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by Daneal Weiner
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 a 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. In the mean time, the second verse of this week’s
states (37:2), "These are the [toldos] offspring 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 a person can do to themselves and to the world is speak lashon horah- gossip. At Rosh Hashanah we spoke of the heightened potential for this year to bring the Mashiach. The Mashiach coming means the Yetser Horah- Evil Inclination going. During years like this, when the time is ripe, the Yetser Horah brings every complaint against Israel that the Mashiach shouldn’t come. Once his complaints are brought before the Divine court, not only could they prevent the Mashiach from coming, they could also demand justice be served. A year fit for redemption can turn into year of mourning, r’l. Hashem’s justice is measure for measure. ALL of it. So if we never speak out against of others, measure for measure Hashem will never let the Yetser Horah speak out against us. Lashon horah = all sins. No lashon horah = no sins.
There are times, never-the-less, when something must be said! If your friend is about to marry an axe murderer, no one will hold it against you to say something to your friend. (Except of course the axe murderer.) Similarly, in the area of lashon horah for the sake of rebuke there can be cause to say something. But before this one should; a) Try talking to the person directly. Maybe a third party need not be involved; b) If a third party is necessary, don't embellish. Just present the facts, without judgment; c) Have the right intentions. No tattling just to be the goodie goodie. From our verse we see that Joseph complied with all three conditions!
A) One of the things Yoseph told Yaakov was that the sons of Leah were not treating the sons of the Bilhah and Zilpah appropriately. What ever that means being on their level of righteousness, the verse tells us that Yoseph was a “youth with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah”. It was clear the sons of Leah would not accept rebuke from Yoseph if he spoke to them directly. B) Yoseph brought their father a bad report. How about told their father the report? The Torah is testifying that Yoseph did not tell as in a tall tale but presented only the facts! C) The verse says their father! He’s Yoseph’s father too!? We now learn that Yoseph was not trying to suck up to dad. He approached him objectively, as if an outsider, not looking for personal recognition.
Wasn't that a great vort?! It was told to me by a guy I hitched a ride from! Only in Israel could I get a lift and be uplifted at the same time! Hey! Not only that, only in Israel could I do the lifting and still be uplifted at the same time!! Not too long ago I rented a car in Yerushalayim. My last need for it was to drop my mom off at Lod airport for a 10am flight. Why drive back alone? I figured I’d go to the arrivals and offer someone a lift to the holy city. I couldn’t offer a ride to a family of 4 with their luggage. Even 2 plus luggage would have been questionable with the size car I had. Still, I did amuze myself when after a 5-10 minutes I realized I was analyzing each person to see if they were the ones worthy of the lift, i.e. did I want them talking to me all the way to Yerushalayim? We are fickle creatures, aren’t we? (plus I shouldn’t speak lashon horah about myself!) So I said, “The next one!” and out of the gate comes flying a Chassid, alone, rushing for the door. I had to run after him. “Going to Yerushalayim?” Not only was he going, he was just about to higher a private cab to get him there as fast as possible! What’s the rush? He said there is a dispute between the Zohar and the Gemorah. Kabbalah says it’s dangerous[!] for a man to pray without a minyan. Halacha says rather than davening on a plane with a minyan in front of uncovered hair/immodest dress a man should daven alone, time allowing. This Chassid asked his Rebbe what he should do? His Rebbe said he should be moser nefesh to daven with a minyan before chatsos. [Moser nefesh means whatever it takes, whatever the cost. Chatsos- mid day, is not the desired time but is the final allowable time to pray the morning services in extenuating circumstances.] In a heartbeat this guy was ready to drop 150NIS for a private cab to Yerushalayim. Hashem will credit him, no doubt, as if he spent the money while He simultaneously rewarded him with a free ride. When my alarm clock rings, I think of him and get up a little fast. Now that’s what I call uplifting!
