Parsha Shemot Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Moses grew up went amongst his people and observed their burdens… (2:11)

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The Torah records little about the early life of Moses. By the time he ‘stood before Pharaoh’ he was already 80 years old (7:7): and entering the last third of his life.

What is recorded develops with three incidents where he firmly and effectively applies the principles of leadership and social justice. These bring out the vital characteristics Moses needed to do his life’s work. That was to found the Israelites as distinct people: a ‘holy nation’ (19:6). It was his task to deliver and enforce the message of G-d. That would determine the precise terms of their being able to be, and continue as, a ‘holy nation’.

Rabbi FIshel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

These leadership features are within the fabric of the stories. He needed courage, and at the same time discretion: when he saw the Egyptian beating the Hebrew ‘he looked this way and that way and saw no man. He struck the Egyptian…’ (2:12) There was courage, and yet discretion. He was no more sympathetic to the Hebrew who was beating a fellow Hebrew (2:13). There was consistency in justice; not one law for insiders and another for outsiders. He intervened on behalf of Jethro’s daughters, who were being unfairly elbowed and shoveled by the brawny shepherds to the back the queue (2:17). Might was not to conquer right. And he also knew his place in the hierarchy. He was given seemingly impossible orders by G-d to put the Exodus in motion. He did not fear to voice his gravest doubts and ask for help, but still placed himself in G-d’s hands (4:10-18).

Rabbi Fishel Todd These qualities balanced humility before the Creator with the vital qualities of leadership, justice, determination, and impartiality needed to win the confidence and command of the nation.

Yet there is one thing that is missing from the account. That is Moses previous experience as a leader of an important division of the Egyptian army, for Pharaoh. There are records (both in the Midrash and in Josephus, as well as a passing hint in ‘the Ethiopian wife that Moses married’ – Num. 12:1), but the text is silent about Moses’ previous successful campaign on behalf of Pharaoh on the southern border of the Egypt against the people of Ethiopia.

The reason for the silence could be as follows. It is to teach that new tasks are precisely that. Some values – humility before G-d, courage, determination, and social justice are applicable to all situations. Others are counterproductive. Indeed many people who transfer positions in life are unsuccessful because they will not learn the job afresh. They just put ditto marks and say: ‘It’s one more job, it should (and it better had) be like the last place’.

Moses knew that. The Israelites were not the Egyptian army. They were a very difficult group of people who did not have Pharaoh’s backing in carrying out Moses’ orders. His previous experience was not only irrelevant, but potentially counterproductive – had he led the Israelites as though it was an army, he would have failed.

Instead – it was back to the drawing board – with the burning bush.

 

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. He said to his people: ‘Behold! The children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us…’ So they appointed taskmasters over them in order to afflict them with their work… (1:8-11)

The text relates how the rapidly-grown Israelite population in Egypt was frightening the host population. On one hand, their loyalty to Pharaoh and Egypt was beginning to become suspect. On the other, they were too useful a sub-group for Pharaoh to be permitted to leave the country.

The Ohr HaChayim translates the word mi-menu ‘from us’. He suggests that the words Pharaoh used to incite his population against the Israelites were: ‘The children of Israel are too many and too mighty – and that came from us – the Egyptians’. In other words: ‘They flourished at our expense – by taking advantage of our hospitality during and after the famine (c.f. Gen. 47:21,27). And now is the time to take back what really belongs to our own people’.

No mention of it being Joseph’s wisdom that kept them alive. Had Joseph not organized the Egyptian land, finance (and effectively become the first Israelite banker), and grain reserves, they would have no longer been around. As they themselves declared generations ago: ‘It is you that has kept us alive’ (Gen. 47:25).

This aspect of selective memory shows how it is possible to put together a series of facts each not necessarily false, but when joined together give a picture that is an entire distortion of the truth. It is that principle which has been the basis of much anti-Semitism ever since. When they were needed, the Jews were treated well. When it was in the national interests to treat them with suspicion or dispense with them completely, the selective memory came into play.

And further light on this subtle form of anti-Semitism is shown in the story of the conflict between the shepherds of Isaac with the shepherds of Gerar (the host population) over the well that Isaac’s servants had dug. (Remember that the Patriarchs had lots of sheep and cattle, with local water shortages keeping them on the move until towards the end of Jacob’s life when the lack of water made them move down to Egypt.)

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

As the text states:

Isaac’s servants dug in the valley. They found a well of fresh water. The servants of Gerar quarreled with the servants of Isaac saying: ‘The water belongs to us’ (Gen. 26:19-20).

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch observes that Isaac’s servants supplied the initiative labor, but King Abimelech’s servants – the servants of Gerar – claimed that the water was theirs. He emphasizes that ‘the enterprise and the work was yours, but the products are ours’ is the part of the mechanics of anti-Semitism. Even when there would have been no water at all, but for the initiative of Isaac’s servants…

Similarly with Pharaoh and the Israelites – ‘the initiative for saving us was theirs, but the benefits are all ours…’

Haftorah Shemos

“So in an obscure speech and a foreign tongue they [the prophets] speak to this nation. But who will say to them, ‘This is transquility, bestow it to the weary, this is inner happiness!’–for they do not want to listen.” (Isaiah 27:11-12)

Rabbi Fishel Todd Picture for a moment the life of the Jew in seventeenth century Europe. He is shut out from most occupations; he lives in a walled-in ghetto area. He is always in danger of attack from the Gentiles who surround him, and who have been known in the past to attack and plunder his community on one pretext or another. When he travels outside the ghetto walls, he is eyed with mistrust by the non-Jews, who feel no affinity with him.

But within the home! There we find another scenario. There is found peace and harmony. On the Shabbos, the candles bestow their glow over a home transformed and infused with the radiance of the holy Shabbos day. The old, faded bookshelves hold the precious, worn out sefarim over which the man pores late into the night. There in the home the Jew may find respite from all the hardships, all the travails which await him outside. “This is tranquility, bestow it to the weary, this is inner happiness!” The sanctity-filled life which the Jew led made all the difficulties bearable; indeed, through it he was even able to find cheer and inner peace, despite the obstacles which the world heaped before him.

Rabbi Fishel Todd Now let us shift the scene and envision this man’s einekle (descendent) two centuries hence. The walls of the ghetto have come tumbling down, the world lies invitingly before him. Intoxicated with the spirit of the new era, our friend has drunk deeply of the world’s culture. He is a man of taste. He can rub shoulders with the highest born and the urbane sophisticates. On a shelf at home he possesses a fine bound copy of Mendelsohn’s Biur, the commentary of the Pentateuch written in classic, flowing German. The book has gathered quite a bit of dust from years of sitting usused on the shelf. For the Torah, though translated now into the rich cadences of the German tongue, has ceased to speak his language. “In an obscure speech and a foreign tongue they speak to this nation.” The Torah’s teachings fail to resonate in the ear of our newly Enlightened friend.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

If we find that the Torah’s words don’t strike true in our own hearts, then we must look within ourselves. These same words provided solace to countless of our ancestors in generations past; if they now appear to be foreign ideas, then it can only be we who have distanced ourselves. Hashem’s teachings are tailor-made especially for us; they alone contain the key which can enable us to truly understand ourselves. It is our job to relearn the language.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Parsha Vayigash Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

http://shulchanaruchproject.com

A discussion by Rabbi Fishel Todd

THE TEXT ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – QUESTIONS Rabbi Fishel Todd

Who said to whom, and in what circumstances?

(a) His soul is bound up with his soul.

(b) Is my father still alive?

(c) You will eat the fat of the land.

(d) Do not quarrel on the way.

(e) I will go and see him before I die.

(f) Do not be frightened to go down to Egypt.

(g) You shall say: ‘Your servants have been cattlemen’.

(h) We have come to live in the land

(i) The days… of my life have been few and bad.

(j) You have saved out lives.

THE TEXT ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – ANSWERS

(a) Judah to Joseph incognito, as the Viceroy of Egypt, in pleading for the release of Benjamin in his stead. (44:30)

(b) Joseph, on revealing his true identity to his brothers, exclaimed: ‘I am Joseph – is my father (Jacob) still alive?’ (45:3)

(c) Pharaoh to Joseph, in inviting Jacob and his sons to come to Egypt. (45:18)

(d) Joseph to his brothers, on seeing them off to Canaan (45:24).

(e) Jacob to his sons, on learning that Joseph was still alive.(45:28)

(f) G-d to Jacob, at the beginning of his journey from Canaan to Egypt. (46:3)

(g) Joseph to his brothers, in preparing them to successfully persuade Pharaoh to allow them to live close to him in Goshen, in Egypt (46:34).

(h) Joseph’s brothers to Pharaoh (47:4), in the circumstances in #(g) above.

(i) Jacob to Pharaoh, on their first meeting. (47:9)

(j) The Egyptians to Joseph, on his supplying them with seeds to keep alive during the famine, in return for a fifth of their produce being passed to Pharaoh (47:25).

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Toddd

RASHI ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – QUESTIONS

Where in the Parasha may the following Torah values be learnt?

1. One may tell untruths if in real danger.

2. When traveling, keep eyes on the road first – even if discussing matters of Torah importance!

3. Honoring parents comes before honoring grandparents.

4. Honoring parents comes before one’s own routine.

5. Pharaoh’s offer of hospitality to Jacob turned out to be to his own great advantage (two sources).

RASHI ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – ANSWERS Rabbi Fishel Todd

1. In pleading for Benjamin to be spared, Judah states that ‘his brother is dead’. (44:20) He had no proof at the time that Joseph – the ‘brother’ was dead. He said so out of fear that if he said otherwise, he might be forced to bring him down to Egypt, as previously with Bemjamin. That, from Judah’s point of view, was impossible. From there it can be illustrated that one may tell untruths when in personal danger.

2. Joseph warned his brothers when they set towards Canaan to bring their father Jacob: ‘al tirgezu baderech’ – do not become agitated on the way (45:25). That expression, according to Rashi, can mean not to get involved in a Halachic argument less ‘the road becomes angry at you’ – a figurative expression telling them not to become so engrossed that they lose their way.

3. Rashi comments on ‘He slaughtered offerings to the G-d of his father Isaac’ that Jacob associated his offerings with Isaac and not Abraham, his grandfather. This teaches us that a son owes more honor to his father than to his grandfather.

4. The text states that Joseph himself harnessed his chariot when he went to meet his father Jacob, on his arrival to Egypt. He did not delay by the usual procedure of waiting for one of his servants to make the necessary preparations. (46:29)

5. Firstly, Rashi quotes the tradition that when ‘Jacob blessed Pharaoh’ (47:10), the blessing was that the Nile would rise whenever he would approach that river and water the thirsty land and its crops. Secondly, Rashi point out from the text stating the Egyptians begged Joseph for seeds in the second year of the famine (47:19), the implication that the famine did indeed come to an end on Jacob’s arrival in Egypt.

Rabbi FIshel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd OTHER COMMENTATORS ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – QUESTIONS

1. The Torah records that Joseph died at the age 110 (50:26). The Talmud (Sotah 13b) has the tradition that he should have lived to 120, but that he forfeited ten years of his life. For what reason, as derived from the opening section of this Parasha?

