In this week's parashah, Yosef is reunited with his brothers
after a 22-year separation. Yosef gives each of them gifts and
encourages them to bring their father to Egypt. The Torah records
(Bereishit 45:23), "To his father he sent the following -- ten he-
donkeys laden with the best of Egypt . . ." Rashi comments: "`The
following' - According to this calculation. And what was the
calculation? Ten he-donkeys." What is Rashi adding to our
understanding of the verse?
R' Moshe Zuriel shlita (former mashgiach ruchani of Yeshivat
Sha'alvim) writes in the name of R' Shmuel of Bialystok: Rashi was
disturbed by the fact that Yosef was encouraging his father to leave
Eretz Yisrael, an action that our Sages equate with idol worship.
Therefore, Rashi explains that Yosef was hinting to his father that it
was halachically permitted to leave the Land.
How so? The Gemara (Bava Batra 91a) teaches that it is permitted
to leave Eretz Yisrael if there is a famine so severe that two say'im
of barley (a certain volume) sell for a coin called a selah. Now the
Torah records that Yosef gave his brother Binyamin 300 silver coins.
The smallest silver coin is a dinar; thus, Yosef presumably gave his
brother 300 dinar, which is equal to 75 sela'im (plural of selah).
Yosef sent his father ten he-donkeys laden with the best of
Egypt. How much can a donkey carry? R' Ovadiah of Bartenura writes
in his commentary to the Mishnah (Bava Metzia 6:5) that a donkey
carries 15 say'im. Thus, ten donkeys carry 150 say'im. When compared
to the 75 sela'im that Yosef gave Binyamin, we find the ratio of two
say'im to a selah - an allusion to the circumstances that permitted
Yaakov to leave Eretz Yisrael.
R' Zuriel adds: Why this complex hint? This demonstrates the
lengths to which a person should go to avoid speaking ill of Eretz
Yisrael. (Otzrot Ha'mussar p.88)
"Yosef said to his brothers, `I am Yosef. Is my father still
alive?' But his brothers could not answer him because they
were left disconcerted before him." (Bereishit 45:3)
Midrash Rabbah states: Rabbi Abba Kohen Bardela says, "Woe to us
from the Day of Judgment! Woe to us from the Day of Rebuke! Yosef
was the youngest of the tribes [involved in the dispute], yet his
brothers could not reply to him. When Hashem comes and rebukes each
of us, how much more so [will we be left speechless]?"
R' Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg z"l (rosh yeshiva in Berlin and
Switzerland; died 1966) asks: Where do we see that Yosef rebuked his
brothers? Furthermore, why will Hashem rebuke us on the Day of
Judgment? At that point, it will be too late for rebuke!
He answers: Yosef gave his brothers the greatest rebuke possible
- he said nothing. When the brothers recognized Yosef's power and saw
that, despite having the ability to do so, he had no plan to harm
them, they were thoroughly humiliated. Similarly, the rebuke that we
will sense on the Day of Judgment will not come from anything Hashem
will say to us. It will simply result from our recognition of His
greatness. The shame we will feel will be the ultimate rebuke.
From the Haftarah . . .
"Behold! I am taking Bnei Yisrael from among the nations to
which they have gone, and I shall gather them from all around
and bring them to their soil. I shall make them into a
single nation in the land upon Israel's hills, and a single
king shall be king for them all; and they shall no longer be
two nations, no longer divided into two kingdoms again."
This week's haftarah describes the reunification into one kingdom
of the two realms that existed after the ten northern tribes split
from the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin following the death of King
Shlomo. These two kingdoms existed side-by-side in Eretz Yisrael for
about 300 years until the ten northern tribes were exiled to Assyria
and subsequently disappeared.
R' Don Yitzchak Abravanel z"l (Spain and Italy; died 1508) notes
that these verses would seem to contradict the view of Rabbi Akiva who
maintained that the ten "lost" tribes will never return. [Other Sages
disagree.] It is undeniable, R' Abravanel writes, that Rabbi Akiva's
view is well-founded on Biblical verses. We read, for example (Amos
5:1-2), "Hear this pronouncement that I recite over you in
lamentation, O House of Yisrael: `She has fallen and will no longer
rise'." Indeed, the Torah itself hints to the disappearance of part
of the nation, stating (Devarim 29:17, 20), "Perhaps there is among
you a man or woman, or a family or tribe, whose heart turns away today
from being with Hashem, our G-d, to go and serve the gods of those
nations . . . Hashem will set him aside for evil from among all the
tribes of Yisrael, like all the curses of the covenant that is written
in this Book of the Torah." We read further (ibid verse 27), "Hashem
removed them from upon their soil, with anger, with wrath, and with
great fury, and He cast them to another land, as this very day!" [R'
Abravanel cites additional sources, as well.] Nevertheless, we are
justified in asking: How would R' Akiva interpret our verses, which
imply that the two kingdoms will be reunified?