Rashi has a different angle on the above verse, 32:7. In accord with Rashi, ArtScroll translated the verse "These are the chronicles of Yaakov..." Why translate toldos as chronicles instead of offspring? Because the Torah subsequently speaks only about Yoseph! Rashi, therefore, sees the verse as introducing the chronicles of all Yaakov's offspring until their eventual settling of Erets Yisrael. But to settle they need to travel. To travel they need to leave Egypt. To leave Egypt they need to descend to Egypt. To do that, events have to lead them there. " These are the chronicles of Yaakov offsprings descent: Yoseph, at the age of seventeen…" This is when those events begin!
At this point Rashi brings a Midrash based on the first words of the first verse of the parsha, Vayaishev Yaakov- And Yaakon settled, saying Yaakov sought rest. Why didn’t Rashi bring this Midrash on the first verse??? The Midrash concludes with Hashem saying, “Isn't it enough, the rest prepared for the righteous in the world to come, but they seek rest in this world too?’” Yaakov gets hit with the grief of [the disappearance of] Yoseph!
Rav Yitschak Zev Soloveitchik is perplexed by this Midrash. Yaakov started out with his own brother wanting to kill him. He spends 20 years by Uncle Lavan who tried to con, cheat and steal from him every day! He fights an Angel, confronts Eisav, his wife dies young in child birth, his daughter is raped....and now Hashem hits Yaakov with grief? Rav Soloveitchik answers that up until now, Yaakov was all Israel. His suffering was all Israel's suffering. Even after the birth of the tribes, they shared his pain. But now, all the brothers know that Yoseph is alive. Even Yitschak knows! The only one who grieves is Yaakov.
It can not be said enough times how we must remain cognizant of the fact that our holy ancestors were wholly holy. One of their most mundane actions had more love, dedication and fear of Hashem in it than a lifetime of our noblest deeds, even Yaakov’s looking for a ‘little rest’. Heaven forbid we should think he wanted to retire on the porch and watch the sunset. The Shabbos afternoon Silent Prayer goes, “You are One and Your Name is One…" This refers to the time of the Mashiach when the entire world will know Hashem is One. A line or so later it continues, “…Avraham will rejoice, Yitschak will exult, Yaakov and his children will rest[!]...” Yaakov’s desire for rest was a desire for redemption. He thought the time was right and that he could bring the world to its full reparation. Hashem let him know it wasn’t the time but that He would help bring it closer. We first were to be strangers in a strange land and Yoseph was going to get the started right now. Perhaps this is why Rashi brings the Midrash only now, on the second verse, as part of his explanation of the chronicles of Yaakov’s offsprings descent to Egypt.
Continuing with Rashi on theverse, “…but he was a youth..." Rashi says 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 he’s 17 years 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. A little misplaced emotion because Yaakov was even older when he had Binyamin?! So Rashi then brings the Targum Onkelos' Aramaic translation of zikunim- wisdom. Yoseph was Yaakov's wisest son! Rashi says Yaakov taught Yoseph everything he learned from the Yeshivas of Shem v'Ehver. [Remember, before Yaakov went to Lavan he spent 14 years learning from Shem v'Ehver's Yeshivas. We asked, after spending 63 years learning from Yitschak, why 14 more years elsewhere? We answered that Yitschak lived his whole life in the sanctity of Israel but Shem and Ehver lived amongst the generations of the Flood and the Dispersion. That was the kind of Torah Yaakov was going to need to survive living by Lavan.] Interesting that Yaakov is not teaching Yoseph everything but what he learned from Shem and Ehver! Hmmm?
Rav Dessler explains that there is a special divine assistance that is awarded to a Tsaddik- a righteous person. A Tsaddik's thoughts are always on Torah. The problem is, sometimes a Tsaddik has to cross a busy street. Hashem keeps a special watch on those whose minds are always on Him. There is another kind of assistance granted the Tsaddikim. One which directs the Tsaddik's interactions with his adherents. Every week tens if not hundreds of people seek the advice of a Tsaddik. How does he relate to every individual he’s only just met? With Hashem’s special assistance, of course. Rav Dessler explains Hashem is NOT giving Yoseph this assistance. 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. This is how the brother’s perceive him! Hashem is setting the stage for the brothers to be very unimpressed with Yoseph. But it’s more than just unimpressed.