2. The arrival of Joseph’s brothers, after their true identity was revealed, was ‘good in the eyes of Pharaoh’ (45:16). Why was this so, according to (a) the Ramban and (b) the Sforno?

3. The Rabbis have a tradition that Aravit, the evening prayer, was instituted by Jacob. How, according to the Meshech Chochma, does that connect with this Parasha?

4. Why, according to the Sforno, did G-d tell Jacob not to be afraid of ‘going down to Egypt?’ (46:3)

5. Why, according to Hisrch, were ‘all shepherds (Joseph’s brothers’ occupation) abominations to the Egyptians’? (46:34)

OTHER COMMENTATORS ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – ANSWERS Rabbi Fishel Todd

1. The Talmud (Sotah 13b) has the tradition that Joseph was punished for remaining silent when his own father was described by Judah as ‘avdecha’ – your servant. He lost ten years of his life as a punishment for doing so. Judah himself had done nothing wrong because he thought that he was addressing Egyptian royalty, and such was the required etiquette of the time and place. However, Joseph – from his own point of view – would not have revealed his identity by saying that a resident of Canaan was not his subject – his servant Rabbi Fishel Todd.

2. According to the Ramban, Pharaoh was delighted that his country would no longer bear the stigma of being ruled by an ex-slave and an ex-convict of unknown origins. Now, he could demonstrate that Joseph – his viceroy – came from a highly distinguished background. The Sforno stresses that as Joseph’s own family were becoming residents of Egypt, he would think of himself as a fully fledged member of that community and become even more devoted to its interests.

3. The text states that G-d appeared to Jacob early on his descent to Egypt ‘in the visions of night’. (46:2) This is the only place where a vision is described in those terms – which imply impending darkness. Indeed, the long period in Egypt leading to years of harsh slavery began at that time. The night of exile, when hope was wrapped in darkness, was about to begin. G-d, therefore came in the ‘visions of night’ to stress to Jacob that though the Israelites would be cut off from their Land, they would never be cut off from G-d – He would always be with them. Therefore, explains the Meshech Chochma, Jacob instituted the ‘Aravit’ – daily evening prayer, to show his descendants likewise: the night might be an epilogue to one day, but it is the prologue to another, better day.

4. According to the S’forno, G-d told Jacob not to fear, because in Egypt his descendants would be in less danger of assimilating with the surrounding nations than in the Land of Canaan. For in Egypt, the foreigner was kept at arm’s length – as the text itself records: ‘for the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews – it was an abomination for Egypt’. (43:32)

5. Hirsch finds the traits of the shepherd unacceptable to the Egyptians. Because a shepherd is involved with dependant living creatures, he develops the personal attributes of kindness and generosity. Because his possessions are unstable, he learns not to place too much emphasis on wealth. And the gently rhythm of his work gives him time to contemplate on holier and less mundane matters. The Egyptians, writes Hirsch, has a culture that abhorred the above values. It encouraged slavery and the disregard of human dignity, and the resultant perversions and excesses of the country have been well documented Rabbi Fishel Todd.

A favorite comment from the Chafetz Chayim: When Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers with the words ‘I am Joseph’ G-d’s master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last twenty-two years fell into perspective. So, too, it will be in the time to come when G-d will reveal Himself and announce ‘I am G-d!’ The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend the meaning of our very strange and tortuous history…

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi FIshel Todd

SOME ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION Rabbi Fishel Todd

1. The Midrash explains that the reason Jacob sent Judah in advance of him (46:28) was to establish a house of Torah study. This Midrashic explanation emphasizes the need to prioritize Torah education at every place where there is a Jewish community. What was the reason Jacob wanted a house of Torah study to be established in Egypt before he arrived there? Surely he himself could have performed the task better than his son would have? After all, Jacob was (according to the Midrash) a direct disciple of Shem and Ever.

2. The text states: Israel journeyed with all he had and he came to Be-er Sheva. He made offerings to the G-d of his father Isaac… G-d spoke to Israel in night visions and he said ‘Jacob, Jacob’… ‘Do not fear to descend to Egypt for I shall make you into a great nation there’ (46:1-3). The Torah uses the word zevach rather than olah for an offering. That implies a korban shelamim – a peace offering (Vayikra 3:1). Why did Jacob make that type of korban – something that is usually brought as thanks, when he was leaving the Promised Land? And why, having Himself changed his name to Israel did He subsequently use the name Jacob?

*Please note – My own attempts to deal with the issues related in #1 and #2 may be found in the archives for 5762 and 5761 respectively in Shema Yisrael – on Parashat Vayigash

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd

THE TEXT ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – QUESTIONS

Who said to whom, and in what circumstances?

(a) His soul is bound up with his soul.

(b) Is my father still alive?

(c) You will eat the fat of the land.

(d) Do not quarrel on the way.

(e) I will go and see him before I die.

(f) Do not be frightened to go down to Egypt.

(g) You shall say: ‘Your servants have been cattlemen’.

(h) We have come to live in the land

(i) The days… of my life have been few and bad.

(j) You have saved out lives.

 

THE TEXT ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – ANSWERS

(a) Judah to Joseph incognito, as the Viceroy of Egypt, in pleading for the release of Benjamin in his stead. (44:30)

(b) Joseph, on revealing his true identity to his brothers, exclaimed: ‘I am Joseph – is my father (Jacob) still alive?’ (45:3)

(c) Pharaoh to Joseph, in inviting Jacob and his sons to come to Egypt. (45:18)

(d) Joseph to his brothers, on seeing them off to Canaan (45:24).

(e) Jacob to his sons, on learning that Joseph was still alive.(45:28)

(f) G-d to Jacob, at the beginning of his journey from Canaan to Egypt. (46:3)

(g) Joseph to his brothers, in preparing them to successfully persuade Pharaoh to allow them to live close to him in Goshen, in Egypt (46:34).

(h) Joseph’s brothers to Pharaoh (47:4), in the circumstances in #(g) above.

(i) Jacob to Pharaoh, on their first meeting. (47:9)

(j) The Egyptians to Joseph, on his supplying them with seeds to keep alive during the famine, in return for a fifth of their produce being passed to Pharaoh (47:25).

 

RASHI ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – QUESTIONS

Where in the Parasha may the following Torah values be learnt?

1. One may tell untruths if in real danger.

2. When traveling, keep eyes on the road first – even if discussing matters of Torah importance!

3. Honoring parents comes before honoring grandparents.

4. Honoring parents comes before one’s own routine.

5. Pharaoh’s offer of hospitality to Jacob turned out to be to his own great advantage (two sources).

 

RASHI ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – ANSWERS

1. In pleading for Benjamin to be spared, Judah states that ‘his brother is dead’. (44:20) He had no proof at the time that Joseph – the ‘brother’ was dead. He said so out of fear that if he said otherwise, he might be forced to bring him down to Egypt, as previously with Bemjamin. That, from Judah’s point of view, was impossible. From there it can be illustrated that one may tell untruths when in personal danger.

2. Joseph warned his brothers when they set towards Canaan to bring their father Jacob: ‘al tirgezu baderech’ – do not become agitated on the way (45:25). That expression, according to Rashi, can mean not to get involved in a Halachic argument less ‘the road becomes angry at you’ – a figurative expression telling them not to become so engrossed that they lose their way.

3. Rashi comments on ‘He slaughtered offerings to the G-d of his father Isaac’ that Jacob associated his offerings with Isaac and not Abraham, his grandfather. This teaches us that a son owes more honor to his father than to his grandfather.

4. The text states that Joseph himself harnessed his chariot when he went to meet his father Jacob, on his arrival to Egypt. He did not delay by the usual procedure of waiting for one of his servants to make the necessary preparations. (46:29)

5. Firstly, Rashi quotes the tradition that when ‘Jacob blessed Pharaoh’ (47:10), the blessing was that the Nile would rise whenever he would approach that river and water the thirsty land and its crops. Secondly, Rashi point out from the text stating the Egyptians begged Joseph for seeds in the second year of the famine (47:19), the implication that the famine did indeed come to an end on Jacob’s arrival in Egypt.

 

OTHER COMMENTATORS ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – QUESTIONS

1. The Torah records that Joseph died at the age 110 (50:26). The Talmud (Sotah 13b) has the tradition that he should have lived to 120, but that he forfeited ten years of his life. For what reason, as derived from the opening section of this Parasha?

2. The arrival of Joseph’s brothers, after their true identity was revealed, was ‘good in the eyes of Pharaoh’ (45:16). Why was this so, according to (a) the Ramban and (b) the Sforno?

3. The Rabbis have a tradition that Aravit, the evening prayer, was instituted by Jacob. How, according to the Meshech Chochma, does that connect with this Parasha?

4. Why, according to the Sforno, did G-d tell Jacob not to be afraid of ‘going down to Egypt?’ (46:3)

5. Why, according to Hisrch, were ‘all shepherds (Joseph’s brothers’ occupation) abominations to the Egyptians’? (46:34)

 

OTHER COMMENTATORS ON PARASHAT VAYIGASH – ANSWERS

1. The Talmud (Sotah 13b) has the tradition that Joseph was punished for remaining silent when his own father was described by Judah as ‘avdecha’ – your servant. He lost ten years of his life as a punishment for doing so. Judah himself had done nothing wrong because he thought that he was addressing Egyptian royalty, and such was the required etiquette of the time and place. However, Joseph – from his own point of view – would not have revealed his identity by saying that a resident of Canaan was not his subject – his servant.

2. According to the Ramban, Pharaoh was delighted that his country would no longer bear the stigma of being ruled by an ex-slave and an ex-convict of unknown origins. Now, he could demonstrate that Joseph – his viceroy – came from a highly distinguished background. The Sforno stresses that as Joseph’s own family were becoming residents of Egypt, he would think of himself as a fully fledged member of that community and become even more devoted to its interests.

3. The text states that G-d appeared to Jacob early on his descent to Egypt ‘in the visions of night’. (46:2) This is the only place where a vision is described in those terms – which imply impending darkness. Indeed, the long period in Egypt leading to years of harsh slavery began at that time. The night of exile, when hope was wrapped in darkness, was about to begin. G-d, therefore came in the ‘visions of night’ to stress to Jacob that though the Israelites would be cut off from their Land, they would never be cut off from G-d – He would always be with them. Therefore, explains the Meshech Chochma, Jacob instituted the ‘Aravit’ – daily evening prayer, to show his descendants likewise: the night might be an epilogue to one day, but it is the prologue to another, better day.

4. According to the S’forno, G-d told Jacob not to fear, because in Egypt his descendants would be in less danger of assimilating with the surrounding nations than in the Land of Canaan. For in Egypt, the foreigner was kept at arm’s length – as the text itself records: ‘for the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews – it was an abomination for Egypt’. (43:32)

5. Hirsch finds the traits of the shepherd unacceptable to the Egyptians. Because a shepherd is involved with dependant living creatures, he develops the personal attributes of kindness and generosity. Because his possessions are unstable, he learns not to place too much emphasis on wealth. And the gently rhythm of his work gives him time to contemplate on holier and less mundane matters. The Egyptians, writes Hirsch, has a culture that abhorred the above values. It encouraged slavery and the disregard of human dignity, and the resultant perversions and excesses of the country have been well documented.

