Sordid Sale by Isaac Shulman


Although Parashat VaYeishev discusses Yosef’s enslavement, we automatically assume that Yosef’s ten brothers sold him, and then we share Divrei Torah focused on their depraved pecuniary transaction.  However, closer inspections of the text confuse this unambiguous, habitual naming of Yosef’s sellers and buyers.  One example of this uncertainty is when the Torah describes Yosef’s abduction and imprisonment; “VaYikachuhu VaYashlichu Oto HaBorah,” “And they picked him up and cast him into the pit” (Bereishit 37:24).  The identities of who threw Yosef into the pit, along with the other characters in this tale, are vague.  Was it indeed all of the brothers or just some of them?  Another example of this uncertainty is when Yosef was sold; “VaYimshechu VaYaalu Et Yosef Min HaBor VaYimkeru Et Yosef LaYishme’eilim” “And they drew him, and they lifted him from the pit, and they sold him to the Yishme’eilim” (37:28).  Again, the specifics of who sold Yosef are very shady.  Why does the Torah describe Yosef’s unpleasant ramble to Egypt in such ambiguous terms?

Perhaps the Torah is teaching us that the identity of whoever received Yosef’s payment, raised him from the pit, or sold him does not really matter; rather, everyone involved is blamed for selling Yosef even if specific actions were not taken.  Even if only Yehuda thought to sell him, all the brothers are blamed, because they did not protest.  In a similar vein, the Torah omits the reason for Kayin and Hevel’s fateful fight, since they should not have fought altogether.

We can learn from this that we are responsible for the results of our actions, even when we are involved only peripherally or as part of a larger group. The Torah is clear that those who are silent witnesses to a crime are in some way guilty (see Ibn Ezra to VaYikra 19:11).  We must protest if we see a sin taking place.

Therefore, one who has married a non-Jewish woman, whom we certainly (emphasis added), according to Halacha, are obligated to excommunicate to discourage such behavior, has the status of one who has been excommunicated, and it is forbidden to count him towards a Minyan.

-Adapted from a Shiur presented by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin

Make it Public by Rabbi Yosef Adler

Drink in Peace by Dov Rossman