The Gemorah says, “If it is said there is wisdom by the nations, believe it. If it is said there is Torah by the nations don't believe it. The Sifsay Chaim asks what’s the difference between Torah and the wisdom of the nations?
The Torah tells us in Breishis that luminaries (plural) were set up to shine upon the earth. We only have one sun, though. The moon gives light but it is not a luminary. Why does the Torah say there were two? A Midrash tells us there were in fact two suns created! One came before Hashem and said, "Earth is such a small planet. Does it really need two of us (wink, wink, point, point, wink, wink)? Hashem said, "You're right! YOU go dark!" And it did. It became but a reflection of what it once was.
Sure enough, a few thousand years later science ‘discovers’ stars dwarf, nova, implode, explode, upload... So why didn't the Torah just say, "G-d put two luminaries in the sky's, one of which went super nova and collapsed in on itself becoming just a big dusty rock orbiting the earth"? Because the Torah isn’t the first World Book Encyclopedia. The Torah teaches us how to act, how to live, how to perfect ourselves! The Torah’s message of the stars is: You have a problem with the guy next to you? You want to change him? YOU change! The Torah is the manual of moral conduct and of brotherly love. [It just so happens to be the first world book encyclopedia as well.] The nations have wisdom but none of which spurs them on to be better people.
A renown philosopher who passed away just 30 years ago, Bertrand Russel, specialized in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy though dabbled in morality. His personal conduct, though, fell short of philosophical standards. When questioned how he speaks as he does but still is what he is [a boor], he responded, "And if I where a mathematician should I become a triangle?" The wisdom of the nations isn't for acting upon. It's to make conversation. And so we understand how on the night of Krystallnacht, the university students took all the Jewish literature off the shelves and fed it to the bon fires. And so we understand how how 30-40% of all Nazi S.S. officers where degreed graduates. But we don’t understand how Jewish parents steer their children away from seminaries and yeshivas and into the universities under the banner, “We want you to have a real education.”
There was only one Avraham. And between his two children, there was only one Yitschak. And between his two children there was only one Yaakov. Now, even though Yaakov has 12 sons they anticipate only one will be the sole link to the next generation. Yoseph is the ben zikunim, the wisest. It seems he will be the one. But wait!? Yoseph is getting the best Torah education… and he's doing his hair?! Painting his eyes?! Oh no! It's Yoseph Russel!!! Torah is taking root in him like a rock in water. If he's the link the Torah will be reduced to a bible! The brother's couldn't let that happen! We can’t forget our holy grandpa Yoseph is wholly holy too. He knows that according to Jewish law a king is supposed to have his hair trimmed every day! Yoseph is being specially and uniquely educated by his father and so he’s doing what he feels is incumbent upon the heir to the crown of Torah.
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 is the final straw. They hold court and determine to kill Yoseph. But a court which votes unanimously condemns a man must set him free! Jewish law says if not even one judge finds for the defendant it must be he wasn’t defended well. He walks.
37:21> "Reuven heard and he rescued him from their hands..." I guess we found our plea of innocence. When Yaakov sent Yoseph to find his brothers, they weren't there. Yoseph bumps into a man and asks where his brothers are? The man say they went to Dasan. The Midrash says Dasan, from the word Das- law, is what teaches us they formed a court to determine if there are legal grounds for sentencing Yoseph to death. After all that's been said and done, what caused Reuven to want to save Yoseph?
