Parsha Bo Rabbi Fishel Todd

PARASHAT BO
Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28

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Rabbi Fishel Todd

RABBIS’ MESSAGES

“Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Come to Pharaoh.’” (Shemot 10:1)

In Egypt, we became a great nation, united to receive the Torah. At the time, it only looked bad. We need to know how to think more deeply and see the wisdom and hesed of Hashem. The following story, told by Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger, teaches us how to think.

The Skulener Rebbe’s oldest son, Rav Yeshaya Yaakov Portugal, Rav of Khal Meor Hagolah in Montreal, told the following story about an acquaintance of his, R’ Boruch. A large crystal chandelier in R’ Boruch’s home became dislodged and crashed onto the dining room table. Hearing a loud bang, R’ Boruch’s parents, who were in an adjacent room, ran to see what had happened. They were shocked to discover that the chandelier had landed on their infant grandchild, who was lying in an infant seat on the table. With great trepidation, they moved aside the fallen debris in a bid to get to the baby. They discovered that miraculously, despite the force of the fall and the shards of glass strewn all around, the baby was unharmed, without a scratch. The joy of the elated grandparents knew no bounds. They hugged and kissed the baby and ran to inform R’ Boruch of the miracle. The family later made a seudat hoda’ah (a meal of thanks) to express their gratitude to Hashem for what occurred Rabbi Fishel Todd.

In commenting on this incident, Rav Portugal remarked, “Look at the kindness of Hashem. For whatever reason, Heaven had decreed that R’ Boruch’s expensive crystal chandelier had to break, but this monetary loss would have caused great heartache to R’ Borcuh and his family. Thus, it was orchestrated for their infant baby to be on the table underneath the chandelier at that very moment and for the baby to emerge untouched, safe and sound. In this fashion, not only would R’ Boruch and his family not be distressed over their loss, but they would be full of happiness and would actually make a seudah in celebration.” It’s how we interpret the things that happen to us that makes all the difference. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Fishel Todd

“And the blood shall serve as a sign on the houses in which you are.” (Shemot 12:13)

This verse refers to the smearing of the blood from the Korban Pesah on the doorway of each Jewish home. Rashi explains that this sign shall be for you and not for others. Hence we may derive that the blood was smeared on the inside of the doorway. An important lesson may be learned here. Often we attempt to help others in the fulfillment of Torah and misvot, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. This may sometimes be at the expense of our own families. We are ready to sacrifice our time and energy for others, but are we finding time for our own personal study and self-development? The Torah enjoins us to establish in our homes Torah sessions for ourselves. We must be aware of our responsibilities to our own children, to guide and encourage them ourselves, not by proxy through tutors. We are obliged to do for ourselves and for our families that which we so readily do for others. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Rabbi Fishel Todd

* * * * *

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

“Hashem granted the people favor in the eyes of Egypt” (Shemot 11:3) In the midst of the Egyptian exile of slavery, we find an unusual phenomenon. The Torah relates that, during the plagues, the Israelites were loved by the Egyptians. One would have expected the Egyptians to hate the Jews, blaming them for the suffering of the plagues. But, the Torah tells us that this was not the case. The population bore no grudge. The Egyptians said that the Jews had been righteous while they, the Egyptians, were the wicked ones.

Even more interesting is the fact that before the plagues began, the Jews tried to get close and friendly with the Egyptians. They picked up the Egyptian customs and gave great honor to the Egyptians. This didn’t help a bit; the Egyptians turned around and degraded the Jews and enslaved them.

The Ramban in Beresheet (37:16) says that the decrees of Hashem are true and will be born out, and man’s effort, at times, is futile. This means that when the Jews follow the decrees of Hashem all will turn out for the best. If, however, man decides instead to use his logic, he will not succeed. The experience of the Israelites confirms this rule. When they followed their own strategy it backfired. However, later on, when the Israelites followed Hashem’s will as told to them by Moshe, suddenly the Egyptians fell in love with the Jews.

