Parshat Vayigash Vol.10 No.16

Date of issue: 11 Tevet 5761 -- January 6, 2001

This week's issue has been sponsored
by the Kampler-Marans family
in honor of Judah's Bar Mitzvah.
This week's issue has also been sponsored
by the Kagedan family
in honor of Nechemya's Bar Mitzvah.

How to sponsor

This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Hershel Solnica
David Gertler
Jonathan Weinstein
Binyamin Kagedan
Rabbi Howard Jachter
*Taking Medicine on Shabbat - Part II*
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-by *David Gertler*

Intellectual Honesty
by Rabbi Hershel Solnica

Parshat Vayigash is the climax of the story of Yosef as Yosef reveals himself to his brothers. It is not simply the playing out of a soap opera, but rather a profound Mussar Haskel, eternal ethical message, that should strike us deeply.

"And Yosef said to his brothers: 'I am Yosef, is my father still alive?'" (45:3). The Seforno notes Yehuda's inconsistency. Yosef knew that Yaakov was still alive (Yaish Lanu Av Zaken, 44:20); however, he derisively points at Yehuda and says, Ee Efshar Shelo Mait Midaagato Ailai, "How is it possible that you did not worry about father's health when you sold me?"

The Yalkut Shimoni (45:154) says: Amar Rav Shimon Ben Elazar Oy Lanu Miyom Hadin...Yosef Ketano Shel Shevatim Haya Velo Yachlu Echav Laanot Oto...Kisheyavo hakadosh Baruch Hu Veyochiach Lanu...Al Achat Cama Vecama, "Rav Shimon ben Elazar says, 'Woe to us on the day of judgment...Yosef was the youngest of the tribes, and the brothers could not respond to him...when Hashem comes to rebuke us, how much more so [will we not be able to answer]?!'"

The Seforno and the Yalkut Shemoni ought to scare us to tears when we think of our intellectual dishonesty. How can we preach Derech Eretz when we practice so little of it? How do we expect our young ones to speak decently and cleanly when we abuse, curse, and lack Shemirat Halashon? How do we expect our children to pray with respect when we go to Shul and talk to our friends about the Mets and the stock market instead of talking to Hashem? How do we expect the new generation to respect the Torah, the Shul, or Taharat Hamishpacha when we are simply indulgees in lip service? Oy Lanu, "Woe is to us." The day of judgment is not necessarily the end of our lives; perhaps it can refer to the middle of our lives when we see the foolishness of our hypocrisy.

Let the story of Yosef not simply be the text of a Broadway musical, but the framework of how we should live our lives, teach our young ones, and be role models for all of Klal Yisrael. Vayinashek Lechol Echav Vayevk...Veacharei Chein Dibro Echav Ito, "And Yosef kissed all of his brothers, and he wept...and afterward his brothers spoke to him" (45:15).

It is time to show love to all and weep for our errors, and then the dialogue will begin and we can rightly expect redemption.

Shame, Shame
by David Gertler

Velo Yachlu Echav Laanot Oto Ki Nivhalu Mipanav, "And his brothers could not answer him, for they were disconcerted before him" (45:3).

Rashi comments that the brothers were disconcerted due to the shame they felt for selling Yosef. Rav Moshe Feinstein adds that they were only ashamed of selling Yosef now that he caught them, but they were not ashamed of the act beforehand.

The Torah Temima cites the Gemara in Chagiga (4b), which states that R' Eliezer cried when he read our verse: "If the rebuke of man is so powerful that they [the brothers] are ashamed and at a loss for words, how much more powerful must be the rebuke of Hashem!" The Chida comments that Bilam, the Navi of the Goyim, was not even able to stomach the rebuke of his donkey! He adds that Yosef did not actually say any words of rebuke: he just let his brothers know who he was, and that was enough to shake them. Just think - Hashem knows every hidden detail of everyone's life.

Tehillim 50:21 says, Ochiach Ve'erca Le'einecha, "I will reprove you and set the cause before your eyes." The Chida expounds on the Rama's commentary on this Pasuk, saying that this expresses a profound Chiddush: Oy Lanu Miyom Hatochacha Af Bli Din, "Woe is to us on the day of rebuke and reproof even if it does not include strict judgment!"

