Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 10
28 Kislev 5758
December 28, 1997
Rabbi and Mrs. Sam Vogel
on the yahrzeit of mother
Miriam bat Yehuda Laib a"h (Mary Kalkstein)
The Frenkel family
on the shloshim of father
Harav Meir Azriel Zelig ben Yaakov Eliezer Halevi a"h
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Edeson
on the yahrzeit of Esther's aunt, Mrs. Ethel Moran a"h
The Rozen and Donowitz families
on the yahrzeit of mother and grandmother Rita Rozen a"h
Maharal asks: Why did Chazal see fit to establish a new holiday
(Chanukah) to thank Hashem for our being able to light the
menorah in the Bet Hamikdash? We can understand a holiday to
thank Hashem for our personal salvation, but the mitzvot are
performed for Him, so-to-speak. Why should we thank Hashem for
letting us perform them?
The essence of the war between the Jews and the Greco-Syrians,
Maharal explains, was a spiritual battle between Greek wisdom and
the Torah. The Greeks sought to establish that their wisdom and
their way of life were supreme. The Torah was the competitor to
their wisdom, and this required them to try and distance us from
The world was created on the condition that the Jews receive
the Torah. Had the Greeks succeeded in uprooting the Torah, the
entire world literally would have come to an end. Thus, the fact
that a miracle occurred and the Jews were able to perform a
mitzvah signifies the victory of the Torah over Greek wisdom, and
therefore signifies that the Jews, and the world, would continue
to exist. This, surely, is a reason to thank Hashem.
Alternatively, Chanukah actually commemorates the military
victory of the Jews over the Greeks. However, the Jews were not
sure whether their victory really was a miracle; after all,
sometimes the underdogs win because of circumstances or luck.
The miracle of the oil was merely a sign from Hashem that He had
been with the Jews.
"It happened after the passage of two years . . . " (41:1)
Our parashah opens two years after the end of last week's
parashah. There, Yosef had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's
butler and baker. He told the butler, who was about to be
reinstated in his position, "If only you would think of me with
yourself when he benefits you, and you will do me a kindness if
you please, and mention me to Pharaoh, then you would get me out
of this building. For indeed I was kidnaped from the land of the
Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing for them to have put
me in the pit." (40:14-15)
The midrash comments on this: "'Praiseworthy is the man who
has made Hashem his trust' (Tehilim 40:5) - this is Yosef - 'and
turned not to the arrogant' (bid) - because Yosef said to
Pharaoh's butler, 'If only you would think of me,' and, 'mention
me,' he remained in prison an extra two years."
Many commentaries ask: This midrash appears to contradict
itself! First it states that the one "who has made Hashem his
trust" is Yosef. Then it appears to say that Yosef was punished
for placing his trust in the butler! Most commentaries explain
that the first half of the midrash gives the background for the
second half. For most people, it would not be a sin to ask the
butler for help. "G-d helps those who help themselves."
However, because Yosef usually placed his trust in Hashem to an
extraordinary degree, it was a failing on his part to ask the
butler for help. (This answer is given by Bet Halevi and
R' Azaryah Figo z"l (1579-1647) gives a very different answer.
He explains that Yosef never placed his trust in the butler, and
Hashem left Yosef in jail for an extra two years in order to
demonstrate this. He interprets Yosef's words to the butler as
"Even if you would think of me with yourself when [Pharaoh]
benefits you, and [even if] you will do me a kindness and
mention me to Pharaoh, the most you could do is to get me
out of this building. [That would solve my immediate
physical problem, but not my spiritual problem.] For indeed
I was kidnaped from the land of the Hebrews [and thus
expelled from before G-d]. Here I have done nothing for [my
spiritual betterment, and therefore G-d has caused that
they] have put me in the pit."
Without this interpretation, says R' Figo, one might wonder how
the butler could be so ungrateful as to forget Yosef. With this
interpretation, however, it is understandable; in effect, Yosef
told the butler that his help was not wanted. The reason Yosef
said this was to emphasize that the interpretation of dreams
comes from Hashem and that Yosef deserved no credit.
