Monday, January 30, 2006

Va'Eira II: Black Magic or Sheidim, Which Is More Powerful

The gemara in Sanhedrin 67b explains that the chartumei Mitzrayim used both kishuf and sheidim. When the Torah describes how they turned a stick into a tanin, it uses the term "belahatehem" However, when describing how they attempted to replicate the makkos the Torah uses the term "belatehem". The gemara explains that "belahatehem" refers to kishuf and "belatehem" refers to sheidim.
The question is, which koach is more powerful? The Maharsha (based on the gemara later on) understands that you can accomplish more using sheidim than by using kishuf. One can not create whatever he wants thru kishuf because if that were the case then one can in theory recreate the whole world. However, using sheidim one can have them collect the items that you wish to appear. For example, when it came to the makkah of tzifardeia the Egyptians could not use kishuf to create the frogs because kishuf didn't allow them to do that. Rather they had the sheidim collect the frogs and bring them to Mitzrayim. (The gemara actually implies this later on in the name of Rav Papa). Also, the reason the Egyptians were stymied by kinim is because sheidim can not collect items that are very small.
With this idea the Maharsha explains a machlokes between R' Eleazar and R' Akiva regarding how the makka of tzifardeia occurred. R' Akiva held that there was one frog and one that frog was hit other frogs came out. R' Eleazar held that that one frog croaked and called the other frogs. The Maharsha explains that R' Eleazar's objection to R' Akiva was based on his understanding of sheidim. Sheidim only have the ability to bring other objects. Therefore, it makes sense to say that it appeared as if one frog croaked and the other frogs came because in reality it was the sheidim that brought the other frogs. However, how can you say the other frogs were created from one frog? The sheidim didn't have the ability to create new objects so how would the frogs have been created.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Va'Eira I: Exactly What Is A Tanin?

The Torah describes how the staff that Aharon threw down on the ground turned into a tanin. What exactly is a tanin? The truth is that growing up I was always taught that it was a snake. This is how Rashi (7:10) defines it. However, one could ask that if it is a snake why does the Torah use the term tanin and not “nachash”, especially since in Parshas Shemos the Torah uses the term “nachash”. The Sifsei Chachamim seems to answer this question by saying that a nachash is a snake found on dry land and a tanin is found in the water. Presumably, what he means is that when Moshe was in the desert, the stick turned into a “nachash”, but now that Moshe is in Mitzryim which is near the Nile, it turned into a tanin. (The Da’as Mikra has a similar p’shat).
However, there is another p’shat given to the word “tanin”. Rav Hirsch translates it as a crocodile. This p’shat is based on a pasuk in Yechezkel (25:28) which is the Haftorah for Parshas Va’Eira. The posuk compares Pharoah to the “tanin hagodal” found in the water. Rav Hirsch understands this to be referring to a crocodile. This p’shat also fits in very well with a Malbim I alluded to at the end of my earlier post. The Malbim writes that the chartumei Mitzrayim were a bunch of charlatans who were very good at deceiving the people. In order to replicate what Aharon did , some of the chartumim brought out taninim skins and hid under them. When some of the chartumim threw down their sticks, the other chartumim jumped out hidden under the taninim skins and crawled around. People thought the sticks (which were also now hidden under the skins) had turned into taninim. The Malbim adds that later when Aharon’s stick swallowed the other sticks, it also swallowed the people under the taninim skins. The malbim’s pshat is more understandable if you assume a tanin is a crocodile as opposed to a snake.

Parsha Chabura Va'Eira:Understanding Kishuf and Black Magic

This week's shiur was about understanding exactly what kishuf is.

The chumsh tells us that Pharoah’s magicians used kishuf/black magic in order to imitate the mofsim that Moshe did. The question is, is there any meaning to black magic or is it just a bunch of sheker.
There are 2 mehalchim found in the Rishonim/Seforim.

1) The first mehalech is found in Sefer HaChinuch (Mitvah 65), the Ramban (Parshas Shoftim 18:9 ) and the Nefesh HaChaim (Sha’ar 3 Perek 12).
The gemara in Sanhedrin (67b) discusses the idea of kishuf. The gemara says, it is called kishuf because the act of kishuf contradicts ("machish") the events that go on in shamayim (a loose translation of "pamalya shel ma’alah"). The Chinuch explains that HKBH set up the world to run according to the laws of nature. HKBH also created the mazalos and malachim whose job is to control the laws of nature. This is the p’shat that every blade of grass is controlled by a malach. However, it is possible to subvert these laws of nature. The Chinuch describes that one can take two types of mazalos and mix them together to create a third mazal. This new mazal will have certain kochos to enable you to do things against the natural laws of the world. This is the essence of kishuf. The reason HKBH said that it was assur is because usually the kishuf produces a harmful result. Also, using kishuf is considered contradicting the heavens because you are going against the natural order of creation that HKBH set up to run the world. The Ramban in Shoftim (18:9) says the same basic idea although he describes the process a little differently.