This is a great lesson for us today. The more we become Jewish, the more the gentiles will love the Jews. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi FIshel Todd

IN CONTROL
– Rabbi Fishel Todd

“All of your servants will come down to me…and he left Pharaoh’s presence in anger” (Shemot 11:8)

When Moshe was telling Pharaoh about the last plague, which was the death of every first born, he said to Pharaoh, “Your servants will come to me to ask me to leave, and that’s when I will leave Egypt.” Moshe didn’t say to Pharaoh, “You will come to me to ask me to leave,” even though that’s what really happened, because he didn’t want to show dishonor to the king of Egypt. This is truly amazing, because right at the end of this verse it says that Moshe stormed out of the palace in anger for the way Pharaoh had spoken to him. If someone is angry, does he still have the presence of mind to show honor and to speak in a certain way? This should reinforce to us the greatness of our leaders, such as Moshe Rabenu. Although he got angry at Pharaoh, he was in complete control of himself, down to the exact words with which he should speak to the king. Everything Moshe did was exactly measured in order to be able to do the will of Hashem.

Indeed, many of our great Sages followed in Moshe’s footsteps in this respect. There was a great Rabbi of the previous generation who once got angry at what his son had done, but waited two weeks, until he was totally in control of his emotions, before rebuking him! On the one hand, we can’t help but be in awe of such self-discipline, but on the other hand, we have to learn from them how to behave in such situations. How often do we fly off the handle just because we’re upset? Even in anger or frustration we must learn to stay in control and use the right words and the right tone of voice. We will be the real beneficiaries of such self-control. Shabbat Shalom.

COME WITH ME Rabbi Fishel Todd

“And also our cattle will go with us; not a hoof will be left behind, for from it we must take to serve G-d” (Shemot 10:26)

Why does it say, “our cattle will go” instead of “we will take”? When the prophet Eliyahu debated the false prophets of Ba’al, he challenged them to a test: He and they would separately bring sacrifices, and the G-d that accepted the offering would be recognized by all as the true G-d. The oxen were willing to be Eliyahu’s sacrifice but refused to be used by the false prophets of Ba’al. Eliyahu whispered to an ox that he should agree to be used by the false prophets, because the failure of their efforts would prove the falsehood of Ba’al worship, and through the ox there would be a great Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name). Moshe told Pharaoh, “Even if we should agree to let our cattle remain in Egypt, it will be to no avail. For even if we do not take them, our cattle will go with us of their own volition, due to their deep desire to be used as sacrifices for Hashem.” (Vedibarta Bam)

PRIVATE

“And the blood shall serve as a sign on the houses in which you are” (Shemot 12:13)

Rashi explains that this sign shall be for you and not for others. Hence we may derive that the blood was smeared on the inside of the house.

The principal reason for smearing the blood on the inside of the threshold was for the Jew to comprehend the importance of self-sacrifice in the privacy of his home. He must concentrate on the inner dimensions of his personality. The essence of the Jewish act is not the one performed on the public stage, but the one performed on the inner stage, when the audience is only Hashem. The only audience to which a Jew should attach significance is the audience of Hashem. Inner heroism and self-sacrifice is the hallmark of a Ben Yisrael.

Another lesson may be learned here. Often we will attempt to help others in the fulfillment of Torah and Misvot, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. This may be at the expense and the neglect of our own families. We will sacrifice our time and energy for others, but will we find time for our personal study and self-development? The Torah enjoins us to establish in our homes Torah sessions for ourselves. We must be aware of our responsibilities to our own children, to guide and encourage them ourselves, not by proxy through tutors. We are obliged to do for ourselves and our families that which we so readily do for others. (Peninim on the Torah)

Rabbi Fishel Todd

THE HAFTARAH CONNECTION

This week’s Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28.