R' Abravanel explains: When R' Akiva taught that the Ten Tribes
will never return, he meant that they will not return as a unit.
However, throughout history, stragglers and refugees from those tribes
have returned to the Jewish Nation. The first return occurred
immediately upon the Ten Tribes' exile, when refugees from that exile
settled in the southern kingdom of Yehuda (as described in Seder Olam
ch.12). A century later, the prophet Yirmiyahu brought some of the
members of the Ten Tribes back to Eretz Yisrael. These partial
redemptions are alluded to in verses such as Amos 5:15, "Perhaps
Hashem, the G-d of Legions, will grant favor to the remnant of Yosef"
- a reference to the Ten Tribes, whose first king came from the tribe
(Yeshuot Meshicho Ch.4)
R' Menashe ben Israel z"l (see page 4) writes: The nature of the
future redemption is sealed and is hidden from every person. It
appears from the Prophets, however, that the Ten Tribes will travel to
the Holy Land led by a nobleman to whom our Sages refer alternately as
"Mashiach ben / son of Yosef" and "Mashiach ben Ephraim." The Gemara
teaches that Mashiach ben Yosef will be killed in the War of Gog and
Magog, after which "Mashiach ben David" will be revealed, as it is
written [in our haftarah - 37:24], "My servant David will be king over
them, and there will be a single shepherd for all of them." We also
read (Hoshea 3:5), "Afterward, Bnei Yisrael will return and seek out
Hashem their G-d and David their king, and they will tremble for
Hashem and for His goodness in the end of days."
R' Menashe ben Yisrael continues: The appellation "Mashiach ben
Yosef" or "ben Ephraim" may refer to the fact that the first mashiach
will come from that tribe, just as the first king of the Ten Tribes -
Yerovam ben Nevat - was from Yosef, and particularly, Ephraim. In any
case, "Yosef" also symbolizes the Jewish People in general, for the
original Yosef also suffered in captivity and vanished from his
people, only to be found in the end to be living a life of happiness
and success. This is exactly the fate of the Ten Tribes.
He adds: "Mashiach ben Yosef," who will be killed in battle, will
arise at the time of techiyat ha'meitim and will receive reward and
honor. He will not reign as king, but only as a viceroy to the king
from the descendants of David, just as Yosef was second to the king in
(Mikveh Yisrael ch. 13)
R' Menashe ben Yisrael z"l
R' Menashe ben Yisrael was born into a family of hidden Jews in
Madeira, Portugal in 1604. When he was a young child, his father
escaped a death sentence at the hands of the Inquisition and moved his
family to Amsterdam, where they openly re-adopted the Jewish faith.
In Amsterdam, young Menashe studied under R' Yitzchak Uziel and, at
the age of 18, succeeded his teacher as rabbi of the Sephardic Neveh
Shalom congregation. R' Menashe also received a thorough secular
education and was fluent in ten languages. Among his friends or
acquaintances was Rembrandt, who etched R' Menashe's portrait and also
designed cover plates for one of R' Menashe's written works.
In 1639, the Jewish community of Amsterdam reorganized, leaving
R' Menashe without adequate employment. R' Menashe had nearly
completed final preparations for settling in Brazil when the Amsterdam
community appointed him assistant to the Chief Rabbi, Shaul Mortera.
In 1644, R' Menashe also became head of a newly opened yeshiva in
R' Menashe believed that a prerequisite to the coming of mashiach
was that the Jewish People be dispersed to every corner of the globe.
To this end, he traveled to England in 1655 to persuade Oliver
Cromwell to annul the almost four-century old expulsion of the Jews
from England. R' Menashe also authored Mikveh Yisrael in which he
argued that the American Indians are the "Ten Lost Tribes" (see inside
pages of this issue).
R' Menashe's mission to England did not achieve the success he
had hoped for and, to make matters worse, his son Shmuel died on the
journey. Shortly after returning to Holland in 1657, R' Menashe died
penniless and heartbroken.
R' Menashe wrote many works in Portugese, Spanish and Latin that
were meant to answer theological questions that trouble Marranos.
Among his best known Hebrew works is Nishmat Chaim which discusses the
nature of the soul and related matters. (Source: The Early Acharonim)
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 Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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