The Nefesh HaChaim adds in one important point. The gemara in Sanhedrin (67b) says that the posuk "Ain Od Milvado" teaches us that ultimately one has the koach to nullify kishuf. The Nefesh HaChaim explains that this means that ultimately everything is controlled by HKBH. Kishuf does not give one the ability to go against Hashem. All kishuf is, is a mechanism to use the kochos hatumah that HKBH put in this world. Therefore, by truly believing "Ain Od Milvado" and having emunah shlaima that everything comes from Hahsem, you can defeat the kochos of kishuf.

2) The second mehalach is the Rambam. The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (Perek 37) and Hil Avoda Zara (11:16) says that kishuf is sheker and hevel. If one believes in the powers of kishuf you are a fool and a simpleton. According to the Rambam what is the issur of kishuf? The Rambam in Sefer HaMitzvos (Lo Saseh 32) explains that the sorcerers would decieve people by playing sleight of hand tricks. This is called "achizas ha’enayim". One example he brings is where you pretend to take a coin out of someone’s mouth. These slight of hand tricks are assur mid'oreisa and involve an onesh of malkos.
The problem is that the Rambam paskens (Avadah Zara 11:15) that if you perform kishuf then you are chayav misa. This implies there is a difference between kishuf and achizas ha’enayim. The way I understand the Rambam is that if you do an act which people think is witchcraft, (even though you are really deceiving them), then you are chayav misa. However, if you just deceive them by sleight of hand tricks, but you don’t do an act which people associate with kishuf (eg. the example the Rambam brings in Sefer HaMitzvos quoted above) , then you are only chayav malkos.

[Note: There is a whole discussion in the mefarshim and poskim how to understand Shittas HaRambam. A nafka mina l’ma’aseh is whether one is allowed to do magic tricks. The Chachmas Odom (YD 179) is machmir and Rav Moshe (YD 4:13) seems to be meikel. V’ain kan mokom l’ha’arich.]
According to the Rambam, exactly what did Chartumei Mitzrayim do? The Sha’arei Ahron quotes many opinions that it was all achizas einayim (sleight of hand tricks). Among those that hold this way are Rav Sa’adiah Gaon, Abarbanel, Ibn Ezra, and the Malbim. The Malbim has a very interesting pshat on the taninim. Ayin sham.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Parsha Chabura Shemos: The Importance Of A Jewish Name

This week's shiur was about whether one is allowed to give his child a non-Jewish name. The medrash (in Shemos Rabba and Vayikra Rabba 38) says that one of the reasons the B'nei Yisroel were redeemed was because they did not change their Jewish name. There is a machlokes haposkim how to apply that concept now-a-days

1) The Maharam Shik (Even HaEzer 169) holds that it is an issur m'd'oreisa to give a non-Jewish name based on chukas hagoyim. He feels that when the Rambam in Hil Avoda Zara write sthat it is a mitzvah to be separate from the goyim that this includes the issur of giving a non-Jewish name. It also seems clear from the context of the teshuva that to give a secular name to one who already has a Jewish name is also assur.

2) The Tzafnas Paneach (Siman 275) paskens that to give a name that is a translation of a Jewish name is not a problem. The only problem arises when you give the child a new non Jewish name.

3) Rav Moshe zt"l (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Chelek 4 Siman 66 and Chelek 5 Siman 10) writes that if the non-Jewish name has become part of Jewish culture (nisragel b'kach), it is totally mutar. For example, many names come from the yiddish language. Even though these names are not from loshon hakodesh, they are allowed to be used because they have become accepted in Jewish society. Examples of such names are "Volf", "Gittel", "Baer", etc. If thr name is not nisragel, it is not assur, but it is a "davar meguna". Also, Rav Moshe doesn't address a case where one wishes to give a secular name to one who already has a Jewish name. Furthermore, Rav Moshe adds that the medrash quoted before does not apply today. in Mitzrayim they had no milah and no Torah. There was nothing identifying them as Jewish. Therefore, they did not change their names in order that people should know they are Jewish. We don't have that problem today.

Parshas Shemos I: Miriam's Name

Why did Amram and Yocheved decide to call their daughter Miriam? Although I haven’t seen it anywhere, I am assuming that she was named for the bitter golus that the B'nei Yisroel were enslaved in. (Miriam = Mar= bitter). The question then is why name her after the bitterness of golus. If you want to make reference to the situation, why not reference the positive and call her Tikveh (hope), Nechamah (comfort) or even Geulah (redemption). At least this way the galus would be remebered in a positive light.