A favorite comment from the Chafetz Chayim: When Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers with the words ‘I am Joseph’ G-d’s master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last twenty-two years fell into perspective. So, too, it will be in the time to come when G-d will reveal Himself and announce ‘I am G-d!’ The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend the meaning of our very strange and tortuous history…

 

SOME ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION

1. The Midrash explains that the reason Jacob sent Judah in advance of him (46:28) was to establish a house of Torah study. This Midrashic explanation emphasizes the need to prioritize Torah education at every place where there is a Jewish community. What was the reason Jacob wanted a house of Torah study to be established in Egypt before he arrived there? Surely he himself could have performed the task better than his son would have? After all, Jacob was (according to the Midrash) a direct disciple of Shem and Ever.

2. The text states: Israel journeyed with all he had and he came to Be-er Sheva. He made offerings to the G-d of his father Isaac… G-d spoke to Israel in night visions and he said ‘Jacob, Jacob’… ‘Do not fear to descend to Egypt for I shall make you into a great nation there’ (46:1-3). The Torah uses the word zevach rather than olah for an offering. That implies a korban shelamim – a peace offering (Vayikra 3:1). Why did Jacob make that type of korban – something that is usually brought as thanks, when he was leaving the Promised Land? And why, having Himself changed his name to Israel did He subsequently use the name Jacob

“All the souls of Beis-Ya’akov who came to Egypt of the House of Ya’akov numbered seventy” (46:27).

Plus Ya’akov himself, comments R. Bachye, making a total of seventy-one.

Likewise, G-d told Moshe (in Parshas Beha’aloscha) to gather seventy of the elders of Yisrael, who, together with Moshe, numbered seventy-one.

And so it was with the Sanhedrin, which sat in the Beis-Hamikdash. They too, numbered seventy, but with the Nasi, the number was seventy-one.

The original nations of the world (as listed in Parshas No’ach) also numbered seventy, and when one adds Yisrael, there were seventy-one nations.

All of this, says R. Bachye, follows the pattern in Heaven, where, as Chazal teach us, seventy angels surround G-d’s Throne of Glory, which, together with G-d Himself (Kevayachol) make seventy-one. And that is known as ‘G-d’s Beis-Din’.

And this explains why the Torah concludes (not with the word ‘le’Ya’akov’, like it did in the previous Pasuk, but) “le’Beis Ya’akov”, a hint at the Heavenly Beis-Din, which Ya’akov’s wider family echoes.

This teaches us, the author continues, the greatness of Ya’akov Avinu (whose image is engraved underneath the Heavenly Throne and) from whom seventy Souls emerged, which eventually branched out into six hundred thousand when they left Egypt, as this corresponds to the seventy Names which emerge from the Shechinah, and which branch out into six hundred thousand. This in turn, incorporates the maximum number of ‘opinions’ that exist, and it explains as to why Yisrael were only ready to receive the Torah when they reached a total of six hundred thousand, and not before.

 

*
This number is also connected to the fact that the Shechinah has six sides (which no doubt, is in turn, connected to the four directions plus up and down).

Indeed, the Shechinah only rests in Yisrael when there are six hundred thousand people, and that is why the Shechinah rested in Yisrael from the time the Torah was given at Har Sinai, until the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash. It did not rest in Yisrael during the era of the second Beis-Hamikdash, R. Bachye contends, because only forty thousand souls returned from Bavel.

That is not to say that the Shechinah does not rest at all on less than six hundred thousand people. For Chazal have said that the Shechinah rests even on twenty-two thousand people, as the Torah writes in Parshas Beha’aloscha (10:36) “Rest Hashem on the tens of thousands and the thousands of Yisrael” (see Rashi there), and this is reiterated in Tehilim (68:18), where the Pasuk says “G-d’s chariot consists of tens of thousands and thousands of angels … “.Furthermore, the Navi writes in Chagai (1:8 [in connection with the second Beis-Hamikdash]) “And I will be pleased with it and I will be honoured (i.e. I will rest My Honour there)”.

What it therefore means is that the Shechinah only rests permanently when Yisrael attain the number six hundred thousand. And that is what happened in the second Beis-Hamikdash, where the Shechinah rested sporadically, as the Pasuk writes in ve’Zos ha’B’rachah (33:12) “He hovers over it all day” – implying that He does not actually settle there Rabbi Fishel Todd.

 

*
Note, that the Pasuk in Chagai that we just quoted is missing a ‘Hey’ in the word “ve’ikaveidah” (and I will be honoured), and it is from there that Chazal learn that the second Beis-Hamikdash was lacking five things – the Aron, the anointing oil, the fire (that descended from Heaven to consume the Korbanos on the Mizbei’ach), the Shechinah and the Urim ve’Tumim (the Names of Hashem that were placed in the folds of the Choshen Mishpat, which enabled to the Kohen Gadol to attain a certain level of Ru’ach ha’Kodesh). As we explained a little earlier, the Shechinah was not totally absent, but rather tended to appear sporadically.

 

*
But in time to come, when the third Beis-Hamikdash is built, the author concludes, Yisrael will be numerous like the sand by the seashore (like G-d promised Hoshei’a [2:1]). When that happens, the Divine Glory and Majesty will return in full force, just as the Navi Yeshayah prophesied (60:1) “Arise and shine, for your light has arrived, and the Glory of G-d shines upon you!”

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parsha Miketz Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd discusses Parshas Mikeitz(76)

Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Rashi teaches us the meaning of a familiar word

Genesis 42:34

“And bring your younger brother to me and I will know that you are not spies but that you are honest; your brother, (Simon) I will give back to you and you can travel the land.”

RASHI

And you can travel the land. Rashi: [It means literally] you can travel around the land. All such words [ in Hebrew] as ‘socharim’ (merchants) and ‘sechora’ (merchandise) are derived from the fact that they travel around ( in Hebrew ‘sechor’ = around) after business.

WHAT IS RASHI SAYING ?

Rashi tells us the meaning of the word ’tischoru’. The root is ‘s’chor’ which literally means ‘around’, but frequently it has the derived meaning of doing business, because businessmen travel around a lot.

RASHI’S STYLE IN TEACHING WORD MEANINGS

Rashi often tells us the meaning of words in the Torah. When he teaches us the meaning of a strange or rare word there is no problem. His comment is necessary because we need his help. But when he teaches us the meaning of a familiar word, which he does occasionally, we have two questions. 1) Why the need to teach us the meaning of a familiar word? & 2) If the word has already appeared in the Torah why didn’t Rashi tell us its meaning the first time it appeared?

Which question would you ask of Rashi?

Hint: See verses above 23: 16; 34:10; and 37:28.

Your Question:

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: We see from that this word has already appeared in the Torah several times. Why did Rashi wait until now to teach us its meaning?

Can you see a reason for this?

Hint: Note that this verse is spoken by the brothers to Jacob; they are quoting what Joseph had said to them. You can see the exact quote of Joseph in verse 42:20. Is there a difference between what Joseph actually said and what they quoted him as saying?

EXAMINING THE VERSE CLOSELY

Rabbi Fishel Todd Answer: Of course there is a difference. All that Joseph said was that if they bring their younger brother then they will be believed that they are not spies. He said nothing about “sechora”.

So why did the brothers add this gratuitous phrase?

Can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:

A CLOSER LOOK

An Answer: The brothers were on the defensive, since they returned without Simon. They didn’t tell their father Jacob everything. They did not tell him that Simon was being held in prison. They wanted to convince Jacob to release Benjamin in their custody so they could get the needed food in Egypt. Perhaps they figured that if they reported the man was very cold and distant Jacob would remain hesitant and fearful. So they improved on what he had actually said a bit; they said he would then consider them as foreigners in good standing and they could even tour the country freely.

HOW HAS RASHI TAUGHT US THIS?

Rashi too was bothered by the way the brothers misquoted Joseph’s words. He understood that this was done intentionally. Their use of the word “tischoru’ must mean “travel around” freely and not have its usual meaning of doing business. If the word meant to do business this would mean that Joseph jumped from suspecting them as spies and restricting their movement to allowing them become equal to all citizens, permitted to do business in his country! No. That would sound too strange to Jacob. So their meaning must that the man considered them to be in good standing and permitted to travel freely through the country. That sounded reasonable. It is for this reason that Rashi says the word does not mean business here, which usually does; it means just to travel around.

And it is for this reason that Rashi did not have to tell us the meaning of the word ‘sechoruha’ above (Genesis 34:10) because in that verse it had its usually meaning of doing business and Rashi assumed we knew its meaning. Only here where it does not mean to do business does Rashi need to enlighten us.

AN INTERESTING NOTE Rabbi Fishel Todd

It is interesting and enlightening to note that even these reasonable words still did not convince Jacob to let them take Benjamin. It was only Judah later (42:3- 10) who put everything on the table in a straightforward, unadorned manner that Jacob finally conceded to let Benjamin go with them.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Genesis 42:2″And he said ‘Behold, I have heard that there are provisions in Egypt. Go down there and purchase for us there, that we may live and not die.’ “RASHIGo down there: RASHI: He did not say ‘go’ (but rather ‘Go down’) This is a hint to the two hundred and ten years that they (the Nation Israel) were to be enslaved in Egypt. For the Hebrew word “R’du” (Go down) is numerically 210.”Look at Rashi on verse Genesis 45:9.Do you have a question on our Rashi-comment?Your Question:QUESTIONING RASHIA Question: This Rashi comment assumes that the word “go” (“l’chu” in Hebrew) is more appropriate than “r’du’. But this is not so. Rashi himself has tells us further on (Genesis 45:9) that EretzYisrael is higher than all other lands, thus when speaking of going to Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word “alu” (“go up”) and conversely when one leaves Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word “to go down.” So Jacob’s word here – “go down there (to Egypt)” is appropriate. How can Rashi imply that he should have said “go” and not “go down”?A difficult question.Can you think of an answer?Hint: Look carefully at verse 45:9. That verse speaks of “going up” and our verse speaks of “going down”. But can you see another difference between our verse and that one?Your Answer:UNDERSTANDING RASHIAn Answer: Rashi’s point is well taken. Because while the Torah uses the words “going up” and “going down” when coming to and leaving Eretz Yisrael, Jacob does not. See verse Genesis 45:28 where it says: “And Israel (Jacob) said: It is great that my son Joseph is still alive. I will go (Hebrew “ailcha”) and see him before I die.” So we see that when Jacob speaks of going to Egypt he himself uses the word “to go.” And not “go down.” Thus Rashi’s focusing on Jacob’s use of the word “go down” in our verse is correct. So Jacob himself should not have used the word “r’du”, though the Torah itself does. He must have used this word because it had other connotations in this context. His word “going down” has a negative connotation and implied going down into slavery – for 210 years.A LESSONThe Torah’s words as a narrative may be quite different from an individual’s quote in the Torah. There are other instances in the Torah where this is the case. The lesson is to closely examine Rashi’s comments, especially when it seems that he contradicts himself. He was quite careful in his choice of words and in his comments.Shabbat ShalomV’Chanuka SomayachAvigdor Bonchek “What’s Bothering Rashi?” is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries Rabbi Fishel Todd.