We often try to avoid problems instead of solving them. We are afraid of getting caught, not of doing something for someone else, or of doing something we should not have done that adversely impacted another individual. When this happens, we try to avoid the person involved. We forget that instead of being afraid of the person (or Hashem), we should be fearful of the act itself. We should not think, "I am only in trouble if I get caught." When one does the wrong thing, the shame of the act itself should cause him to admit and repent.

There is a story of a man who visited a prison and asked each inmate what he had done wrong. Each inmate responded similarly: "I did nothing wrong; I do not know why I am imprisoned." Finally, he came to one inmate who responded that he had robbed and was rightfully imprisoned. The man turned to the guard and said, "Let this man out; he has no business hanging around with all these innocent people."

In a Shiur delivered at Congregation Beth Aaron several weeks ago, Rabbi Chanoch Teller repeatedly emphasized that if we do not realize that what we have done is wrong and are not ashamed of our actions, we cannot fix our mistakes. The idea is not to wait until our past can scare us, but to straighten what is crooked as soon as possible. If we do this, will find ourselves happier, better people for it.

Mishlei teaches that an evil person's deeds are righteous in his own eyes. Oy Lanu Miyom Hatochacha, unless we truly make a great effort to amend our ways, we will be quite surprised when the day of reproof comes and we find out all the things we did wrong. One should look at himself through the eyes of his best friend. If his best friend saw him do this action, would he still feel that he acted correctly? Imagine the day of reproof the moment before you act: if you are not ashamed of the act itself, perhaps you will be ashamed of being caught in the act by your friend or by Hashem. Ponder the opinion that Gehenom is your most private, embarrassing moment being exposed for all to see.

by Jonathan Weinstein

In 46:3, Hashem tells Yaakov, Al Tira, "Do not fear." Yaakov was about to see Yosef, his long-lost son, and he was going to live in Egypt under the protection that Yosef would grant him as second to the king.

In Parshat Toldot (26:2), Yitzchak was told by Hashem to stay in the land that Hashem gave him and specifically not to travel to Egypt. This could be what Yaakov was afraid of: that his journey would violate Hashem's command to Yitzchak. The Abarbanel says that Yaakov had no real fear of going to Egypt: Yaakov did not want to violate Hashem's command, and this was manifested in his fear of leaving the Jewish homeland and entering Egypt.

The Chizkuni says that the phrase Al Tira means that Yaakov was truly afraid of going to Egypt. Hashem told the Avot that their descendants would be slaves in a foreign land. This is why Yaakov was afraid, but Hashem reassured him that in the end Hashem would bless Yaakov and make his children a great nation. Yaakov realized that his children would return to Eretz Yisrael, but he thought that there was no guarantee that the Jewish People would want to leave Egypt.

Rashi says that Yaakov was bothered by the fact that he was obligated to leave Eretz Yisrael, but the Zohar comments that Hashem assured Yaakov that he would be returned to Eretz Yisrael to be buried with his ancestors.

The Ibn Ezra says that Hashem told Yaakov that he would be with Yosef again, and Yosef would "place his hand on your eyes." This refers to someone who closes the eyes of someone who is dead. The Or Hachaim elaborates that Hashem told Yaakov that Yosef would outlive Yaakov, showing that Yaakov did not have to worry about Yosef's death.

Later in this Perek, Yaakov and Yosef meet. The Torah says that he kissed him, but it is unclear who kissed whom. Rashi says that Yosef kissed Yaakov, and Yaakov did not kiss Yosef. Chazal say that Yaakov was reciting Shema. Ramban quotes this opinion as well, but he begins by saying that the phrase "and he appeared to him" means that they saw each other. While Yaakov was getting older and his sight was getting weaker, Yosef was wearing a turban, as was the custom of Egyptian kings, which was covering his eyes. Who kissed whom remains unclear. The Ramban might be the stronger opinion, but there is a psychological element involved: who is more likely to cry? An elderly parent who has not seen his son for a long time or the son who is second in command of a world power?

