Pharaoh had troubling dreams. None of his sorcerers or dream interpreters could satisfactorily explain them. Finally, the Sar HaMashkim (wine butler), who had been released from prison a couple of years prior, popped up and told Pharaoh “Es chata’ai ani mazkir hayom” (“I remember my iniquity this day…”) He related the story of how he and the royal baker had been thrown into prison, and how they each had dreams that were interpreted by a Hebrew lad in prison. Yosef’s interpretations came true 100%. Pharaoh summoned Yosef from prison and gave him a shot at interpreting the dreams.
The precise translation of the words “Es chata’ai ani mazkir hayom” is actually not “I remember my iniquity this day” because the word chata’ai is plural! The correct translation is: I remember my initquities today. Now, according to the well know Medrash, this Sar HaMashkim had but a single aveira (sin) – namely serving to Pharaoh a wine goblet, into which a fly had fallen. What then is the implication of the plural chata’ai?
The Alshich shares a very interesting idea: This Sar HaMashkim, as despicable of a character as he may have been, will go down in history as having a tremendous zechus (merit)—because of him, Yosef was released from prison. People received great reward for a lot less throughout Tanach. We have a principle that zechus comes to those who merit it (Megalgelim zechus al yedei zakai). What prior zechus allowed the Sar HaMashkim to gain the additional zechus of being the one to free Yosef from prison?
The Alschich quotes the Riva that the “two aveiros” mentioned by the Sar HaMashkim were (1) the incident of the fly falling into the royal goblet and (2) that it took two years for him to remember the fact that Yosef asked him to mention his plight to Pharaoh. The Alshich writes it was for the sense of guilt that he felt for his negligence in not mentioning Yosef to Pharaoh for two years after his own release that the Sar HaMashkim was rewarded by being able to be the enabler for Yosef getting out of prison.
The pasuk in Mishlei states: “He who covers his sins will not succeed, but one who confesses and abandons them will receive mercy (from Hashem).” (Mishlei 28:13) The Sar HaMashkim was rewarded for his sense of submission and his confession to Pharaoh of this dual negligence, and in that zechus, he was the enabler who was able to cause Yosef to be released from prison.
Getting Their Money Back: Yosef’s Brothers Tremble Rather Than Celebrate
Yosef tells his ten brothers, “I want to see this younger brother that you say you have.” He sends them back to Canaan with food, but holds Shimon as a hostage. He also returns the money that they had paid for their food. They notice the returned money when they are already on the road back to Canaan. “They trembled greatly and each said to one another, ‘What is this that Elokim has done to us?'” (Bereshis 28:28).
Why did they tremble? The sefer Darash Mordechai suggests that they trembled because this was not their money. Possessing money that they did not come by honestly sent fear into their hearts. They did not look at this as a bonanza. They were so upset to have ill-gotten gains in their possession that it caused them to tremble.
The Darash Mordechai cites an interesting story illustrating how throughout the generations Gedolei Yisrael were so particular to not take anything that did not belong to them:
Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, besides all that he did for Yeshivos and so forth, was the driving force in the early years behind Chinuch Atzmai. He went to meetings and spoke on behalf of Chinuch Atzmai. In appreciation, Chinuch Atzmai, bought Rav Aharon Kotler a new Kapata, so that he should have a presentable Kapata that befitted his station when he went to these fundraising affairs.
In fact, Rav Aharon Kotler also needed a new Kapata because he was busy raising money for Lakewood, and he was not about to spend money on himself for a new Kapata!
Rav Aharon went to a parlor meeting on behalf of Chinuch Atzmai with a driver named Rav Yitzchak Zalasnik. Rav Aharon finished the parlor meeting and said “Now we need to go to a chasanah.” Rav Aharon told Rav Yitzchak Zalasnik, “Take me home. I need to change.” His driver could not understand why the Rosh Yeshiva needed to change: “Why can’t we go straight to the chasanah?”
Rav Aharon explained, “Chinuch Atzmai bought me that Kapata for the purposes of Chinuch Atzmai. I can’t use it for my own purposes.” He therefore wanted to go home, put away the brand new Chinuch Atzmai frock, and put on his own.
The Darash Mordechai asks a question on this story: Rav Aharon Kotler is a Gaon Olam. He could say sevarahs that could split hairs. Could he not have figured out a justification whereby he could assume that Chinuch Atzmai gave him the Kapata lock stock and barrel—not just for their purposes? Why didn’t he think like that? He was a smart enough man. Couldn’t he have figured that out?
