Volume 5 Issue 12
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Yaakov had passed from this world. His twelve sons were left alone in a
foreign world, and it was time for reconciliation. The brothers were afraid
that with Yaakov's passing Yoseph would avenge them for selling him to
Egypt. So they sent the sons of Yaakov's concubine Bilhah, with a message.
"Your father commanded before his death saying, 'Thus shall you tell
Yoseph, please, kindly forgive your brothers terrible deed and their sin
for they have done you evil." Yoseph assures them that he has no intent for
retribution. In fact, he promises to sustain the brothers and their families.
The Talmud in Yevamos tells us that Yaakov would not have suspected Yoseph
to be vengeful and he never issued the stated command. The Talmud
extrapolates from this incident that one may twist the truth for the sake
of peace and harmony. Yet it seems that there was a bit more than twisting
truth. It sems that there was an overt lie. And why would they use
Yaakov's name in this untruth? If he did not suspect Yoseph as Rashi
explains, then weren't they insulting him by saying, "your father commanded"?
The 1929 Boston Braves were owned by Judge Emil E. Fuchs. Judge Fuchs
cared basically for the financial management and legal affairs of the team,
but the depressed economy and his unwillingness to put up with the
difficult and expensive Roger Hornsby, left the team without a manager.
Judge Fuchs, an experienced adjudicator, read the rulebook and surrounded
himself with a few cronies who would help him guide the team. Then he
literally brought his swivel chair into the dugout and began to manage the
It was late in the summer of that dismal season, and the team had just been
on a losing streak. Miraculously, however, it seemed that the down streak
was about to end. The game was tied in the bottom of the ninth and the
bases were loaded. The Braves were batting and Judge Fuchs gave the orders
to swing away.
After one strike, the batter, Joe Dugan, called time and approached his
"Judge," the player suggested, "the rookie at third base is playing well
behind the bag. If I drop a bunt, we'll squeeze in the winning run!"
The judge looked sternly at the ball player. He was stunned at the mere
suggestion. "Mr. Dugan," he exclaimed, "You will do no such thing. Either
we will score our runs honorably or not at all!"
The Sha'ar Bas Rabim explains that though Yaakov never explicitly gave the
command to lie, he did issue a game plan for the future. Before he blessed
the brothers, he gathered them together with the words, "gather yourselves
together," (Genesis 49:1-2). The charge for the future was unity, and
whatever it took to achieve unity amongst the brothers was the core of
Yaakov's wishes. The brothers understood how to play the game of life and
how their father Yaakov would have wanted it. Peace and harmony were the
only ultimate goal. That is what all parents want for their children and
that is what the objective of the twelve brothers was. It took a squeeze
play, but harmony was achieved. Had Yaakov been alive to manage the
situation he may have also chosen the exact game plan. Yaakov, with the
guidance of his mother and a skillful deception, had his father give him
the blessings that were intended for Esav.
My grandfather, Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, once told me that
attaining the highest level of any attribute require knows when to violate
it! And to that end, Avraham the stalwart of kindness and compassion, was
ready to sacrifice his own son at God's command, surely an act of seeming
brutality. Yaakov, whose virtue is truth, knew when it was proper to
mislead. And Yaakov's sons who understood the virtue of Yaakov's truth,
also understood his quest for peace. They learned, very well, that though
sometimes it is time to swing away, this was the time to drop a gentle
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
In memory of Joseph K. Miller O"H by his children Mr. & Mrs. Geoffery Miller
L'Iluy Nishmas R' Yosef ben R' Ahron Shmuel z"l H'YD
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
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