Hashem’s Hashgacha by Sam Wiseman


In Parshat Vayeshev there is a recurring theme that begs discussion.  This recurring theme is the interjection of a Bat-Kol (heavenly voice) in the middle of a story.  The first time the Bat-Kol appears in Parshat Vayeshev is when the brothers conspire to kill Yosef.  The brothers say, “Let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits and say a wild animal killed him.  Then we will see what his dreams will be.”  (37:20) Rashi on the Pasuk explains that the part “Then we will see what his dreams will be” was interjection by a Bat-Kol and not said by the brothers.  Implying, you [the brothers] will see whose plans come true, yours or those of Hashem.

The second instance a Bat-Kol appears in Parshat Vayeshev is with regard to the story of Yehuda and Tamar.  Yehuda has just discovered that Tamar is pregnant and declares that she must be burnt.  Before he succeeds however, Tamar says that the impregnator is the owner of the items that she holds.  Yehuda recognizes those things as his own and says (38:26) “She is more righteous than I for I have not given her to my son Shelah.”  The Gemara in Makot (33b) states that Yehuda only said “she is more righteous” and a Bat-Kol interjected the rest.  Yehuda simply acknowledged that those things were his, but he still believed it possible that another man had slept with Tamar at the same time he did.  Therefore, a Bat-Kol came and said, ”Mimeni Yatzu Kevushim,” from me will come people who will conquer.  (i.e. the kings from Yehuda, who were a result of his union with Tamar.) 

What then, is the message that this recurring theme of Bat-Kol is coming to teach us?  There is a Tosafot in Sanhedrin (11) that states that the reason a Bat-Kol is called a Bat-Kol is because it is not a direct voice from heaven, but rather an echo of a direct voice from heaven.  It is for this reason it is called “Bat,” the daughter of a real Kol.  Rabbi Akiva Eiger posits that one may listen to a Bat-Kol only when he is certain that the voice he heard could have potentially come from a person and not heaven.  Whatever the Halachic ramifications, it is clear that there is something ambiguous about the use of a Bat-Kol.  It implies that Hashem is there, but in a more hidden sense.

 Rav Soloveitchik zt”l mentions a similar idea in connecting the Haftara to the Sedra in Parshat Vayeshev.  The first Pasuk in the Haftara (Amot 2:6) reads, “So said Hashem, for three sins of Israel I will not punish them, but for the fourth I will, because they sold a righteous man for shoes.”  The Midrash explains that the connection between the Haftara and the Parsha lies in this Pasuk, and the connection is that the brothers sold Yosef for shoes.  Rav Soloveitchik suggested that a connection lies in the beginning of the Pasuk as well.  In Sanhedrin (7a) Shmuel says that this Pasuk comes to teach us that a person who sins two or three times and is not punished should not doubt his impending punishment.  The Rav suggested that the first part of this Pasuk is in fact the very message of our Sedra:  This message is especially applicable to the story of the brothers.  After they sold Yosef they were not punished and they assumed all was well.  When, in Parshat Vayigash (45:3), they discovered that Yosef was in fact alive, they were stunned and frightened not because they were afraid for their lives but rather because they realized that Hashem’s Hashgacha was controlling the situation the whole time, even while they thought they had succeeded in killing Yosef.  I believe that this idea can also be applied to the events surrounding Yehuda, the other story with the Bat-Kol.  Just as Yehuda assumed that his actions with Tamar would remain uncovered and without consequence, it became apparent that Hashem’s Hashgacha was in fact present throughout the whole situation and the Bat-Kol, the ambiguous symbol of Hashem’s Hashgacha, was there to show us that.

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