The answer is that his zehirus (meticulousness) regarding handling other people’s money was such that he could not even figure out that this would be an acceptable use of this gift. He was a Gaon Olam, but regarding using charity funds, he was a tamim. He had such an innocence and such a purity that he could not contemplate any justification for using the frock for a personal event.
This too is why the brothers trembled when they found money in their sacks, thinking that it was not really their money.
There is a parenthetical story that makes mention of Rav Aharon Kotler’s frayed Kapata: During World War II, while Italy was occupied by the Nazis, there was a group of Yeshiva bochrim who were held in prison there. This was literally a situation of pikuach nefoshos. Askanim who were trying to find a way to smuggle them out of Italy consulted with people in the know, and were told that the only way to handle this was through the Mafia. The Mafia had connections in Italy that could accomplish things that others could not.
Rav Moshe Sherer of Agudas Israel went with Rav Aharon Kotler to speak to Joe Bonanno, head of one of the big crime families in New York. Rav Aharon asked this Mafia Chief to do something on behalf of these imprisoned Yeshiva bochrim. When Joe Bonanno saw Rav Aharon Kotler, he was a bit turned off because the sleeves on Rav Aharon’s Kapato were frayed. Joe Bonanno was wearing an Italian suit, which in those days probably cost $100, which was a lot of money! He saw this “head Rabbi of America” walking around with a torn frock, and he was not at all impressed.
To make a long story short, he asked Rav Aharon for a Bracha. Rav Aharon gave him a Bracha. What kind of Bracha does you give to such a murderer/gangster? Rav Aharon gave him a Bracha that he should die a peaceful death in his own bed. And that is what happened. He was never gunned down.
There is a sequel to this story. Some twenty years later, a stretch limo pulled up to the Lakewood Yeshiva. They were looking for Rabbi Kotler. Rav Aharon Kotler was no longer alive. But they came to the Yeshiva and said they wanted to see Rabbi Kotler. They took them into Rav Shneur Kotler. It was the son of Joe Bonanno. He wanted the same Bracha that his father was given. Rav Shneur told them “That is a blessing that only my father could give. I am not able to give such a blessing.”
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Miketz is provided below:
- # 035 – Chanukah Issues
- # 077 – Prohibitions During Times of Crises
- # 126 – Dreams in Halacha and Hashkafa
- # 173 – Dreams in Halacha II
- # 219 – Chanukah Issues II
- # 263 – Women and Chanukah Candle Lighting
- # 309 – “Lo Sechanaim” Giving Gifts to Non-Jews
- # 353 – Chanukah and Hidur Mitzvah
- # 397 – Lighting Neiros in Shul; Other Chanukah Issues
- # 441 – Taanis Chalom
- # 485 – Miracle Products and Other Chanukah Issues
- # 529 – Ner Chanukah: Where, When, and Other Issues
- # 573 – The Silver Menorah and Other Chanukah Issues
- # 617 – The Bad Dream
- # 661 – Davening for the Welfare of the Government
- # 705 – Chanukah Candles, Hotels and Chashunas
- # 749 – Solomonic Wisdom
- # 793 – Oops! 3 Candles on the 2nd Night
- # 837 – Hairbrushes on Shabbos – Permitted or Not Permitted
- # 881 – The T’reifa Chicken Scandal
- # 925 – Kavod Malchus – How Far Can You Go?
- # 968 – The Minyan: Must Everyone Be In The Same Room?
- #1012 – Preparing for Shabbos – Thursday or Friday? And other Issues
- #1056 – Oops! I Made A Bracha On The Shammash
- #1099 – Havdalah or Ner Chanukah – Which Comes First? And Other Issues
- #1142 – Must I Give Up My Hiddur Mitzvah For Your Kiyum Mitzvah?
- #1185 – A Smorgasbord of Chanukah Delicacies
- #1229 – Which Is Better: Lighting Menorah Yourself Later or with a Shaliach/wife at Proper Time?
- #1273 – Chanukah Lights Motzei Shabbos: How Early? Havdala Before or After Chanukah Lights?
- #1317 – Oops! I Bentched Shabbos Candles But I Forgot To Bentch Chanukah Licht. Now What?
- #1361 – Can Women Make Latkes While The Chanukah Candles Are Still Burning and other issues
- #1405 – Can You Light Chanukah Candles In Your Car and other Chanukah issues
- #1448 – I had a Dream
- #1493 – Should You Worry If You Have a Bad Dream?
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 http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.