"A lion cub is Yehudah; from the prey, my son, you elevated yourself..."
When the brothers brought Yosef's bloody tunic before Yaakov, he exclaimed
"tarof toraf Yosef" - "Yosef has been torn apart".  The Midrash comments
that Yaakov secretly suspected that Yehudah, who is compared to a lion, was
responsible for Yosef's death.  However, in his blessings to Yehudah
Yaakov lauded his son for being the driving force behind Yosef's rescue. 
Although in retrospect Yehudah's actions spared Yosef's life,
from the account in the verses his motivations seem less than altruistic.
After the brothers agreed to kill Yosef, Yehudah stated "mah betzah..." -
"what profit is there in killing our brother...Come let's sell him to the
Yishmaelites."  If Yehudah was interested in Yosef's salvation, why was
it necessary to sell him rather than just give him away? Furthermore, from
the simple reading of the text it appears that Yehudah was motivated by
greed, not Yosef's welfare. Why did Yaakov see fit to praise Yehuda for his
If a person is given an item gratis, he will not guard it as carefully as he
would if he had paid for it. If we do not have to spend money on an object
our appreciation for it is diminished. Yehudah convinced his brothers that
Yosef's becoming a slave would adequately supplant his death sentence.
However, Yehudah wanted to insure that Yosef would be treated well as a
slave. Giving Yosef away for free would not have insured this, for if those
acquiring him did not spend a significant sum on doing so, they would not
have considered his loss or mistreatment to be noteworthy. Therefore,
Yehudah attached a price to Yosef's sale, ensuring that his buyer would
consider him a commodity which is in their best interest to preserve. Yaakov
deemed these actions of Yehudah worthy of praise.
2.Bereishis Rabbah 97:9
An Intricate Plot
"...in my grave, which I have hewn for myself in the land of Canaan..."
Rashi cites a Midrash which says that Yaakov Avinu did not want to benefit
from the wealth which he had amassed in Lavan's house. When Eisav made it
known that he felt he had a claim to the burial grounds at Me'aras
Hamachpeila, Yaakov paid him off with these funds.1 If Yaakov was averse to
benefiting from these funds, how could he use them to pay off Eisav? Was it
not considered a benefit when he used the cave which he received in exchange
Although Yaakov did not want to benefit from this
wealth, he also did not want to destroy it. This created a dilemma. If
Yaakov would give it away as a gift, the recipient would owe him a favor,
and therefore, Yaakov would be benefiting from the tainted money. If Yaakov
would use the funds in a sale, he would benefit from the item which he
received in exchange, and therefore, the tainted wealth as well.
When Yaakov became aware that Eisav claimed to be the rightful heir to
Me'aras Hamachpeila, Yaakov had the opportunity to divest himself of these
funds. Eisav's claims were based upon his delusional perception, not
reality. There are two reasons why Yaakov had the sole rights to the burial
plot at Me'aras Hamachpeila; since Eisav had sold the "bechorah" -
"birthright" to Yaakov, Eisav's claim to the cave by virtue of his status as
the elder brother was invalid, and the land which Avraham possessed was to
be used by the Patriarchs, who would continue the Abaramatic legacy leading
to the establishment of the Jewish people. Clearly, Yaakov was the heir to
Yaakov did not give the money to Eisav in exchange for the land, which, by
right was Yaakov's already, but to placate Eisav. Eisav did not consider the
money to be a gift, for he maintained that he sold land which belonged to
him. Therefore, Eisav felt no gratitude for the money he received. The land
which Yaakov received in the sale could not be considered a benefit, for the
land had always belonged to him.
"And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt..." (47:28)
The manner in which Parshas Vayechi is recorded in the Torah scroll differs
from the normal fashion, which allows for a minimum of a nine-letter space
between two parshios. This deviation prompts Rashi to comment that Parshas
Vayechi is a "stumah" - "closed" or "sealed" parsha, for once our Patriarch
Yaakov died, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people were sealed due to the
hardship of the servitude to which they were subsequently subjected. The
implication from Rashi's words is that the servitude began with Yaakov's
passing. This appears to contradict Rashi's comments on Parshas Va'eira,
where he teaches that the servitude began with the death of Levi who was the
last of the brothers to die; as long as the sons of Yaakov were still alive,
the servitude did not begin. How do we reconcile both of Rashi's comments?
In the third paragraph of Krias Shema we are enjoined not to stray after our
hearts and our eyes. Rashi comments that the heart and the eyes are the
spies which provide the opportunity for the body to sin.4 We cannot consider
the heart and eyes to have only a negative purpose. Rather, a person chooses
whether he will use the energies of his heart and eyes for sin or to
facilitate his service of Hashem; the person's focus determines the path he
will choose. If a person is focused on and motivated by the desires of his
body, his limbs will function to fuel those desires. However, if his focus
is on his soul and the fulfillment of the edicts of his Creator, his entire
body will be harnessed to fulfill his desire for spirituality.
A person who is driven to satisfy the basic pleasures of his body has his
eyes blinded and his heart sealed by his incessant hedonistic pursuit. Since
he focuses only upon that which he desires, he is completely selfish and
unable to perceive the needs of others. In contradistinction, a person whose
actions are driven by his desire to enhance his relationship with his
Creator has his eyes and heart open to sensitivities which were previously
dormant. Therefore, he is able to focus upon the needs of others.
It is common that when a person perceives that he might be in danger, his
natural desire for the preservation of his body is activated.
Self-preservation leads a person to focus upon the needs of his body, very
often causing the needs of his soul to be neglected. Although the actual
servitude did not begin until after the death of Levi, Bnei Yisroel began to
sense the imminent danger of oppression at the hands of the Egyptians
immediately following Yaakov's demise. Sensing this activated Bnei Yisroel's
need for self-preservation, and since they were so strongly focused on their
physical well-being, they became desensitized to their spiritual needs;
their eyes and hearts became sealed. The physical servitude had not yet
begun, but the fear of its impending doom sparked the beginning of the
3.See Da'as Zekainim, Tosefos Hashlem, Maharal among the few who discuss
this issue Bamidbar 39:15.