Parashas Miketz (5762)

Rashi makes us aware that we hadn’t fully understood the Torah verse. But first we must understand Rashi!

Genesis 42:23

RASHI

For the interpreter was between them: RASHI: For when they had spoken to him there was an interpreter between them who knew both the Hebrew and the Egyptian languages. He interpreted their words to Joseph and Joseph’s words to them. Consequently they were under the impression that Joseph did not understand the Hebrew language.

What is your question on Rashi?

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question:

Rashi seems to be telling us what the Hebrew word “ mailitz” (interpreter) means. He certainly could have told us that in much less words. Why is he belaboring the point? What is bothering him?

Hint:

Read the Torah sentence again and ask yourself what it says.

“And they did not know that Joseph understood, because the interpreter was between them.”

What question would you ask on this verse? Does that make sense to you?

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

Your Answer:

An Answer:

Of course it doesn’t make sense! Because the interpreter was between them, they didn’t think that Joseph understood? Quite the contrary, only because the translator was between them, could Joseph understand what they were saying.

Now look at Rashi’s comment and see how he explains away this question. Do you understand?

Your Answer:

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer:

By the addition of a word or two, Rashi solves the problem. Rashi says; “When they had spoken to him there was a translator between them.” Rashi conveniently puts the verse in the past tense. Meaning that since in their previous conversations with Joseph, the translator had been present, they assumed that he didn’t understand Hebrew. But now the translator wasn’t present (for they weren’t speaking to Joseph) so they could freely speak among themselves.

In his effortless manner, Rashi points out the correct meaning of the verse.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parashas Miketz

Rashi makes us aware that we hadn’t fully understood the Torah verse.
But first we must understand Rashi!

Genesis 42:23

For the interpreter was between them: Rashi: For when they had spoken to him there was an interpreter between them who knew both the Hebrew and the Egyptian languages. He interpreted their words to Joseph and Joseph’s words to them. Consequently they were under the impression that Joseph did not understand the Hebrew language.

What is your question on Rashi?

 

 

Questioning Rashi

A Question:

Rashi seems to be telling us what the Hebrew word “ mailitz” (interpreter) means. He certainly could have told us that in much less words. Why is he belaboring the point? What is bothering him?

Hint:

Read the Torah sentence again and ask yourself what it says.

 

 

And they did not know that Joseph understood, because the interpreter was between them.

What question would you ask on this verse? Does that make sense to you?

 

 

What Is Bothering Rashi?

Your Answer:

An Answer:

Of course it doesn’t make sense! Because the interpreter was between them, they didn’t think that Joseph understood? Quite the contrary, only because the translator was between them, could Joseph understand what they were saying.

Now look at Rashi’s comment and see how he explains away this question. Do you understand?

 

 

Understanding Rashi

An Answer :

By the addition of a word or two, Rashi solves the problem. Rashi says; “When they had spoken to him there was a translator between them.” Rashi conveniently puts the verse in the past tense. Meaning that since in their previous conversations with Joseph, the translator had been present, they assumed that he didn’t understand Hebrew. But now the translator wasn’t present (for they weren’t speaking to Joseph) so they could freely speak among themselves.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

In his effortless manner, Rashi points out the correct meaning of the verse.

 

Parashas Miketz

 

 

The suspenseful story of Joseph and his brothers is reaching a fever pitch in this week’s sedra. On Verse 42:23 it says:

“And he (Joseph) turned away from them and wept and he returned to them again and spoke to them and then took Shimon from them and he bound him up in front of them.”

RASHI

“Shimon”: Rashi: He had thrown him into the pit etc. See the full comment there.

Of course the big question is & this is what Rashi is dealing with: Why suddenly did Joseph grab Shimon of all brothers to put in jail? Notice that the Torah mentions Shimon by name. It wouldn’t do that unless it had significance. In the whole story of Joseph and his brothers no brothers are mentioned by name except Joseph, Reuven and Yehudah. And now Shimon! Rashi’s answer as to why Shimon was singled out is that he was the one who threw Joseph into the pit.

But we can confirm this by seeing the verses immediately prior to this. It says that the brothers bemoaned their guilt for what they had done years ago to their brother, Joseph. Then Reuven says “Didn’t I tell you then ‘don’t sin with the boy’ but you didn’t listen!” All the years Joseph was in Egypt he had blamed Reuven for all that happened to him. Because Reuven was the first born, he was the leader and responsible for the brothers’ actions. Why hadn’t he stopped them? he wondered. Now that he overheard Reuven’s remark he realized that he had blamed Reuven unjustly. At that point Joseph looked to the next in line. Who was that? Shimon, the second oldest. why hadn’t he backed Reuven’s protest? So he chose him and threw him in jail. See how beautiful this logic is. See verse 27 where it says “one opened his saddle bag to feed his donkey” etc. Rashi says it was Levi. Why Levi?

Let’s begin with another question: Why only did only this brother find his money in his saddlebag? Didn’t the others also have donkeys to feed? They did eventually find their money at the bottom of their bags when the got home to Jacob. see that only “the one” (who Rashi says is Levi) found his at the opening of his bag and not down beneath as the others did. Why was his at the top of the bag and the others at the bottom?

Answer: Levi is brother number 3 !!! Joseph was going down the line of brothers. He made Levi worry longer than the others, because why hadn’t he who was the third oldest brother spoken up on his behalf years ago and stopped the sale into slavery? The story isn’t over. The next accusation about the stolen chalice seems to wake Yehuda up and he is number four!! Therefore “And Yehuda drew near” (next week’s sedra).

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

CHANUKAH 2020 Rabbi Fishel Todd

CHANUKAH 2020
Rabbi Fishel Todd

Three gifts were created in the world. Anyone who merits  any one of them takes all the delight in the world. They are wisdom, strength and wealth.

Of these three gifts wealth is the most external to a person, since it is not actually a part of him, but rather an appendage and thus most visible to others. Strength is a little less external, since it is not possible to determine a person’s might with a superficial glance.  Indeed, there are small, weak-looking people who are in fact very strong.

Strength does nevertheless reveal itself outside the person.

Of the 3 WISDON is the most personal and concealed.

The intellect resides in the deepest recesses of the person and is completely obscured from others.

The 3 early exiles to which the Jews were subjected correspond to those three gifts. In each case, the oppressing was able to suppress a particular aspect of the Jews identity.

Paras and Madai were known for their wealth. In fact, at the beginning of the Purim story we find that the Persian king Achashverosh, as we read in Megelas Esther where Achashverosh showed them the glorious wealth of his kingdom and the majesty of his royal greatness.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

The Greeks were known for their outstanding wisdom, their philosophers and their ideas have been tremendously influential.

Thus when they oppressed Israel, they were even able to reach the wisdom of the Torah and enslave it to their own ends. Oil in Torah thought expresses wisdom [The Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash represents the light of TORAH radiating to all corners of existence].

So when Chazal, in our original quote, say that the Greeks defiled the oil, they mean that they were clever enough to subjugate the very heart of the nation, to contaminate their Torah wisdom, the oil of the Jews, and to defile it with Hellenism.

In this sense, the Greeks polluted “all the oil in the Temple”; that is , their twisted form of wisdom seized of all areas of Torah wisdom.

The Torah subtly hints at the Yom-tov of Chanukah, says the Ba’al Rokei’ach, by virtue of the juxtaposition of the Parshah of olive oil for the Menorah immediately following the Yomim-tovim in Parshas Emor.

The Torah actually concludes the Parshah of Mo’adim with the words “And Moshe told the Mo’adim of Hashem to the B’nei Yisrael”, and continues “Command the B’nei Yisrael and they shall bring you pure olive-oil”. And as we know, the ideal Mitzvah of Chanukah lights is with olive oil.

In fact, he goes on to explain, there are a number of points in this paragraph that are connected with Chanukah. To begin with, he points out, the words “Tzav es B’nei Yisrael” has the same numerical value as ‘bi’Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan’ (including the ‘kolel’ [the phrase], which is perfectly acceptable in terms of the rules of Gematriyos, and which he then explains at great length).

Rabbi FIshel Todd

*

The reason that the miracle took place with oil, the Rokei’ach explains, is based on the fact that the Greeks attempted to negate the light of Torah and to replace it with their own Chochmah (Greek culture). So the miracle took place with oil, which represents Chochmas ha’Torah, for so Chazal have said in Menachos (85b) ‘Wherever olive-oil is found, there one will find Chochmah. They based this on a Pasuk in Shmuel, where Yo’av sent to Teko’a to fetch a wise woman (to convince David to accept his son Avshalom back into the fold). And ‘Teko’a is the supreme place for oil’ (see ‘Why? Because’ in Parshah Pearls).

Moreover, the miracle ocurred with the Menorah, which represents Chochmas ha’Torah, too. For it is in connection with the Menorah that Chazal declared ‘Who wishes to be wise should turn to the south’ Because it was on the south-side of the Heichal that the Menorah stood. This can be understood by bearing in mind the connection between light and Chochmah (did Chazal not say that the original light of the creation was not for the use of the Resha’im, so Hashem hid it – according to the commentaries, in the Torah? Note also, the juxtaposition of the B’rachah of Torah to that of light, before the Shema at Shachris). And the south represents Chochmah, because, due to the fact that the sun shines there all year round, it is the brightest of all the directions.

Incidentally, the original light shone for thirty-six hours, say Chazal, before it was hidden, and correspondingly, we kindle thirty-six lights on Chanukah.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

*

What’s more, the Rokei’ach adds, the dual expressions “le’ha’alos Ner Tamid” (singular) and “ya’aroch es ha’Neiros” (plural) hint at the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Ner Chanukah, one light on the first night, and a number of lights on the subsequent nights. In addition, says the Rokei’ach, the numerical value of “kosis la’ma’or” is equivalent to that of ‘Zera” (children), a hint to what Chazal say in Shabbos (23b) ‘Someone who observes the Mitzvah of ‘Lights’ meticulously, will merit children who are Talmidei-Chachamim’, and which many commentaries ascribe to Chanukah-lights Rabbi FIshel Todd.

He also extrapolates from the fact that Chanukah comes immediately after Sukos, that it had to be eight days, and helps to answer the Beis Yosef’s Kashya, why Chazal fixed eight days and not seven, seeing as the jar contained sufficient oil for one day, and the miracle therefore, lasted only seven.

Finally the first letters of the words “Zayis Zoch Kosis La’mo’or, Le’ha’alos”, the Rokei’ach points out, are equivalent to that of ‘be’Hallel ve’Hodo’oh’, the very words used by the Gemara in Shabbos, in describing the essence of Chanukah.

*

The very fact that the Torah chooses to hint at Chanukah using the medium of oil with connotations of wisdom, provides us with an insight into the deeper meaning of Chanukah. For the battle with the Greeks may have ended on the battlefield, but it began and, for the major part was fought, as a battle of cultures, of truth against falsehood, and of G-dliness against secularism. And this is indeed hinted in ‘Al ha’Nisim’, where we say – ‘You delivered strong men into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few, impure into the hands of the pure, wicked into the hands of righteous and slanderers into the hands of those who study Your Torah’.