I think you can answer this question with the following idea. We say in Hallel, “odecha ki anisani...”-I thank Hashem for aflicting me”. Why do we thank Hashem for the affliction? It is understandable that we thank Hashem for saving us, but what is there to thank about affliction? The teretz is that the affliction itself has a purpose. It is not just a form of punishment, but all yesorin are there to mold us and shape us. We grow stronger and closer to Hashem thru our nisyonos. This idea is never more applicable than to Golus Mitzrayim. The golus in Mitzrayim was not just an onesh because Avraham did not show the proper emunah. Rather, it is referred to as the “kor habarzel”, the fiery furnace thru which the nation of Klal Yisroel was shaped and molded. The bitterness and pain we went thru was an essential part of who we were and what we became. It is perhaps for this reason that Amram chose to name his daughter Miriam and remember the bitterness of the golus. He wanted to eternalize this idea, that without the trial and tribulations of Mitzrayim we would never have become a nation.


1) I looked in Ishei HaTanach and sure enough I was right! The Yalkut Shemoni as well as other medrashim explain that Miriam was named for the bitter golus.

2) L'chorah, my p'shat will also explain why we eat marror on Pesach.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vayichi III: Ya'akov Mitaso Shlaima (continued)

Continued from here

The Avos had a unique role in life. Avraham’s middah was chesed. His role was to develop this middah and bring it out into the world. Yitzchak on the other hand had the exact opposite role. His middah was gevurah, which is represented by middas hadin and yirah. The difference between Avraham and Yitzchak can best be illustrated by the why the Torah presents each of them. Avraham had an open tent and went out in the world to spread the word of HKBH. Yitzchak on the other hand stayed home and presumably focussed on himself and his family. Now we come to Ya’akov. What was Ya’akov’s role in life? Ya’akov’s middah is Tiferes. Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht (Asufos Ma’Areches VaYeitzei) explains that Tiferes represents harmonizing and synthesizing two extremes. Ya’akov’s role was to take Avraham’s middas hachesed and Yitzchak’s middas hagevurah and to synthesize them. Being that the middos of chesed and gevurah are opposite middos, it is necessary for a person to be able to understand when to utilize each middah. This was Ya’akov’s role. He had to teach his children and by extension all of Klal Yisroel how to combine both middos.
Understanding when and how to use one’s middos is represented by shlaimus. Ya’akov knew that he would only be successful if all his children were shlaimim and worthy of being part of the shivtei-kah. Unlike Avraham who had Yishmael, and unlike Yitzchak who had Eisav, Ya’akov knew that he was destined to have 12 children who were shaleim. If any of his children were not worthy of being part of the 12 shevatim, then Ya’akov would have felt that he failed in his mission.
With this we can now have a better insight into the Tzlach’s pshat. When Ya’akov sensed that his children were not fit to be the shevatim, he felt his whole mission in life had failed. The shevatim had to reassure Ya’akov that they were ra’oi l’kach and even more than that they had learned their lessons well. When they said Shema Yisroel, they weren’t just being m’kabeil ol malchus shamayim. But, rather like the Tzlach explains, they were explaining that they understand both the middas hachesed (shem havayah) and the middas hagevurah (shem Elokim) and how to use them together. They were assuring Ya’akov that they were indeed zocheh to be the shivtei-kah and Ya’akov had in fact succeeded in fullfilling his tafkid in life

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Parsha Chabura VaYichi:The Geder of Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuso

Note: I give a parsha chabura every Shabbos in my shul. The chabura explores either a topic in halacha and/or lomdus that has it's roots in the weekly Parsha. Bli neder, I will try to post a synopsis of what I spoke about each week.

The m'kor for saying "baruch shem k'vod malchuso l'olam va'ed" comes from this week's parsha. The gemara in Pesachim 56a relates that on Ya'akov's deathbed, the Shevatim said "Shema Yisroel". In response to this Ya'akov Avinu answered "baruch shem k'vod malchuso l'olam va'ed. Because of this chazal were m'sakein that we should say "baruch shem k'vod malchuso l'olam va'ed" every day in Shema.

The Shivivei Aish al haTorah asks the following question. How do we understand the geder of this takanah. Is "boruch shem" a part of Shema and is to be viewed as an extension of the posuk of "Shema Yisroel. Just like "Shema Yisroel" is an expression of kabbalas ol malchus sham, so too "boruch shem" is also a form of kabbalas ol malchus shamayim? Or maybe "boruch shem" is a new taknah that has nothing to do with kabbalas ol malchus shamayim. It is not really part of Shema. but rather is something chazal were m'sakein
becuase Ya'akov said it.