In this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu is sent by Hashem to tell Nebuchadnessar, king of Babylon, to attack Egypt. He then describes the complete devastation of Egypt, similar to the theme of this week’s perashah.

The haftarah ends with Hashem’s assurance that he will save Israel from all their enemies, and although he will punish Israel with justice, he will never wipe them out.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

“And each man should borrow from his [Egyptian] neighbor, silver and gold vessels” (Shemot 11:2)

As we read about the final stages of the Exodus from Egypt, Hashem takes care of a promise He made to Abraham Abinu. Hashem promised that when they leave Egypt, they would go with great wealth. In Perashat Shemot (3:22) Hashem predicts to Moshe that the Jewish people will “borrow” from the Egyptians great wealth. In our perashah, Hashem requests of Moshe to actually tell the Jews to borrow from the Egyptians great wealth of gold and silver. This seems a little strange. If Hashem wants to give the Egyptian wealth to the Jews, couldn’t Hashem find a way that would not leave the Jews beholden to the Egyptians? Rabbi M. Shlov explained in a humorous vein that human nature is such that a person who owes something to someone else is careful to avoid his creditor. Therefore to ensure that the Jews will never return to Egypt, he instructed them to borrow valuable items from them.

If one would analyze the verse in Shemot (3:22) that first mentions this concept of borrowing the wealth, we might notice that the wording is a bit difficult. It says, “They would borrow gold and silver and clothing to put onto their sons and daughters.” Why doesn’t it simply state that they should “dress their children” instead of the more awkward phrase “to put onto their sons and daughters?”

The Pardes Yosef explains that, as we know, the Jews in Egypt retained their own style of dress. They could not possibly just take the Egyptian clothing and dress their own children in them. They had to first alter them and adapt them to their own modest style. These alterations would make the clothing much smaller than their original size, just fit to be “put onto their children.”

This is a profound lesson for us. If the Jews, who were subject to intense persecutions, did not give in to the immodest dress styles of the Egyptian society, why should we? May the merit of reclaiming our heritage of modesty bring about the speedy end of our current exile. Shabbat Shalom.

REMINDERS
by Rabbi Fishel Todd

“And the blood shall be a sign for you on [the doorposts of] the houses.” (Shemot 12:13)

The Jewish people were commanded to slaughter the sheep as the Korban Pesah and put its blood on the doorposts of their houses. In that way G-d would see the blood and pass over their houses during the plague of the Destruction of the Firstborn. We would therefore assume that the blood should be put on the outside of their homes. Rashi tells us that in fact they were to put the blood on the inside, where they themselves could see it, and it should be a sign for them.

The message we can derive from here is that putting the blood was not just an arbitrary act which would protect them. By slaughtering the sheep, which was worshipped by the Egyptians, they showed that they were breaking their ties to any idol-worship that they might have had. In order to reinforce this, they put the blood on the inside of the doorposts so that they themselves could see it and be strengthened in their resolve to abandon idol-worship.

Although a person can make a resolution to become better, when he sees a constant reminder of his resolve, this gives him the strength to go even further. Hashem saw this zechut (merit) of the blood and therefore passed over their houses to protect them, since He saw their commitment to serve Hashem exclusively. We would do well to apply this to our own lives and try to reinforce our acceptance of certain positive traits by seeing how the negative traits are not good for us. This will help us serve Hashem better.

Shabbat Shalom.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL
Rabbi Fishel Todd

“You shall tell you son on that day, saying, ‘Because of this Hashem acted on my behalf when I left Egypt'” (Shemot 13:8)

It is a holy duty for a father to educate his children, to act as a spiritual guide for them. According to the Rambam, the commandment to educate children is fulfilled especially when the father gears his lesson to the child’s understanding. If we approach the issue sensitively, and respond with courtesy and care to questions the child might pose, and address him as an individual, taking into consideration his unique needs and abilities, the child will understand the spirit of what we are trying to teach him. There is hope that he will arrive at full understanding and be convinced of the truth of what we are teaching him.