*

This idea runs parallel with the inherently spiritual nature of Chanukah at all levels, which contrasts so greatly with the physical nature of Purim. This in itself, is well-known. It is however, worth adding that in this context, the word ‘shemen’ (oil) also contains the main root-letters of Neshamah. For you see, just as the seat of desire is the heart, so too, is the seat of wisdom in the brain, which is also the part of the body that one associates with the Neshamah.

***

Parshah Pearls
Mikeitz

(Adapted from the Ba’al ha’Turim)

The Seven Cows

Paroh dreamt about cows, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, because Yirmiyah described Egypt as “Eglah Yefefiyah” (a beautiful calf [46:20]).

And why seven?

Well, he says, the Pasuk in No’ach (10:13/14) lists Mitzrayim’s six sons: Ludim, Lehovim, Naftuchim, Pasrusim, Kasluchim and Kaforim – plus Mitzrayim itself, makes seven.

And also because of the seven nations of Cana’an, which were sustained by the Egyptians during the time of the famine.

*

Rabbi Fishel Todd

All on One Stem

” … and behold, seven ears came up on one stem (be’koneh echod)” (41:5).

The words “be’koneh echod” appear three times in the Chumash, twice here (in connection with the good years), and once in Vayakhel (37:19), because the good years are like light to the world. And Par’oh saw the ears of corn on one stalk, only by the good years but not by the bad ones. It hints to the fact that, unlike the bad years, which got progressively worse, the good years were all equal in their goodness.

*

It’s In the Hands of the Interpreter

“Ka’asher posar lonu kein hoyoh (just like he interpreted them, so it was)” 41:13.

Our sages have taught us that dreams follow their interpretation. In that case, the Ba’al ha’Turim’s comment, that the words “ka’asher posar” has the same numerical value as ‘she’chalomos holchim achar ha’peh’ should hardly come as a surprise.

*

The Reward of Nice Words

” … ve’al picho yishak kol ami (and all my people will be sustained by your word)” (41:40).

The word “yishak” appears also in Mishlei (24:26) “Sefosayim yishak meishiv devorim nichochim (lips will kiss the one who responds with correct speech” (even though the meaning of the word is quite different in both cases).

This teaches us, says the Ba’al ha’Turim, that Yosef merited to sustain the entire Egyptian nation because he responded correctly to Paroh.

Bearing in mind that he was exiled for improper speech, we see both from here and from other instances throughout the current Parshiyos, how Yosef had rectified his original mistake.

*

Believe It or Not

“va’Yikro Paroh shem Yosef Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach” (41:45).

“Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach” means ‘the revealer of hidden things’, as Rashi explains, and what’s more, it has the same numerical value as Megaleh Nistorim, which also happens to mean ‘the revealer of hidden things’ (Ba’al ha’Turim).

*

And Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach, he says, also forms the first letters of ‘Tzadik Pitpet Nefesh So’eivah, Potifar Inah Nafsho Chinam’ (a Tzadik fought a desirous soul, Potifar afflicted his soul, for no reason), as well as ‘Tzofeh, Fodeh, Navi, Somech, Poser, Anav, Navon, Chozeh’ (One with foresight, redeemer, prophet, supporter, interpreter, humble, wise and seer).

*

Beyond Recognition

” … ve’heim lo hikiruhu (but they did not recognize him)” 42:8.

And the same word is used in connection with Iyov (2:12) “me’rochok ve’ lo hikiruhu (from afar they could not recognize him)”, only the former is missing a ‘Yud’, whereas the latter is not.

Just as Iyov’s friends could not recognize him because he had changed so drastically on account of his suffering, so too, could Yosef’s brothers not recognize him because of his change from a slave to a great prince.

The difference between them was that, when Iyov’s friends came closer, they recognized him, whereas Yosef’s brothers did not.

Why is that? Because Iyov’s friends knew the identity of the person they were visiting, but Yosef’s brothers did not.

*

Missing One

“We are all sons of one man” (42:11).

The word for ‘We’ ought to have been “Anachnu”. Yet here the Torah misses out an ‘Alef’, and writes “Nachnu”. The brothers were referring to themselves, and indeed, says the Ba’al ha’Turim, bearing in mind that ‘Alef’ is equivalent to one, there was literally one missing – Yosef.

Or perhaps, without realizing what they were saying, they were hinting that all those present (Yosef included) were sons of one father, and the missing one was – Binyamin (absent because his father had not sent him with his brothers).

*

Three for Three

“And he placed them under arrest for three days” (42:17).

The three days, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, corresponded to the three things that his brothers did to him: 1. They stripped him of his shirt; 2. They cast him into a pit: 3. They sold him into slavery.

*

Kill My Two Sons

” You may kill my two sons (es Sh’nei bonai tomis), if I don’t bring him back to you” (42:37).

This was Reuven’s strange guarantee to his father that if he would entrust Binyamin to him, he would return him safe and sound.

The word tomis appears in one other place (Iyov 5:2) “u’Foseh tomis kin’oh (for jealousy kills the fool)”, which the Medrash connects with the congregation of Korach, who were jealous of Moshe. The Masores here, hints at Dasan and Aviram, who were descendants of Reuven. They were the two sons who would die by the pronouncement of their own grandfather Reuven.

And that will also explain why the numerical value of “es sh’nei” is equivalent to ‘Eilu Dasan va’Aviram” (if one spells ‘Eilu’ with a ‘Yud’).

*

Six for Six

“And bring the man a gift; a little balsam, a little honey, some gum, resin, pistachio nuts and almonds” (43:11).

Six different kinds, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, for each of the sons of Leah (one of the main wives) to carry one species as a gift for Par’oh. For obvious reasons, Rachel’s children were out of the picture.

***

ALL ABOUT CHANUKAH
(Adapted from the Ta’amei ha’Minhagim)

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Ups and Downs

It is customary to play Dreidel on Chanukah, whereas on Purim, there is a Minhag to wield a gregor.

The fact that the Dreidel is spun from the top and the gregor is rattled from the bottom symbolises one of the most fundamental differences between the two festivals.

Purim, as is well-known, followed a tremendous turnabout on the part of the people. As the Megilah itself informs us, the entire nation fasted for three days and wore sackcloth and ashes. This is known as ‘Ita’arusa di’Letata’ (an awakening from below), and that is why we hold a gregor from below and rattle it.

Chanukah on the other hand, was not the result of any such effort on the part of Yisrael as a whole (although one cannot deny the Chashmona’im’s self-sacrifice, which certainly contained great merit, but they were a minority group). In that case, the miracle of Chanukah was an ‘Ita’arusa di’le’Eila’ (an awakening from Above instigated by G-d in his Mercy), and explains why we spin the Dreidel from the top.

*

And this idea also explains a change in text from Chanukah to Purim. On Chanukah, we say in ‘Al ha’Nisim’, ‘You quarreled on their behalf, You judged their judgements and You avenged them’. Whereas on Purim, we say ‘who quarrels our quarrels, judges our judgements and avenges our vengeance’.

This is because on Purim the miracle was the result of Yisrael’s Tefilah and fasting, so it is appropriate to use the first person plural, since Yisrael were personally involved. On Chanukah on the other hand, where Yisrael did not play a major role in the miracle, they are mentioned only in the third person.

*

Pure Beginnings

Another reason for the eight days of Chanukah (see ‘Why? Because’, down the page) is given by the Beis Yosef. The people, he explains, were all Tamei meis, in which case they required seven days to become tahor, and one more day in order to produce the oil.

*

Lighting in Shul

The reason that Chazal instituted lighting the Menorah in Shul as well as at home, says the Levush, is because of guests from out of town, who do not have their own home (and the Mitzvah of Chanukah-Lights is ‘Ish Ner u’Beiso’). It is similar to the Takanah of reciting Kidush in Shul, which they instituted for the same reason.

Another reason is based on the Kolbo, who explains that Kidush is recited in Shul so that people who are not conversant with Kidush (at least that’s how it was before the advent of the Sidur) should take their cue from the Chazen in Shul. And it is for that very reason that they instituted Hadlakas Ner Chanukah in Shul.

Yet another reason for lighting in Shul is given by the Rosh. After all, he explains, the Mitzvah is to commemorate the kindling of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, the location where it was originally lit. So we light it in Shul, which Chazal refer to as a Mikdash me’at (a minor Mikdash).

And based on the same principle, the Seifer Orchos Chayim explains why many communities light in Shul in the morning as well (even though the time to light Chanukah lights is at night-time). It is to accommodate the opinion of the Rambam, he says, in whose opinion, the Mitzvah of preparing the Menorah each morning (‘Hatovas Neiros’) incorporated kindling the lights again. Consequently, since our kindling commemorates the kindling of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, it is appropriate to commemorate the Mitzvah fully and light them twice, like they did there.

And a final reason for lighting in Shul, again by the Levush, is based on the principle of ‘Pirsumei Nisa’ (the Mitzvah of publicizing the miracle). ‘Because’, he says, ‘reciting the B’rachos communally involves a great publicizing of Hashem Yisbarach, and a sanctification of His Name’, which after all, is the essence of the Mitzvah.

Why? … Because!

Setting the more profound reasons aside, the Avudraham quoting the Yerushalmi, explains that Chanukah had to last for eight days, since the oil had to come from the north of Eretz Yisrael, from a location four days’ journey from Yerushalayim. To be precise, that location was Tako’a, in the territory of Asher, which was known to produce the best oil-growing olives in the country (as indeed the Torah specifically writes in ve’Zos-ha’B’rachah 33:24)

Four days there and four days back make a total of – eight.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulchan Aruch Project

Pearls Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Avigdor teaches us that if immorality is uncontrollable, how can we blame society for its descent into wickedness? The fact is that up till recently, and even today, most people are controlling it. The fact is that what’s depicted in the newspapers and in the other media is not a picture of life; it’s a perverted and crippled picture of what’s in the minds of the writers. Actually, many people are living normally; as you walk down blocks and blocks of Irish houses and Italian houses, they’re living more or less normally. They’re living married lives, and they are controlling themselves; otherwise there’d be mayhem, there’d be murder on all sides. Human beings are controlling themselves. Does it mean every Irish man is perfectly perfect all his life? This I wouldn’t say. But in general people are controlling themselves because that is the only way for civilized people to live. And therefore, we can’t say that the world has lost its control. Rabbi Fishel Todd says of course the liberals are doing their best to break down everything. But despite them, human nature abhors disorder; human nature likes a certain amount of decency, and therefore it will continue no matter what they do. Of course we have to try to stop the torrent of wickedness; we have to attempt to abolish pornography and so on, but that doesn’t mean that we’re losing the fight. We’ll never lose that fight; it’s inherent in human nature. There’s no society that ever abolished morality entirely; impossible. The Roman society, even the Greek society, even though they had certain perversions, but they had certain principles; you have to know a society that’s going to break down all the restrictions is going to decay and fall apart. And if America won’t stop this headlong flight into perversion, who knows what’s going to happen. Let’s hope the Italians and the Irish will win out against the Jewish liberals. Jewish liberals are doing the best to ruin America. I say the Jewish liberals – the truth is that the Orthodox Jews should help a little more than they’re doing; the Jewish Orthodox should identify with American scene and they should all join in the fight against pornography, against gays, and against women’s rights which really means immorality; women’s rights mean mixed dormitories in the colleges, mixed barracks in the military. The United States military has already yielded long before the ERA was passed – right now military barracks are mixed. Rabbi Fsshel Todd

