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Posted on November 25, 2010 (5771) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

Parshas Vayeishev

The Brothers Went To Indulge Themselves

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 704 — Sparing Someones Humiliation. Good Shabbos!

Clarification: Due to a larger than usual reaction to last week’s email about animal rights and my remarks about the activities of organizations like Save the Whale and PETA, I feel some clarification is perhaps necessary. I am well aware of the importance of the concept of tzar baalei chaim. Indeed last week’s email shiur pointed out how Yaakov Avinu was the first person to care enough about animals to make huts to protect his cattle from the elements. That said, like any particular mitzvah or Torah concept, tzar baalei chaim can be elevated beyond its intended level – even to the point of perversion. While we must be careful to protect animals and not to wantonly cause them pain, we must realize that the purpose of all animals is to serve the human being who stands at the pinnacle of creation. That is why Hashem allowed us to eat them and use them for our needs – i.e., beasts of burden, for plowing and tilling in ancient times, etc., even though the animal do not ‘enjoy’ these activities. Man’s needs trump those of animals. In recent years, some organizations have taken animals ‘rights’ to extreme proportions. For example, they will place spikes in trees meant to be logged, literally killing and maiming loggers, in order to save the spotted owl, which lives in those trees. This also explains why PETA people will secretly try to infiltrate slaughter houses to film the shechita process, with the ultimate goal of misrepresenting shechita as cruel, and ultimately getting it banned, as has already occurred in New Zealand and as remains a real threat in Europe. All of this stems from a philosophy that does not recognize the role of man in creation as exposed by the Torah.

The pasuk says, “Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem” (vayelchu echav l’ros ES tzon avihem b’Schem) [Bereishis 37:12]. There are dots above the word ES. Rashi – based on the Medrash — takes note of this and indicates that the notation alludes to the fact that in reality, the brothers went to pasture (i.e. – indulge) themselves. The Sifsei Chachamim explains Rashi’s allusion. Dots over a letter indicate that the pasuk is to be interpreted as if the letter (and in this case, the entire word) was not present. If one removes the letters Aleph and Sof which have the dots and constitute the word ES from the pasuk, then the word “flock” (tzon) is no longer attached to the word “to pasture” (l’ros) and the pasuk reads as if the brothers went to pasture (themselves); (incidentally) the flock of their father was in Shechem.

Rav Simcha Zissel Brody, in his sefer Saam Derech, explains this Medrash. If the brothers would have had their father’s best interest at heart, how could they have sold Yosef and caused their father immeasurable pain. We see at the beginning of Chapter 38 that “Yehudah went down”. The Medrash there states that the brothers demoted him from his position of leadership in the family. They blamed him for the idea of selling Yosef and the implementation of the plan that caused Yaakov so much pain and misery. Why did they themselves not anticipate the ramifications that the loss of Yosef would cause their father? It was because at the time, they were so consumed with themselves and their own needs that they did not stop to consider the impact of their actions on anyone else.

Sometimes people are so preoccupied with themselves that they do not think about other people. When people do terribly insensitive things, they do not necessarily do so because they are cruel people. Most people are not cruel. It is more likely that they are simply so wrapped up in themselves that they do not pause to think about how their actions or words might affect others.

This happens all the time. When young wives get together, they typically they talk about babies or pregnancies. All too often, there happens to be a young woman in the crowd – who has been married for the same length of time as all these other mothers or soon to be mothers – who is not yet pregnant. How does she feel? Everyone is talking about their own baby and she does not have a baby. These other women are not intending to be cruel. They are certainly not consciously mocking her and trying to make her feel uncomfortable. It is just a question of being insensitive. The insensitivity stems from a preoccupation with self. Preoccupation with self precludes exercising the amount of forethought necessary to avoid causing others pain and suffering. It requires thinking about others as well.

This is the import of the above quoted Medrash. The brothers went to pasture themselves – to the exclusion of giving thought to the needs and feelings of anyone else, including those of their father, Yaakov.

This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas Vayeishev are provided below:

Tape # 034 – Chanukah Licht on Erev Shabbos
Tape # 076 – Katlanis: The Twice Widowed Woman
Tape # 125 – Ha’Malbim P’nei Chaveiro: Shaming Another
Tape # 172 – The Complex Issue of Child Custody
Tape # 218 – Grape Juice and Yayin Mevushal
Tape # 262 – Yichud and the Open Door Policy
Tape # 308 – Secular Studies
Tape # 352 – “Chamar Medina” — Used for Kiddush?
Tape # 396 – Artificial Insemination Before Chemotherapy
Tape # 440 – Third Night of Chanukah but Only Two Candles
Tape # 484 – The Ubiquitous Donor Plaque
Tape # 528 – Sending Someone on a Fatal Mission
Tape # 572 – Determining Paternity
Tape # 616 – Chanukah – Women Lighting for Husbands
Tape # 660 – Birthdays – A Jewish Minhag?
Tape # 704 – Sparing Someones Humiliation
Tape # 748 – The Menorah – Inside The House or Outside?
Tape # 792 – Observing Shiva for Grandparents?
Tape # 836 – Katlanis: A Third Marriage
Tape # 880 – Lying For The Sake Of The Truth
Tape # 924 – Bitachon Vs Hishtadlus
Tape # 967 – Public Humiliation: Can Older Brother Object to the Younger Brother’s Engagement?
Tape #1011 – Davening with a Minyan on Chanukah vs Lighting On Time And Other Chanukah Issues

Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

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