray hairs is called Grecian Formula. The homosexuality of the Greek culture was because a woman is a clock that ticks every passing month. Children display the passing years. In Hebrew, the word for Greece is 'Yavan'. The letters Yud, vav, and final nun which make the word are 2-dimensional letters. No depth.
We defeated the Greeks. On Chanukah we count the passing days! Chanukah is 8 days long, the day of circumcision!! Being 8 days long there will always be a Shabbos Chanukah!!! And starting on the 25th of the Hebrew month, it will always have a Rosh Chodesh!!!! Way to go, G-d! Reverse burn! This exile of Edom contains the other 3 exiles. That of Yavan is self evident. Hopefully will beat them again with less of a loss. r'l.
So remembering where we were heading, what does Yoseph being the wise, ben zikunim and yet acting the youth have to do with Rashi's theme of getting down to Egypt? The brothers knew that there was only one Avraham. And between his two children, there was only one Yitschak. An between Yitschak's 2 children there was only one Yaakov. And even though Yaakov has 12 children they all anticipate it will be only one of them who will be the next link. And it can even be Yoseph. But wait! Yoseph is the prime pupil, he's got the best Torah education, and he's doing his hair and his eyes! Oh no! It's Bertram Yoseph Russel!!! Torah is taking root in him like a rock in water. If he's the Torah link to the next generation the Torah will be nothing a book on for the coffee table!! This the brother's couldn't let happen.
When Yoseph tells the brothers of his dream of material superiority, their sheaves bowing to his, it irritates them but they can live with it. When Yoseph tells the brothers the dream of spiritual superiority, the sun and moon and stars bowing to him, this calls them into action. They plot to kill Yoseph.
37:21> "Reuven heard and he rescued him from their hands..." After all that's been said and done, one just has to wonder what could cause Reuven to want to save Yoseph? Ironically, Reuven already committed Yoseph to death! How so?
When Yaakov sent Yoseph to his brothers, Yoseph found and they weren't there. Yoseph bumps into a man and asks where the brothers are? The man say they went to Doson. The Midrash says that Doson, from the word Das- law, indicates they went and formed a court to determine if there are legal grounds for sentencing Yoseph to death. According to law, in a matter of life and death, if all the judges vote guilty, the defendant is pronounced innocent! If not one judge finds in his favor the Torah says it must be they didn't try hard enough to defend him. He walks! Inferred from the aforementioned verse, Reuven voted to let Yoseph go! Just what the other brothers needed to condem him! Reuven, what's going on?
What's going on is last weeks parsha, (35:22) "...Reuven went and lay with Bilhah..."! No one but the Bertram Russels think Reuven actually slept with Bilhah. Still, the Torah is indicating Reuven committed a grave sin, tantamount to a lesser man laying with his father's wife. And Reuven knows it! The second half of the same verse tells us "...the sons of Yaakov were 12." But Reuven doesn't know it! Reuven can't possibly imagine he has any role along side his brothers. From now on he spends his day repenting. Time passes. Along comes Yoseph with a dream. "Your 11 stars bowed to mine!" Reuven thinks, "11?!?!? YAAHOOOOO! I'm IN!!!!" He is seeing Yoseph from an entirely different perspective.
Rav Aaron Kotler adds an insight. A person engaged in repentance is in a humbled state. There is no greater aid to seeing the world objectively than humility. A Jewish King has the power of life and death in his hands. He also has a Torah in his hands. Always. He is constantly reminded he is not the final say. His humility is critical. So Reuven tries to save Yoseph but fails and his heading down to Egpyt. Speaking of going down...
A couple months back, in Parshas Vayeilech which opens, "And Moshe went..." we asked where did he go? Rav Wolfson explains that Moshe wrote 13 copies of the Torah on the day he died. One for each tribe and for the ark. Each letter of the Torah is a spiritual source for a Jewish soul and Moshe's writing each letter is an spiritual charge for each soul. We answer where Moshe went was down- in wisdom and 'influence' in order to reach the last generations in the days of the footsteps of the Mashiach, to charge them with a voltage they can handle.
In this weeks parsha their are 2 other descents. "And Joseph went down..." and "Yehudah went down..." These are also preparations of events for the final days. Yoseph went to establish the Mashiach ben Yoseph, who will fight and pave the way for the Mashiach ben David. Yehudah is taking care of Mashiach ben David. We've discussed that Lot was the forefather of Ruth, the mother of the House of David. The fathers side descends from Yehudah and Tamar.
Yehudah has two older sons and one younger. Now when you are destined to give birth to the Messianic line, you can be sure the Yetser Horah is there to do what he can to stop it. In fact, he succeeded twice. Tamar married Yehudah's first son who ended up dead for listening to the Yetser. He died childless. Yehudah tells his 2nd son to perform yiboom. This is when a brother marries the deceased's wife and the child will be a continuation for the deceased. A second chance of sorts. The brother marries Tamar. He also fails the Yetser's test and dies childless. Yehudah's 3rd son is too young for marriage. Yehudah tells Tamar to "Remain a widow till he is old enough." The Torah reveals to us Yehudah's doubt as to whether he will let his third son marry Tamar.