And so, it’s up to us to speak up and write letters; we must write to congressmen and protest constantly. And not to vote for liberals! Don’t vote for a liberal! Reagan is running now; it’s an opportunity. He’s a decent man. Of course I’m not going to put an OK on him and say a kosher l’mehadrin min hamehadrin, but as far as goyishe candidates go, everybody should work for Reagan [President Donald J. Trump]. Forget about being a Democrat, forget about your party affiliation, forget about the private deals. Some institutions make private deals with the politicians and they sell their vote or the votes of the Jews; don’t listen to them! Make it your business that the Jewish people should vote for Reagan – he’s more conservative and more decent than the others – because we have to fight for decency. It’s our big job today. Adapted from TAPE # 308 (March 1980) by Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulchan Aruch Project

Parsha Vayishev Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Everything Is Planned Above

These are the generations of Ya’akov Yoseph was seventeen years old. As a lad he would feed the flock with his brothers the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Yoseph brought evil reports [about his brothers] to his father. (BERESHIS 37:2)

A valuable coat was once stolen from the Rebbitzen of the famous author of the Chemdas Shlomo. It was subsequently discovered that the thief was one of the people who received a monthly charitable stipend from the Rabbi. Later, the stolen coat was returned by a merchant who admitted that he had bought it from the thief.

When the matter became known, one of the wealthy people of the town spoke with the Rabbi saying, “You see, you always tell us to contribute to charity, and now we see that one of those people who we give to is none other than a lowly thief.”

The Rabbi sighed deeply, called to his secretary and asked, “Do you know where the thief lives?”

“Of course I do,” answered the secretary.

“Well then,” said the Rabbi, “Do not forget to go out to find him next month so we can give him his monthly stipend from the tzedakah fund, since he will probably be too embarrassed to come on his own.”

Just as the Rabbi suspected, the following month, all the other poor people came to get their stipends, but the thief did not show up. The Rabbi reminded his secretary to go call the thief, and promise him that nothing would happen to him if he appeared before the Rabbi. The secretary gave over the message. The thief came, because the Rabbi was known as a tzaddik who would keep his word.

When the thief arrived, the Rabbi said to him, “How could you have transgressed an explicit prohibition of the Torah? I know that you did it because you were in dire need, but still, how could you have committed such a sin? It would have been much better if you had come to me and told me of your plight, rather than committing this sin. I want you to promise me that you will never again do such a thing.”

Rabbi Fishel Todd

After the poor man promised, the Rabbi gave him his regular monthly stipend, and added a bonus to it. (K’TZESHA-SHEMESHBI-GVURASO, p. 154)

The Rabbi viewed the theft as a test designed to determine whether he would become angry, or would recognize that the poor man was in dire straits. Similarly in marriage, many difficult instances arise that are trials for us, to see if we can control our behavior with our spouses.

“These are the generations of Ya’akov, Yoseph.” These generations were born only in the merit of Yoseph. Because of Yoseph, Ya’akov went to Lavan, to marry Rachel. These events were all in anticipation of Yoseph, as it is written, aAnd it was when Rachel gave birth to Yoseph.”2

Who brought Ya’akov down to Egypt? Yoseph. Who sustained them in Egypt? Yoseph. The sea split only in the merit of Yoseph, as it is written, “The waters saw You and they shuddered; You redeemed with Your powerful arm Your nation, the sons of Ya’akov and Yoseph.” 3 Even the Jordan River was split only because of Yoseph.

(YALKUT 140 par. Kesiv)

The midrash is telling us that when the Torah says, “These are the generations of Ya’akov, Yoseph,” 4 the idea is that Yoseph was the reason behind everything that happened to Ya’akov. How is it possible that the most important things that happened in Ya’akov’s life only came to be because of his son? What does it mean that these events were all in anticipation of Yoseph? What do the splitting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River have to do with Yoseph, who had died a long time before either event occurred?

A Jew must understand that he is a link in a chain of generations that began long before his birth and that will go on long after his death. It is very important for him to do the right things, since otherwise he is not only harming himself, but also causing a break in the chain.

Ya’akov realized that everything in his life was part of a chain that had a clear connection with his son Yoseph. This did not minimize his own tasks in life in any way, since if he had failed to perform his own special tasks there would not have been a continuation through to Yoseph. This was not just an incidental connection; rather it was very clear that everything in Ya’akov’s life was intimately tied to the next link in the chain, which was Yoseph.

Our Sages say that the events were put in place in anticipation of Yoseph. This means that everything in Ya’akov’s life was set up by G-d, but the only person who could make these acts ultimately meaningful was Yoseph. From this we learn, that it is not the events of a single lifetime that are of ultimate importance, but rather a Divine plan controls all events throughout the generations.

A person’s life is not in his own hands, rather it is planned down to the most minute detail by G-d. A person thinks that he, alone, is deciding where to work, or where to travel, but in reality all these thoughts and opportunities are implanted in his mind by G-d. That is what our Sages mean when they say, “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for fear of Heaven.”5 G-d plans all the things that happen to you in your life, except for the choices you make between doing good and evil. Only these decisions are a product of your own free choice.

Who sustained the whole Jewish nation in Egypt? Yoseph. The splitting of the Red Sea was associated with Yoseph, even though he had died a long time earlier. The remains of Yoseph were with the Jewish people when they needed to cross through the Red Sea, and it was the merit of Yoseph that allowed the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea to occur. The tremendous piety he exhibited when he was alone with Potiphar’s wife, caused such a stir in Heaven, that this merit had the power, generations later, to split the sea. We can learn from here what great power good deeds can yield. Even though Yoseph had died many years earlier, his merit still brought about the redemption of the Jewish people by enabling them to pass through the sea. We should never underestimate our actions, as they can have effects for generations to come.

In the midrash, our Sages say that even the miracle of crossing the Jordan River when the Jewish nation entered the land of Israel, was in of Yoseph’s merit. This is not very well-known information. When Israel passed through the Red Sea the verse says, “And Moshe took the bones of Yoseph with him.”6 But there is no mention of Yoseph in the account of Israel crossing the Jordan River.7 Our Sages however, understood that his merit was the reason for that miracle.

Our Spouses Bring Us Spiritual Tests

Just as Yoseph was linked to all the things that happened to Ya’akov during his lifetime, so too, many things that happen during our lifetimes come about through our relationship with our spouses. We are constantly brought into all sorts of situations that are designed especially for us, to see if we will respect our spouses and treat them with honor. Many such situations are tremendous tests for us, since it is quite easy to criticize or become angry at one’s spouse. Therefore, the trial is much greater than we can imagine and the reward for controlling ourselves is equally great Rabbi Fishel Todd.

The next time your wife is late or dinner is not ready, reflect upon the idea that the whole reason this happened is because Heaven is waiting to see what your reaction will be. The next time your husband is not paying attention to what you are saying, consider that perhaps it is because G-d wants to see if you can control your temper and not become angry. Everything that occurs in life, especially between spouses, happens because G-d wants to give us an opportunity to prove ourselves in order that He can reward us when we succeed. Of course, He will have to punish us if we choose to behave inappropriately.

The trials that confront us at home are much more subtle than trials that we face outside the home. At home, a person feels that he has the right to act any way he wishes. We feel we have the right to be angry at our spouse, since this is not a stranger to whom we must behave courteously. But this erroneous way of thinking stems from the yetzer hara which is constantly trying to trick us. In reality, being at home with our spouses actually requires that we retain at least the same spiritual standards that we strive for when we are away from home. Behaving properly with our spouses is a tremendous responsibility, and we must take it seriously.

A wife’s tears are taken very seriously in G-d’s eyes, and it is a terrible sin to cause one’s wife aggravation. If we realize that all difficulties which we face in life, whether inside the home or out, are trials that were intentionally placed before us by Divne plan, we will be more able to respond correctly. This decision to act properly is what G-d anticipates from us.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

http://shulchanaruchproject.com

1. Bereshis 37:2
2. Bereshis 30:25
3. Tehillim 77:17,16
4. Bereshis 37:2
5. Bereshis 13:19
6. Shemos 13:19
7. Yehoshua Ch 4

Parsha Vashilach Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulchan Aruch Project

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Did Rashi rely only on Onkelos’ translation?

 

nis’ah venelechah (Gen. 33:12) This phrase means either ‘we will travel and we will proceed’ or ‘Travel! and we will proceed.’ The problem is that the Nun of nis’ah may be a prefix (as the Nun of venelechah certainly is and means ‘we will’) or it may be part of the root of nis’ah (in which case the verb is an imperative, Travel!). R’ A. ibn Ezra and R’ D. Kimche mention both possibilities. R’ Levi ben Gershon seems to opt for ‘we will.’ Rashi however writes nis’ah like shim’ah tefilati (Psalms 102:2) ‘Listen to my prayer,’ shilchah hanaar (Gen. 43:8) ‘Send the lad’ which is like shema, shelach, so too here nis’ah is like nesa and the Nun of nis’ah is part of the root and the translation (quoting Onkelos) is ‘Travel! and we will proceed’ Esav said to Yaakov: Travel from here! and we will proceed.

At first sight it is attractive to read the two Nuns as parallel, both to be read as future first person plural ‘we will.’ Of the classical commentators who deal with the phrase, one prefers this interpretation, while two others give both meanings equal weight. Why does Rashi give preference to the other possibility?

R’ E. Mizrachi (15th-16th cent.), Mira Dachya (discussion of grammar in Rashi, 18th cent.), Meirat Einayim (quoted by R’ Chavel), and Leshon Chayim (discussion of grammar in Rashi, Jerusalem, 1970), each in his own style, argue that it is because there is no Dagesh in the Samech of nis’ah. They state that if the Nun were a prefix, the Nun of the root would be missing, and there would need to be a Dagesh in the Samech of nis’ah.

However, R’ M. Yaffe (16th-17th cent.) in Levush Ha’Orah, answers R’ E. Mizrachi by pointing out that we never find a Dagesh in the Samech of vayisa when the Samech has a Sheva (i.e. vayis’u). It would seem that the later authors who took the same view as R’ E. Mizrachi overlooked this point in the Levush. Thus the original question stands. Why does Rashi give preference to the possibility that nis’ah means ‘Travel!’? My original answer was that Rashi followed Onkelos. However that only pushes the question back to Onkelos. ‘Why does Onkelos give preference to the possibility that nis’ah means ‘Travel!’?’ The answer in the Levush is based on the text itself. The word ‘travel’ is relevant to Yaakov who was on his way from one place to another. But for Esav who had only come to welcome Yaakov and was returning home, the word ‘travel’ was not appropriate. Therefore Onkelos and Rashi prefer the option by which the word nis’ah is in the singular and refers only to Yaakov – ‘Travel!’