In last week’s parsha, (35:22) "...Reuven went and lay with Bilhah and the sons of Yaakov were 12." Only todays Russels think Reuven actually slept with Bilhah. The Torah is indicating Reuven, on his level, committed a sin tantamount to a lesser man laying with his father's wife. Reuven knows it! The second half of the verse, "...the sons of Yaakov were 12." Reuven doesn't know! After what he did Reuven can't imagine he still has a role along side his brothers. He spent his days repenting. Along comes Yoseph with a dream. "Your 11 stars bowed to mine!" Reuven thinks, "11!? Stars!? Spiritually I’m in! YAAHOOOOO!!" He is seeing Yoseph from an entirely different perspective.
Parshas Vayeilech opens, "And Moshe went..." we asked where did he go? Rav Wolfson explains that Moshe wrote a Torah on the day he died. Each letter of the Torah is a spiritual source for a Jewish soul and Moshe's writing each letter is a spiritual injection for each soul. We answer where Moshe went is down, down in wisdom in order to reach the last generations, those in the days of the footsteps of the Mashiach, to inject them with a spiritual measure we can handle.
In this weeks parsha their are 2 other “wents”. "Yoseph 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. Lot was the forefather of Ruth, the mother of the House of David. The father’s side descends from Yehudah and Tamar.
Yehudah has two older sons and one younger. Now when one is destined to give birth to the Messianic line, the beginning of the end for the Yetser Horah, you can be sure the Yetser Horah is there to stop it. In fact, he succeeded twice. Tamar married Yehudah's firstson who ended up dead for succumbing to the Yetser horah. He died childless. Yehudah tells his 2nd son to perform yiboom. This is when a brother marries the deceased's wife and their child will be a continuation for the deceased. A second chance of sorts. The brother marries Tamar. He also succumbs 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 given to her. Tamar has to go right to the source of the Messianic line, Yehudah. 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 told to Yehudah. Yehudah judges the punishment for her promiscuity is to burn her at the stake. As they are lighting the fire under her 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 all their fate in Yehudah's hands??
We mentioned the concept of self sacrifice, M’sirus Nefesh. 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 something (whatever it is), if you want it to count, to work, to last, then you have got to give of yourself to get it. It’s just that we Jews want it all. We want it to count forever. We want it to mean something to Hashem 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 kindness Hashem did for us by giving us m'sirus nefesh as a metaphysically functioning aspect of nature. "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???" Hashem set it up so we could do something. It will cost but it will be worth it.
Tamar knows m'sirus nefesh. She knows what kind of genes are needy for the monarchy and Mashiach. If Yehudah doesn’t have it, forget it. She sets up the biggest pressure cooker in history. Imagine yourself sitting in front of...EVERYONE! The woman YOU sentenced is being lit, right 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 all the embarrassment will go up in smoke and you could go on with your life. The first moment is when the survival instincts kick in. The " I should do the right thing" thoughts come next. Tamar did not give Yehudah any 'next'. Yehuda's first reaction has to be the right reaction. Truth, including all the embarrassment. Only the lion, Yehudah could, in a heart beat, say "She is right. I did not give her my son." The Sages say that it was a voice from heaven that said, "I did it." Yehudah would never consort with a harlot so Hashem forced the situation. The m'sirus nefesh of Tamar and Yehudah earned Israel our kings and, soon to arrive, our Mashiach.
Down in Egypt, Joseph's m'sirus nefesh was fighting off the advances of Potiphars wife and putting to use all he learned in the name of Shem and Ehver.
We’ve covered just two reasons why this parsha is so fitting for the introduction of Chanukah. The wisdom of Torah and m'sirus nefesh. The Greek's didn't want to kill the Jew's. Just Judaism. Our Torah was the antithesis of their wisdom. In the end, the few had to be willing to fight the masses. Weak against the strong. Our gain was not just the burning flames of the Menorah. Holy writings say the light of the menorah is the light of the first day of creation! A light which Hashem hid till the time of the Mashiach. We are letting rays 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 older brother to come out first. 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. ýAn obvious reference to the state of affairs in the time of the Mashiach ben David. "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.
Be Moser Nefesh for a fired up Shabbot Shalom.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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