Tamar waits. Yehudah's wife dies. The youngest son grows up. He is not being offered to her. Tamar has to go right to the source of the Messianic line, Yehudah, rather than his son. She hears Yehudah is on a road trip. She dresses like a harlot and waits for him. We know to ask how Yehudah, the man whom G-d deems worthy of fathering the Royal house of David and the Messiah, would consort with a harlot?!?! Excellent question! Put it on hold. Yehudah approaches her. She takes from him his signet, wrap and staff.
Three months later, Tamar whose back at home 'waiting' for Yehudah's youngest is beginning to show. She's carrying twins. It is mentioned to Yehudah. Yehudah judges the punishment for her promiscuity is to burn her at the stake. It is not until they are already lighting the fire under her that she says to deliver a package to Yehudah which is the property of the man who impregnated her. Yehudah opens the package and says, "She is right. I did it." Tamar and the twins are saved.
Rav Wolfson asks, what's with the dramatics? Why didn't Tamar tell Yehudah it was her after the affair? Or after the sentencing? Or as they were tying her up? Why did she wait until the fire was already at her feet before speaking up? Wait, she didn't speak up. She chose for Yehudah to speak up or she would die with her twins!?! She knows she has kings of Israel in her stomach and she puts it all in Yehudah's hands??
There is a concept of self sacrifice called 'M'sirus Nefesh'. Generally, no one has a problem with, "Nothing in life is free." This is synonymous with, " you get what you pay for." Everyone heard grampa say at least once, "Listen sonny, I worked for my money!" These are all the most basic forms of m'sirus nefesh. In Judaism, if you want it (whatever it is), if you want it to count, to work, to last, then you have got to give of yourself to get it. Its just that we Jews want it all. We want it to count forever. We want it to mean something to G-d and to work for all future generations, to last on into the world to come. Do you think Grandpa would have worked a little harder for that?
It is unbelievable chesed that G-d gave us m'sirus nefesh as a metaphysical functioning aspect of nature. "Oh, G-d, what about my family? My grandchildren?? What's going to be? Could I possibly do anything for my great grandchildren? My community?? My people???" G-d set it up so we could do something. It will have to cost but it will be worth it.".
Tamar knows m'sirus nefesh. She wants to set up the biggest pressure cooker in history. Imagine yourself sitting in front of...EVERYONE! The woman YOU sentenced is being lit, now. You are given a package. You have a 1/2 second to either embarrass yourself in front of everyone that you were not only wrong but the guilty party OR in another half second the whole story would be buried in ashes and you could go on with your life. The first moments are when the survival instincts kick in. The " I should do the right thing" thoughts come next. Tamar did not give Yehudah any 'next'. For what she was striving for, for the Mashiach, Yehuda's first reaction has to be the truth including all the embarrassment. If he hasn't got it, the twins won't get it so she and they might as well go up in smoke right now. Only Yehudah could, in a heart beat, say "She is right. I did it." The Sages say that it was a voice from heaven that came down and said the, "I did it." Yehudah would never consort with a harlot so Hashem forced the situation. The m'sirus nefesh of Tamar and Yehudah earned them a leader and savior of the Jewish people.
Down in Egypt, Joseph's m'sirus nefesh was fighting off the advances of Potiphars wife.
Chanukah was earned through m'sirus nefesh. Few against the masses. Weak against the strong. Our gain was not just burning flames. The light of the menorah is the light of the first day of creation. A light which H' hid till the time of the Mashiach. We are letting glimpses of that light back into the world. Rav Wolfson discovered that if you spell out the letters which spell Tamar; tav, mem, raish (representing her revealed and her hidden essence) it has the same gematria (996) as "ohro shel melech hamashiach"- the light of the messianic king. "T'umim b'bitna"- twins in her stomach =565= "ohr Mashiach"- light of the Mashiach and = "lailot Chanukah"- the nights of Chanukah.
Yehudah unknowingly did yiboom for his two sons and Tamar had twins. The first to show himself was Zarach who stuck out his hand. Zarach means 'brightness. And like the glimpse of the brightness we get from our menorah's, so too did Zarach show a glimpse of himself. Then, unlike Eisav, Zarach waited for his brother to come out first. His brother was conceived first but in a narrow path, the first in should be the last out. The brother was named Parets because the midwife said, "Mah Paratsta ahlecha!"- With what strength you asserted yourself! "Mah Paratsta ahlecha!" = 945 = "Shmonas yimay Chanukah"- 8 days of Chanukah.
This Shabbos we'll sing in Lecha Dodi, "Al yad ish ben Paretsi v'nismicha v'nagilah"- By way of a man, son of descendant of Parets will we be happy and rejoice. ıAn obvious reference to the state of affairs in the time of the Mashiach ben David. Extra special this Shabbos because "Shabbos Parshas Vayaishev" = 2000 = 8 X "Ner"- candle!!! You're just gonna have to believe me when I tell you Rav Wolfson's list goes on but I'm not.
Don't just light the candles this Chanukah. Light high beams. Power up the beacon. Get the signal fires going. May you all have an illuminating Chanukah and may we merit seeing the coming of the Mashiach and basking in the original light of creation, bimhaira b'yamainu and have fired up Shabbot Shalom.
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