R’ Chanoch Oppenheim wrote ‘It bothered me that the word Raban that was only used for a few generations and only in reference to the Nassi, should be used as the shoresh [of rabbanim]. By the time of Rebbi, the Nassi was no longer given this title. Therefore, why should such a limited word be used for the plural of “Rav?” An ‘adam chashuv’ suggested that the meaning of “Raban” means “our teacher.” If the plural would’ve been “Rabim” it would simply mean Rabbis. Perhaps chazal were stressing the idea that these are not simply a group of learned scholars, rather they are our teachers. It is with this perspective that chazal desired that we view our Rabanim’.

Further to last week’s discussion of vayifga bamakom, R’ M. Eisemann of Kiryat Sefer wrote: Regarding R’ A. ibn Ezra’s comment there that nowhere in the Tenach does makom mean Omnipresent, he refers to ‘Derech Hachaim’ in the verse ki kol shulchanot male’u ki tzoah beli makom (Isaiah 28:8) which states that although all the commentators on the Tenach explain the verse as did R’ A. ibn Ezra, nevertheless elsewhere there are many who explained makom as meaning the Holy One Blessed be He. The verse is quoted in Pirkei Avot (3:4) and there it is explained as Omnipresent by Bartenura, Rashi (in the Gemara), Tiferet Yisrael, Derech Hachaim (Maharal Mi-Prague), and R’ Yona (partly).

R’ Eisemann makes a further point. All editions of Rashi on the Torah refer to the verse al tifga bi (Jer. 7:16). However in Chulin (91b) Rashi refers to a totally different verse al tifge’i bi (Ruth 1:15). The word bi refers to the speaker, Ruth herself, and thus there is no reason to regard the parallel word bamakom to be a reference to God. Thus there is good reason to regard vayifga as meaning ‘prayer’ and leave bamakom with its plain meaning ‘at the place.’

Further to the meaning of Vav HaHipuch R’ Eisemann sent me ‘an excerpt from HaRechasim LeVik’ah by R’ Yehudah Leib Shapira, a very reliable book, first published in Altona 1815.’ This passage criticizes a translator who left out the ‘and’ aspect of Vav HaHipuch and translated them as though they were the beginning of the passage. Thus for Vayomer peloni or for vayelech peloni he wrote ‘So and so said’ or ‘So and so went’ and this damages the meaning and the language. For most of these Vavs connect the current item to the item before it as is well known (Vayera 18).

“Hatzileni Na Miyad Achi Miyad Eisav” “Save me please from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav (Eisau)”

Yaakov (Jacob) stood in mortal danger. His evil brother Eisav, jealous over the blessing Yaakov had received from their father, was preparing to attack him. Yaakov prayed to Hashem that he should be delivered from Eisav’s hands.

In actuality, Yaakov faced a two-fold peril. On one hand, Eisav posed a serious physical threat. On the other hand, peace with Eisav could jeopardize Yaakov and his family in the spiritual sense. Fraternizing with the wicked Eisav would leave them open to be influenced by his morally decadent ways.

Yaakov therefore prayed to be spared from both dangers. “Save me please from the hand of my brother”, alludes to Yaakov’s wish that he be protected from the negative influence of Eisav in the event that he makes overtures of brotherly love. “From the hand of Eisav” refers to his request that he be spared from a man whose name has become synonymous with physical threat – Eisav.

 

PARSHAT VAYEITZEI 5773 Rabbi Fishel Todd

PARSHAT VAYEITZEI 5773: D’VAR TORAH

Rabbi FIshel Todd

Parashat Vayeitzei appears to be the first in the middle of the three parshiot that focus on Yaakov Avinu – the Patriarch Jacob. The first – Toldot – sets the scene and escalates the tension between Jacob and Esau. Firstly over the birthright, and secondly, with the blessing. Jacob has to leave home and the Holy Land in a hurry, to the hospitality of Laban some eight hundred kilometers to the north. The second parasha – this week’s – is the bridging ‘roller coaster’. G-d promises him His protection wherever he goes. But he still has to endure falling in love with Rachel and his uncle holding her back, ‘excusing himself’ with local custom. And his success as a cattle breeder arouses Laban’s family’s jealousy to the degree that he has to leave – again in a hurry – with an enraged Laban in hot pursuit. And the greatest tension of all in the next parasha – Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men, which eventually gives way to Jacob’s homecoming and (finally, albeit temporarily), literally ‘Jacob living in quietude and at ease, with none to make him afraid’ (c.f. Jer. 46:27).

In short, this week’s Parasha is one of temporary – though spectacular – trials and tribulations, towards a greater goal.

The next three parshiot – are in the same rhythm; and this time the focus is on Joseph and his brothers, Jacob’s sons. The first – Vayeishev – sets the scene and escalates the tension: more than once. With the dreams and Joseph’s narrowly escaping death, and being sold into slavery. And his rising from a humble slave to the position of Potiphar’s manager, getting him the ‘attention’ of Potifphar’s wife, and her allegations of Joseph ‘getting too close’ – following which Joseph finds himself at the bottom of the Egyptian dungeons. The second parasha – Miketz – is again the bridging ‘roller coaster’; his rise to the top of Pharaoh’s court, his brothers having to make ‘over-frequent journeys’ between Canaan and Egypt for ‘high-tension-charged’ reasons – finishing on a note where Benjamin is to be taken into permanent Egyptian slavery. And again – with Judah’s impassioned plea rising to the highest point of the tension opening the following parasha, the truth emerges that ‘Joseph is still alive and he is a ruler in the land of Egypt’ (45:26), and the family is finally re-united and reconciled.

In short, Miketz – the parallel parasha to this week’s – is in the same mold. Like Vayeitzei, it goes through temporary – though spectacular – trials and tribulations, towards a greater goal.

Vayeitzei and Miketz have the distinction of not only being amongst the longest parshiot in the Torah, but have the joint uniqueness of being written in the Sefer Torah without a break – in one continuous prose paragraph. No other parasha in the Torah – however long or short – contains that characteristic. They are all broken up – as Rashi elsewhere (to Lev. 1:10) points out – to allow ‘pause for thinking it over’ between section and section.

Not so with Vayeitzei, not so with Miketz. Despite their great length, there are no pauses to catch breath and ‘think things over’.

This arrangement brings an important message. Many honest people who strive to their great and worthy goals in life find themselves on the seemingly interminable lonely ‘path less trodden’, with tensions, trials, tribulations, and a long series of frustrations. The message is – like this week’s parasha – ‘Don’t pause! Don’t look behind’. Press on, with your compass pointing to those great goals and destinies which will become yours in due course – and only then, on arrival, can you sit and contemplate the long journey, whose ‘trials and tribulations’ will finally make sense as the dots join themselves all together.

‘I will make you My bride forever. I will make you My bride [in reward for] your righteousness, justice, kindness, and compassion. I will make you a bride in reward for your faith. Then you will know G-d.’ (Hosea 2:21-22)

Guided Tour…

The prophet Hosea preached to the Ten Tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II – after whose death came the troubled times leading to their final fall to Assyria in 721 BCE. His Divine revelations focused on their pagan practices, and their infidelity towards G-d and their own traditions. The Talmud (Pesachim 87a) brings a tradition, creating the background to the prophecy. G-d told Hosea that Israel had sinned, to which the prophet replied: “All the world is Yours. If they are untrustworthy, exchange them for another nation.”

G-d replied to him: “Go and marry a prostitute who has conceived children from her prostitution, because the Land strays from G-d.” (1:2). This opening chapter of Hosea relates that he had three children from this marriage, and was instructed by G-d give them names of such a nature that they would reveal G-d’s plans for the wayward northern kingdom. The first was a son – which He ordered to be called ‘Jezreel’, meaning that G-d would gather in the exiled Israelites and ‘plant’ them in their Land. That would, however, be in the distant future only. The second was a daughter called ‘Lo-Ruchamah’ – ‘Object of No Mercy.’ That was near to the present: G-d would no longer show mercy to unrepentant Israelites. And the third – the youngest son – was ordered to be called ‘Lo-Ammi’ – ‘Not My People’. That also concerned the present – a statement that the Israelites had forfeited their right to be the Chosen People.

The Talmud (supra 87b) interjects that at that point G-d commanded Hosea to turn his wife and three children out of his home. Then – only then – did Hosea realize his grave mistake in having made a similar suggestion to the Almighty: “All the world is Yours. If they are untrustworthy, exchange them for another nation.”

This forms the scenery for the Haftara – in which Hosea pleads with G-d to have mercy on the Israelites once more. Understanding the depth of his error in speaking ill of his own people, he gives his own blessing that the Israelites will be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore (2:1). Their grave faults will be put right: Israel, like the straying wife, will be loved once again. The children’s names will change to ‘Ammi’ – ‘My People’, and ‘Ruhama’ – ‘Object of Mercy.’

That, however, is for the future. The message for the immediate present was simple: Hosea tells the children: “Rebuke your mother” to live faithfully (2:4) for if she does not, she and the children themselves will be disowned. She consorts with other men because she sees them as supplying ‘my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ (2:7) She will find that they betray her, leaving her abandoned, vulnerable, and utterly helpless. She will then yearn to return to her first husband, but he will not embrace her. Instead, he ‘will uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers’ (2:11), blighting ‘her vines and fig trees, about which she said “these are my fees which her lovers gave me.”‘ She will lose her joyous festivals, which are G-d’s true festivals, as well as the festivals of the pagan worship of Baal (2:13,15) with which she tried to replace them, leaving her with nothing. For she, and the subject of this object lesson, the Israelites themselves, abused the wealth given to them by their ‘lovers’. Israel abused its G-d given wealth by using silver and gold for Baal-worship (2:10).

This dejection will give way to a new era. The wife in the parable and the Israelites in real life will be ‘charmed’ (2:16) – in the case of the latter, G-d will instill a desire to repent and come close to Him (c.f. Deut. 4:29). They will be taken to the ‘desert’. Most commentaries understand this to mean the long period of exile, but Ibn Ezra suggests that it refers to a period that may well be part of living memory – to the land of Israel, which will have taken on the appearance of a desert. He will give her ‘vineyards and change the Valley of Affliction to the Opening of Hope.’ Significantly, the Targum advocates that these ‘vineyards’ are Israel’s spiritual leaders and the philanthropists: the necessary spiritual and economic elements to restore the people in harmony to the Land.