Just to make clear that Yosef never expected help from the
butler, Hashem caused the butler to forget Yosef and leave Yosef
in jail. The last verse of last week's parashah states, "And the
butler did not remember Yosef, and he forgot him." Why the
redundant language - "did not remember" and "forgot"? In line
with the above interpretation, R' Figo suggests that the phrase,
"and he forgot him," means that Yosef forgot the butler. (Binah
La'ittim: Drush Rishon Le'Chanukah)
An Astonishing Midrash
At the moment when Yosef said (44:17), "The man in whose
possession the goblet was found, only he shall be my slave,
and as for the rest of you - go up in peace to your father,"
a bat kol/voice from heaven said (Tehilim 119:165), "There
is abundant peace for the lovers of Your Torah, and there is
no stumbling block for them."
The sin of selling Yosef was a sin between man and his fellow
man, for which G-d does not grant atonement until the victim
forgives the sinner. When Yosef said, "As for the rest of you -
go up in peace to your father," he indicated that he forgave his
brothers [although they did not realize it, since they did not
know he was Yosef]. This enabled G-d to forgive them, and grant
them "abundant peace."
An alternative explanation:
Rashi writes: The reason that Yehuda said, "We also will be
slaves," is that when a member of a group is caught stealing, the
whole group is liable.
Yosef disagreed. Apparently, Yosef held that only the actual
thief is liable.
The gemara teaches, "All of the rewards spoken of by the
prophets are only for those who support the Torah. As for the
Torah scholars themselves, no one has yet seen their reward."
Why? Because the reward for Torah study depends upon the
student's motivation, whereas supporters of Torah are rewarded no
matter what their motivation. (Thus, only G-d knows what the
reward of each individual scholar is.)
What if a Torah scholar studies with improper motivation and
incurs a punishment from G-d - is his financial backer punished
as well? Not according to Yosef, who said, "The man in whose
possession the goblet was found, only he shall be my slave, and
as for the rest of you - go up in peace to your father." As
explained, he held that a group is not liable for the actions of
one member. This is the meaning of the verse, "There is abundant
peace for the lovers of Torah - i.e., the supporters of Torah -
and there is no stumbling block for them." There will always be
peace for the supporters of Torah, and any improper motivation of
the scholars they support will not be a stumbling block for them.
(R' Shalom Weiss: Ketonet Tashbetz)
R' Yitzchak ibn Giat z"l
born approx. 1020 - died 1091
R' Yitzchak was born in Lucena and died in Cordova (both in
Spain). He was close to R' Shmuel Hanaggid, under whom he is
thought to have studied, and with R' Shmuel's son, R' Yehosef.
R' Yitzchak was appointed as rabbi of Lucena, and under his
leadership the community thrived as a center of learning and
culture. Numerous students flocked to study under him. He also
began to write many works, but never had time to complete them
because his role as the principal educator of his generation was
Of his unfinished manuscripts, the only one that survives is
Meah Shearim, a halachic compendium which was cited frequently in
the centuries following the author's death. Unlike his
contemporary, R' Yitzchak Alfasi ("Rif"), who arranged his
halachic work according to the order of the Talmud, R' Yitzchak
ibn Giat arranged his work by topics.
The style of Meah Shearim also differs from Rif's work.
Whereas Rif's work for the most part mimics the words of the
Talmud, but leaves out the discussion leading up to the halachic
conclusion, R' Yitzchak first formulates the halachah in his own
words, and then offers a review of the sources, engaging the
reader in a discussion of the pros and cons of the respective
positions. As a result, Meah Shearim is a treasury of literature
from the Geonic era (6th - 10th centuries).
R' Yitzchak also wrote a commentary on Kohelet in Arabic. This
work has been lost, but is quoted in later commentaries.
(Source: The Artscroll Rishonim p.68; Korei Hadorot; Shem
Copyright © 1997 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ("lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah"), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Project Genesis
start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Text archives from 1990 through the present
may be retrieved from
to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.
VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760
Hashem Must Play The Role of Our First Love, Not Our Second Fiddle
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765
Yosef and Chanukah
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757
Turn, Turn, Turn...
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773
Shedding Light on the Identity Crisis
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759
Sadly Released from Prison
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758
"More Than I Deserve"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5763
Taking A Stand - Making A Difference
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763
“Trading Places on the Ladder of Life”
Jon Erlbaum - 0
The Best Credentials
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774
The Challenges Ahead
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765
The Meaning of Miracles
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5763
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767