When Yaakov and Yosef drew closer to each other, they were able to see each other more clearly and then one cried on the other's neck. Because the Pasuk uses the word Ode, "more," perhaps Yaakov cried, as he had been crying for twenty-two years. Rashi thinks that the word Ode refers to Yaakov, but he cites a verse from Iyov to show that Ode does not always mean "more," and at times it may mean "much." This lessens the impetus to say that Yaakov was the one who cried.

The Be'er Yitzchak explains that crying is not something that Yaakov would have done at a time of happiness. The greatest love that one must have is the love for Hashem. Yaakov was extremely happy when he was reunited with Yosef, and this happiness almost went beyond the absolute love that he was supposed to have for Hashem. Yaakov was very careful not to forget the absolute love he had for Hashem. This may explain the Midrash that says Yaakov was reciting Shema when he met Yosef. As Yaakov was reuniting with Yosef, he recited the Shema in order to concentrate on his absolute love of Hashem.

Perhaps Yaakov's tears were not tears of happiness but rather tears of concern for the future of the Jews in exile in Egypt despite Hashem's consolation. This exile could lead to assimilation and immorality. One other opinion is Rav Hirsch, who says that Yosef was the one who cried. Even after Yaakov stopped crying, Yosef continued to cry on Yaakov's shoulder. While Yaakov spent the last twenty-two years mourning for Yosef, Yosef spent many of those years with great wealth. Meeting Yaakov reminded Yosef of the time he spent with his father, and these feelings made him cry more than Yaakov. In short, Hashem's Torah reflects real life - it contains many ambiguities and complexities.

Yosef's Rebuke
by Binyamin Kagedan

This week's Parsha tells us the end of the story of Yosef and his brothers. The brothers stand before Yosef, their brother whom they had sold as a slave, who now has the power to have them imprisoned or killed at whim. They reluctantly bring Binyamin before him as well, and to their horror, Yosef orders Binyamin to stay in Egypt as Yosef's slave.

After hearing the plea of Yehuda, however, Yosef is moved to tears. No longer able to conceal himself from his brothers, he says, "I am Yosef, is my father still alive?" Shocked beyond belief, "His brothers could not answer him because they were devastated before him" (45:3).

Masechet Chagiga states, "When Rabbi Eliezer came to this passage he cried, 'If the rebuke of people is such [that Yosef's brothers were so devastated by his rebuke], the rebuke of Hashem, how much more so?'"

Rav Avraham Pam, Shlita, asks: "What was Yosef's rebuke of his brothers? All he said was, 'I am Yosef!'" Rav Pam quotes the Bait Halevi who answers that the next part of Yosef's revelation, the question, "Is my father still alive," is the rebuke. He meant to say, "Is it possible that my father is still alive after all of the pain that you have caused him?"

Rav Pam offers a second answer. He posits that the rebuke is contained in the words "I am Yosef." Yosef meant, "I am Yosef whom you hated and degraded. You did not even consider that my dreams could come true or that I could end up as the second-in-command in Egypt, sent by Hashem to save my family and this country from famine. Can you imagine that you sold such a person as a slave?"

Rav Pam concludes that we can learn a valuable lesson from this Pasuk. When we view others, we often attribute much less worth to them than they deserve, and therefore we treat them with less respect than is due. Finding out how special others are can be a powerful rebuke.

Halacha of the Week

One should not omit Nishmat Col Chai on Shabbat and Yom Tov, as it is an integral part of the Beracha of Yishtabach (Mishna Berura 52:5). Rav Mordechai Willig told this author that this applies even in case of Tircha D'Tzibura, such as when the person asked to serve as Shaliach Tzibbur has yet to recite Nishmat.

Food for Thought
by David Gertler

1) Why does Yaakov not initially accept the news that Yosef is still alive? Compare this with the Midrash that because Yosef told his brothers of his dreams Yaakov knew all along that Yosef was still alive. What other indications are there to support the notion that Yaakov believed Yosef was alive prior to this definitive proof and what indications are there to say that he did not know?

2) Why are Dinah and Serach the only women listed as part of the count of seventy? Where are the other women?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editor: Moshe Glasser
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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