The Haftara concludes with a promise that Israel will be restored to its innocence. The cruel physical and wicked human forces will cease to trouble her, and she shall be G-d’s chosen in security and at ease. He will restore the His relationship with Israel as in the beginning: ‘I will make you My bride forever. I will make you My bride [in reward for] your righteousness, justice, kindness, and compassion. I will make you a bride in reward for your faith. Then you will know G-d.’ (2:21-22)

D’var Torah

The issue of G-d Who hates promiscuity ordering His prophet Hosea to marry a whore disturbed the commentators. The Rambam (Guide II:46), and Ibn Ezra maintain that he did not actually take a prostitute as a wife, but merely saw himself doing so in a prophetic vision. However, Abarbanel and later the Malbim take the narrative literally – he did form a union with such a woman of low repute, and the opening chapters of Hosea do mean what they say. Indeed, Abarbanel claims that the passages must be read that way in order to understand the true nature of prophecy. He writes:

“Those commentators have no claim in saying that, out of concern for the prophet’s honor, G-d would not have commanded Hosea to marry a harlot… G-d did not select the prophets in order to bestow honor upon them or raise them to the throne! No, he selected them for only one purpose: so that they would serve as His envoys in assisting His chosen people to repent for their sins. He commanded His prophets to do whatever He deemed necessary to reach this goal, regardless of their honor. Sometimes words were not sufficient; sometimes real actions were required to grab the people’s attention. Only in this manner would the prophet’s rebuke penetrate the people’s hearts, since that which a person sees with his eyes affects him for more that which he hears. Therefore, regardless of the fact that the prophet was a holy man, G-d commanded him to marry a harlot in order to illustrate that by worshiping idols, the Israelites had in fact done the same. In truth, it would have been fitting for Hosea to do even stranger things than marry a harlot if this would have helped dissuade the people from idolatry.”

Underlying this explanation is the notion that there are situations where the very mission of great personalities requires them to act in a way not normally associated with their position. Hosea being told to take a whore is one example. The story below – much nearer to our own times, serves to illustrate the same theme: a leader must be prepared to act in an unusual way in order to make the right impact on the community. In this case, the issue was not idolatry, but the importance of never doing good at the expense of others – never being a ‘tzadik’ (righteous person) at someone else’s expense.

Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883) illustrated this above maxim with a personal experience, one of which had to do with Yom Kippur, of which he said:

“It is right and it is good that women go to the synagogue. It is true that the most important day of the year is Yom Kippur and that women should attend the Kol Nidrei (evening) service. But it is wrong that a woman attends that service if she leaves babies and young children at home without proper supervision.”

It once happened that Reb Israel was late for the Kol Nidrei service, so late in fact that members of the synagogue went in search of him. They found him in the home of a poor woman, rocking a baby’s cradle. “What is the matter, Rebbe?” they asked. “I was passing when I heard a baby crying,” Reb Israel replied, “I came in and found the mother had gone to synagogue leaving the tot in the care of the eldest daughter who is six or seven. I quietened the little one, but then the elder one begged me to stay because she was frightened of being all by herself.”

From the pulpit that evening he pointed out that the Mitzvah, the good deed, the mother thought she was doing by attending synagogue was more than negated by the sin she had committed in leaving her young children unattended.

Remember that Rabbi Israel Salanter was one of the greatest and most influential spiritual leaders of his day, indeed, of the entire modern era. He was neither a child minder nor a babysitter – most certainly not on Yom Kippur, when a vast community was waiting for him. He could no doubt have sent for someone to look after the children so that he could hurry along and not keep the congregation waiting.

But Reb Israel had a real message to give: one that was right and fitting for the ‘over-holy’ members of his congregation: never being a ‘tzadik’ at someone else’s expense! And like Hosea, he acted it out to ensure that his message would be remembered and internalized: “Why was the Rabbi late for Kol-Nidrei?” And that was underlined by the people’s having to wait for a long time until the proceedings of the evening began…

Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Parsha Toldot Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd

The phrase morat ruach is commonly translated as bitter distress – from the Hebrew word mar, meaning bitter. Rashi however relates morat ruach to a similar-sounding noun meaning rebellion: Esau’s wives openly practiced idolatry with the rebellious and malicious intent of causing maximum pain to Isaac and Rebecca.

Sforno expresses the parents’ feelings dramatically. With reference to a similar usage in Judges 13:5, he renders their attitude and behavior of morat ruach as “a razor and knife that cut short the spirit in the lives of Isaac and Rebecca”.

But in spite of this, Isaac tried to give the blessing to Esau. He did not, as Sforno emphasizes, recognize Esau’s behavior as intrinsically wicked, nor did he protest against the conduct of the wives. It appears that he suffered in silence, continuing to create space for them within his household in the hope that things might presently work out.

What finally caused Isaac to see things differently? According to Sforno, it was his lack of success in giving the Blessing to Esau. He recognized the Hand of G-d in the success and rightness of Jacob’s deception when he took what was intended for Esau, with the words “Yes, let him (Jacob) remain blessed” (27:26). Isaac read his failure as G-d saying that Jacob was worthy to succeed him and that Esau was unworthy to succeed him.

It appears that Isaac and Rebecca brought up their very different sons by creating the space for them to develop as individuals. Jacob was a person who ‘lived in tents’ – understood by the Rabbis as one who studied, and received the Tradition from his father, and later ‘in the School of Shem and Ever’. His source of instruction was interacting with the worthy fathers of the Tradition. In contrast, Esau was a man ‘who knew hunting, a man of the field’ – Isaac accepted that his education came from the Creation; the outside world was his teacher. He would distill the sacred truths from the experiencing reality – at the cost of many false starts and turns. Both approaches are valid – one suits one type of person and the other suits another. Everyone can potentially become the best possible person within his ability range, but not everyone can be a leader and bearer of a tradition.

The issue is when to stand by and when to intervene. The line between letting the individual learn from his/her mistakes, and what is not to be tolerated can be difficult to draw – all the more so in the days before the Torah was given with its explicit prohibition of marriage to a Canaanite (Deut. 7:3).

 

PARASHAT TOLDOT (HAFTARA) 5772

‘I have been loving you (the Israelites)’ said G-d, ‘ But I hated Esau, and I made his mountains a desolation, and his heritage for the desert serpents.’

‘O Priests! Who scorn my name… you bring abominable bread to my altar! And you bring a blind (defective) animal to my altar… would you bring such a thing as a present to your (Persian) governor?’ (Malachi 1:2-8 – extracts)

Guided Tour…

The prophesies of Malachi conclude the entire order of the Prophets within the Tenach. Who, however, was Malachi? The actual text gives no clue. Even the Talmud is uncertain of his actual identity. Recognizing that this prophesy was a late message- already after the building of the Second Temple – one opinion claims that Malachi was Ezra; another prefers Mordechai, but most hold that Malachi is his proper name, and that he was a prophet in his own right (Megilla 15a).

From his position in the last line of prophets it is reasonable to assume that he was the latest prophet of all, and this is supported by the text. Like Haggai and Zechariah before him, he lived after the Return from Babylon, but unlike them, he was obviously in action after the rebuilding of the Second Temple, as he criticizes the offerings brought there.

The Prophet Malachi urges that Israel cannot achieve its destiny just because of Esau’s downfall. A nation who accepted upon itself to be G-d’s people must deserve its privileged status amongst Mankind. Thus the Prophet severely chastens the Jews for the hypocrisy of those who, encouraged by their self-serving and insincere priests, can turn the service of G-d into what he patently sees as a farce. How dare they offer their old, crippled, and ill animals to G-d, while at the same time retaining the best for themselves? Would they dare give a something defective as a present to their Persian overlords?

Malachi thus exhorts the Jewish Priests to live up to their calling. They must be the teachers and model personalities. They can indeed spiritually raise the standard of the Jewish people if they set the example – a message that applies to all leaders, both religious and temporal.

Given the above, the actual dating of Malachi is difficult: however he must have been active between the period of the second Temple before the Jews put away their foreign wives under Ezra (implied in Mal. 2:11) – which would suggest his time being between 515 and 450 BCE (Rosenberg, S.G.: The Haftara Cycle [2000] p. 20).

D’var Torah

In his opening prophecy, Malachi includes the message that although Esau was Jacob’s brother, G-d loves (the nation of Jacob) and hates Esau. He then proceeds to severely rebuke the very nation that He loves. What has Esau got to do with his rebuke to Jacob?

Rosnenberg (supra) suggests that the connection with Esau refers to the latter’s conduct at very end of the First Temple Period. In the last Babylonian invasion of Judah in 586 BCE, ‘brother’ Edom (identified with Esau in Gen. 36:1) took advantage of Judah’s weaknesses to raid their territory and ravage the countryside. The Book of Isaiah refers to this event with the words: ‘Who is this coming from Edom, in blood-red garments (Isaiah 63:1)’ – indeed, the whole prophesy of Obadiah attacks Esau – very likely for this reason. This cowardly act on the part of a neighboring ‘brother’ rankled with the Jews for hundreds of years. Retribution finally came to ‘Esau’ under the Maccabees when the king, John Hyrcanus conquered Edom in 120 BCE and forcibly converted the population from paganism to Judaism. That ‘victory’ only lasted for a short time: unseemly squabbles between rival Hasmonean families and their supporters for the succession to the throne enabled the son of one such convert (following Josephus) – Herod the Great – to take advantage and, with the backing of Rome, usurp the throne (37 BCE), massacre the Hasmoneans, and firmly lock Judea into the Roman Empire, with all its disastrous consequences.

As Isaac said when he blessed Esau:

‘By the sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve. Yet it will be that when you are aggrieved, you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck.’ (Gen. 27:40)

The Midrash (Gen. Rabba 67:7) understands this verse as follows. If Israel transgresses the Torah and is undeserving of dominion, you will have the right to be aggrieved that he has taken your blessings: then you may cast the (Israelite) yoke from upon your neck.

This principle underlies G-d’s connection between Esau and His severe warnings through Malachi to the descendants of Jacob. He implied that the Jews would only be able to continue to enjoy the His protection and guidance if they behaved as their forefather did. Jacob was a ‘simple man who lived in tents’ (Gen. 25:27) – the word ‘simple’ according to Rashi meaning that he was an honest, straightforward personality. That contrasted with Esau who ‘hunted with his mouth’ (ibid: 28): understood by the same commentator to be someone who makes himself out to exemplify one thing, but in reality exemplifies something very different.

This also links with Malachi’s expression of G-d’s wrath against the Temple offerings. He effectively thundered that they were brought on the cheap – ‘the blind, the lame, the sick’. Even if the origins of such offerings could deceive the people, they could not deceive G-d. G-d knew the difference! And those responsible for allowing such deceptions were in effect going further than Esau. Esau deceived his father as to the nature of his personality (Rashi to ibid: ad loc). The Jews under Malachi attempting to deceive the Creator Himself!

That was the nature of the rebuke – effectively saying that such deceit would be preparing the ground for another rise of Esau’s descendants. If the Israelites behaved as Esau exemplified, Edom would be justified in thinking that the Jews were not worthy of being G-d’s chosen people, and He would support them accordingly.

As a message – without the Temple, prayer replaces offerings (c.f. Hosea 12:3). A Jew should aim to pray in such a way that he is making worthwhile, positive contact with G-d – ‘a valid unblemished high-quality offering’. The author was privileged to watch a certain leading Torah personality pray the Mincha silent prayer. He uttered no sound, yet one could feel the deep sincerity words of his words connecting with Heaven. No physical exercises, agonizing facial distortions, or taking a conspicuously long time to complete the prayer, but a meaningful, honest, communication with G-d and putting his praises, needs, and gratitude before Him.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

http://shulchanaruchproject.com