Volume 25, No. 10
27 Kislev 5771
December 4, 2010
the Vogel family
on the yahrzeit of mother and grandmother
Miriam bat Yehuda Leib a”h (Mary Kalkstein)
Tanach: Melachim II 5-6
Mishnah: Shevi’it 6:4-5
Halachah: O.C. 579:2-580:2
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Zevachim 31
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Ma’aser Sheni 25
Near the end of our parashah, we read that Yosef told his assistant to hide his (Yosef’s) silver goblet in Binyamin’s bag and then to chase the brothers and “find” the goblet. According to the midrash, the assistant was none other than Yosef’s son, Menashe. The Torah relates (44:12-13), “He searched; he began with the oldest and ended with the youngest; and the goblet was found in Binyamin’s sack. They rent their garments.”
In Parashat Matot, we read that two-and-a-half tribes–Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe–received their portions of Eretz Yisrael east of the Jordan River. R’ Chaim Palagi z”l (1788-1868; rabbi of Izmir, Turkey) writes that the tribe of Menashe was split in two as a punishment for their ancestor Menashe’s causing Yosef’s brothers to tear their garments, as related in our parashah. (Artzot Ha’Chaim)
R’ Eliyahu Hakohen z”l (also from Izmir; died 1729) writes: The tribe of Reuven settled on the east bank of the Jordan because it had many sheep, and the east bank was prime pastureland. Why did Reuven merit to have so many sheep? We read in last week’s parashah that Reuven devised a plan to save Yosef from his brothers. However, before he could fully implement his plan, Reuven went home to care for his father, Yaakov. When Reuven returned, he found that Yosef was gone, and he tore his clothes. Why did he tear his clothes? Because, R’ Eliyahu explains, although it was Reuven’s turn to care for his father, he was the firstborn; as such, he could have ordered one of his younger brothers to go in his place, and he could have stayed behind with the sheep to protect Yosef. In the merit of his profound regret at not having remained with the sheep, Reuven merited that his descendants had many sheep. (Semuchin L’ad: Parashat Matot)
“Now let Pharaoh seek out a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt . . . Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, `Since G-d has informed you (literally, `given you knowledge’) of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you!'” (41:33, 39)
Commentaries pose a number of questions regarding these verses, among them:
- (1) Yosef was brought to Pharaoh to interpret the latter’s dream; why did Yosef take the liberty of giving Pharaoh advice?
(2) Da’at / knowledge, binah / discernment and chochmah / wisdom are three separate qualities; how did Pharaoh conclude from the fact that Yosef had knowledge that he also had discernment and wisdom?
(3) Why did Pharaoh say, “Since G-d has informed you of all this”?
R’ Yehuda Leib Halevi Eidel z”l (Poland; 1757-1805) answers these questions based on the answer to another question (based in part on the commentary of Ramban z”l): How did Yosef know that G-d intended the Egyptians to stockpile food during the seven years of plenty to use during the seven years of famine? He answers: Yosef discerned this based on a seeming contradiction within Pharaoh’s dream. On the one hand, we read (in verse 21), “They [the healthy cows] came inside them [the unhealthy cows].” This, says Ramban, implies that something from the first seven years would “enter” the other seven years. On the other hand, we read (in the same verse), “But it was not apparent that they had come inside them.” This implies that the seven years of famine would be so devastating that no memory of the seven years of plenty would remain. From this, Yosef concluded that there were two possible outcomes: if food was stockpiled, then something from the first seven years would survive into the other seven years. But, if no food was stockpiled, then the famine would be so devastating that no memory of the years of plenty would remain. It follows that when Yosef told Pharaoh that he should appoint someone to supervise the gathering of food during the seven years of plenty, Yosef was not giving advice; he was merely interpreting the dream. [This answers the first question above.]
R’ Eidel continues: When the Torah relates Pharaoh’s dreams as he dreamt them, it does not say, “But it was not apparent that they [the healthy cows] had come inside them [the unhealthy cows].” Presumably this is how Pharaoh related his dreams to his wise men–omitting this detail, either because he forgot or because he deliberately concealed it for some reason. In contrast, when Pharaoh told the dreams to Yosef, Hashem awakened him to include this detail, which, in turn, led Yosef to understand that Pharaoh was meant to stockpile food during the years of plenty (as explained above). This is why Pharaoh said, “Since G-d has informed you of all this”–with emphasis on “all.” [This answers the third question.] Furthermore, Pharaoh said: You have told me that the message of my dream is that I should appoint a “discerning and wise man.” “Since G-d has informed you of all this” — i.e., of the detail of my dream that I had forgotten, the very detail from which you know that someone must be appointed — it is a sign that, in G-d’s opinion, “there is no one so discerning and wise as you!” Apparently, you are the discerning and wise person that I am meant to appoint. [This answers the second question.] (Afikei Yehuda: Drush 29)
“Pharaoh called Yosef’s name Tzofnat-Paneach.” (41:45)
Rashi z”l explains: “Revealer of hidden things.”