A father must even use his belongings as collateral for a loan if he needs funds to educate his children properly. The Rav of Lublin sees this from the laws concerning the implements of the Bet Hamikdash. All of the holy implements must be made of gold, but if gold is unavailable, they may be made of silver. There is one exception. That is the cherubim. They must be made of gold, and nothing else. The cherubim represent Jewish children. Their education is the only insurance of Israel’s eternity. We must use our energy and resources to the maximum to ensure that Jewish education be of the highest quality. One must never be satisfied with cheap substitutes for the best. In the end, this is the best investment. What might seem economical in the short run, will cost dearly in the long run, and in the World to Come. Shabbat Shalom.

IT’S YOUR CHOICE

“Come to Pharaoh for I have made his heart stubborn” (Shemot 10:1)

Many commentators ask: How could Hashem have hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Did He really take away Pharaoh’s free will to decide whether to let B’nei Yisrael go?

Yalkut Ma’amarim answers with a story. A Jew once had a financial dispute with a non-Jew, and the non-Jew took him to court. Before the case was scheduled to begin, the Jew sent an expensive gift to the judge who would be presiding over the case. The judge asked him, “How could you send me a bribe? Doesn’t your Torah state that a person who receives a bribe will be unable to judge fairly? Rabbi Fishel Todd”

The Jew answered, “If you had been a Jew, and the two parties standing before you were also Jews, then you would be impartial to each of the two parties. Then if one of them would give you a bribe, you would be swayed to his side. However, in this situation, you are already leaning to the side of the non-Jew, so I sent you the bribe simply to even the scale and get an impartial judgment.”

This can explain why Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh’s true desire was to deny B’nei Yisrael the right to leave Egypt. The suffering from the plagues was so intense that they were forcing him go against his desire, almost against his will. In effect, Pharaoh at this point, had no free will. So Hashem hardened his heart in order to remove some of the fear of the plagues, so that Pharaoh could once again have his free will to make his own decision. (Lekah Tob)

WHO’S TO BLAME?

Rabbi Fishel Todd

“An uncircumcised male may not eat of it” (Shemot 12:48)

One who is uncircumcised may not partake of the Korban Pesah. The sacrifice celebrating our liberation from bondage demands that one be aligned with the Jewish people if he is to share in their freedom. The story is told that Rav Chaim Brisker once came to an inn at St. Petersburg to join in a halachic conference. The question arose regarding the acceptability of children whose parents did not circumcise them. The majority of the Rabbis argued that a child who was not circumcised may not be included in a community’s Jewish register. It was their way of censuring those assimilated Jews who rejected Berit Milah as their way of showing disdain against what they felt was an archaic religion. The consensus was that by excluding these children from the register, their renegade parents may change their minds about circumcision.

Hearing their decision, Rav Chaim emphatically demanded, “Show me where it says that an uncircumcised child is not a Jew! I understand that he is prohibited from eating Kedoshim and Terumah. He may also not eat of the Korban Pesah. But where does it say that he is not Jewish? Why blame the child for the fault of the father?”

One of the speakers at the conference recounted that, in the city of Warsaw, a certain Jew refused to circumcise his son. After a while the child became ill and died. The community leaders did not permit this child to be buried in the Jewish cemetery. Most of the attendees at this conference agreed with the decision of the Warsaw community who took this stand. The only one who protested was Rav Chaim Brisker. “There is no halachah that forbids an uncircumcised child from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. While there are certain areas that exclude an ‘arel,’ burial in a Jewish cemetery is not one of them. If you’re concerned about making a safeguard to serve as a deterrent against assimilation, don’t take it out on the children. Take it out on the parents. Don’t bury the father who refuses to have his child circumcised!” This reaction was applauded by many – even those who were alienated from Torah and misvot. Rav Chaim had the courage to place the blame where it belonged. It would serve us well to attempt to conjure up some of this same courage.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 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.