R’ Machir z”l Hy”d (Spain; 14th century) writes: The Hebrew letters of this name are the initials of “Tzaddik panah negged ta’avato; Potiphar inah nafsho chinam” / “The righteous one (Yosef) turned aside in the face of his desire (for Potiphar’s wife); Potiphar oppressed him for no reason.” (Avkat Rocheil ch.56)
“Yosef saw his brothers and he recognized them, but he acted like a stranger toward them.” (42:7)
Rashi z”l writes that the brothers did not recognize Yosef because he had left home without a beard, and now he had a beard. However, writes R’ Yitzchak Isaac Sher z”l (1875-1952; rosh yeshiva of the Slobodka Yeshiva in Lithuania and Bnei Brak, Israel), this is difficult to understand; after all, many people recognize individuals whom they last saw without a beard and now see with a beard! Moreover, our Sages say that Yosef resembled Yaakov, who presumably did have a beard. Why, then, did the brothers not recognize that the Egyptian official standing before them looked like their father? On top of this, there were many other signs that they missed. For example, the midrash relates that the Egyptian official (Yosef) demonstrated such superhuman strength that his brother Shimon even commented that he shared this trait with the family of Yaakov. Also, the Egyptian correctly “divined” the birth order of the brothers who stood before him and the fact that they had different mothers. Even so, they did not suspect that the Egyptian was their brother! How can this be?
R’ Sher answers that this teaches us how far a person’s own thoughts can lead him to erroneous conclusions. The midrash relates that Yosef’s brothers did not immediately go to purchase food when they arrived in Egypt. First, they visited the “red-light districts” searching for their brother Yosef. They reasoned that because he was so handsome, that was surely where he was to be found. Having formed this picture of a lowly, immoral Yosef, it was thereafter impossible for the brothers to imagine a regal, noble Yosef.
This, concludes R’ Sher, should be a warning to us of the power of a heretical or immoral thought to be absorbed into our subconscious from our surroundings and to corrupt our system of beliefs. (Lekket Sichot Mussar Vol.I p.127)
R’ Don Yitzchak Abarbanel z”l (1437-1508; author of a significant commentary on Tanach and of numerous other works; advisor to the monarchs of Portugal, Spain and several Italian states) writes that Yosef was very much afraid of being recognized. This is why Yosef accused his brothers of spying as soon as they appeared before him. His intention was to distract them and worry them so that they would not have the presence of mind to observe him closely. (Beur Al Ha’Torah)
A Meal from Eretz Yisrael
“Yisrael their father said to them, `If it must be so, then do this: Take mi’zimrat ha’aretz / of the land’s glory in your baggage and bring it down to the man [i.e., Yosef] as a tribute– a bit of balsam, a bit of honey, wax, lotus, pistachios, and almonds’.” (43:11)
What is special about this gift, which consists of items that surely could be found in Pharaoh’s court? R’ Yosef Bechor Shor z”l (France; 12th century) explains: “Mi’zimrat ha’aretz” is a language of “song” or “praise,” and it refers to those items because of which people praise the Land. They say, “How good is Eretz Yisrael, which has fruits such as these!”
R’ Moshe Zuriel shlita (former mashgiach ruchani of Yeshivat Sha’alvim) explains further: While the items that the brothers took were already available in Egypt, they were special merely because they were from Eretz Yisrael. This idea is found in the Midrash Esther Rabbah, which comments on the verse (Esther 1:4), “When he displayed the riches of his glorious kingdom,” as follows: “He showed them a meal from Eretz Yisrael.” The Maharal of Prague z”l explains: Since the Torah says about Eretz Yisrael (Devarim 8:9), “You will lack nothing there,” it was Achashveirosh’s possession of Eretz Yisrael which enabled him to make a feast that was truly fit for a king.
R’ Zuriel continues: We read in Midrash Shir Ha’shirim Rabbah that the prophet Daniel returned to Eretz Yisrael from Babylon, “It is preferable for us to eat a meal from Eretz Yisrael and recite a blessing over Eretz Yisrael.” This teaches, concludes R’ Zuriel, that Birkat Hamazon takes on an added dimension when the food that was eaten was grown in Eretz Yisrael. (Drishat Tzion)
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