One nafka mina would be what would happen if you forgot to recite "boruch shem". Would you have to go back and repeat it? This is a machlokes between the Bach and the Magan Avraham (OC siman 61). The Shiltei Geborim in Berachos (perek 2) says that if you forget "boruch shem" you don't have to go back. The Bach (OC siman 61) explains the reason is because krias shema is a mitzva d'oreisa and therefore if you don't say it you are not yotzei, however "boruch shem" is just a takana based on Ya'akov Avinu and therefore you don't need to repeat it if you forgot it. The Magan Avraham based on a Levush says one must go back if you forgot "boruch shem". What does the Levush say? The Levush (siman 63:5) says that after the first possuk one does not need to be fully awake when reciting shema because kavanah is not necessray after the first possuk. However, "boruch shem" has the same din as the first possuk because "boruch shem" is also a part of kabbals ol malchus shamayim. We see from the Levush that "boruch shem" is a part of kriyas shema and therefore the Magan Avraham paskens you have to go back if you missed it.

Halacha L'Ma'aseh

This is actually a machlokes between the Biur Halacha (siman 61) and the Igros Moshe (OC chelek 5 siman 5). The Mishna Berura paskens that boruch shem is not a chelek of shema and therefore one does not have to go back. Rav Moshe zt"l paskens it is a chelek of kriyas shema. ayin sham in both places for their proofs. Although rav Moshe feels boruch shem is part of kriyas shema, he does say at the end of the teshuva that one should follow the p'sak of the Aruch HaShulchan. The Aruch HaShulchan paskens that if you have not started saying "v'ahavta" then you should go back and say "boruch shem". However, if you already started saying v'ahavta one does not need to go back. (This seems to straddle both sides of the fence but this is how Rav Moshe comes out).

Vayichi II: Yaakov Mitaso Shelaima

The gemara in Pesachim 56a relates that when Ya'akov was on his deathbed he wanted to reveal the z'man geulah. However, at that moment the shechina left hm and he could not tell it over. Ya'akov was then nervous that one of the shevatim had sinned and was not worthy of being part of the shitei-kah. When the shevatim responded with Shema Yisroel, Ya'akov realized that all his children were tzaddikim.
The Tzlach (Pesachim 56a) asks what is the significance of the shevatim saying Shema Yisroel? Why davka that possuk? He answers with a beautiful teretz that (in my opinion) gets to the root of what Ya'akov's tafkid was. The Tzlach says that we know that Avraham represented middas hachesed, while Yitzchak represented middas hagevurah. Furthermore, both Avraham and Yitzchak had children who were p'soles come out from them. Avraham had Yishmael and Yitzchak had Eisav. Ya'akov was concerned that one of his children was also "p'soles" similar to Yishmael and Eisav. The Shevatim responded to Ya'akov's concern by saying "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hahsem Echad". The shem havyah ("Hashem") of HKBH represents the middas chesed of HKBH while the shem "Elokim" represents the middas hadin of HKBH. The Shevatim were telling Ya'akov that unlike Yishmael who was the p'soles of chesed , and unlike Eisav who was the p'soles of gevurah, they were shaleim both in their middas hachesed and in their middas hagevurah.

Why do I feel that this vort gets to the root of what Ya'akov was all about? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vayichi I: The Connection Between Ephraim u'Menashe and A Bris

Personal note: I said this vort over at my son's bris six years ago and in honor of my nephew's bris later today (Wednesday 1/11) I am presenting it here.

The Targum Yonason ben Uziel says that the beracha of "yisimcha elokim k'ephraim u'menashe" is said at a bris. The peirush on the Targum explains that the Targum is referring to the beracha "zeh hakoton gogol yehiyeh k'shem shenichnas l'bris kain yechanes l'torah chupah u'maasim tovim", with the torah referring to Ephraim and "ma'asim tovim" referring to Menashe.
I think that we can really understand this based on the Netziv's comments in his commentary Hemek Davar on this .week's parsha The Netziv asks why did Yaakov go ahead and switch his hands so that his right hand would be on Ephraim. Why didn't Yaakov just go ahead and have them switch places.? He should have had Ephraim stand on the right and Menashe on the left. The Netziv answers that in reality Ephraim and Menashe represented two different ideas. Ephraim's purpose in life was to be strong in ruchniyus. This is seen from the fact that one of Ephraim's descendants was Yehoshua who replaced Moshe as the spiritual leader of Klal Yisroel.
Menashe on the other hand had a different tafkid in life. His purpose was to be strong in areas of gashmiyus, in particular the political arena. Menashe was by Yosef's side helping him rule Mitzrayim. Furthermore, one of the more famous descendants of Menashe was Gidon-a strong military leader. (Also see the Harchev Davar where the Netziv uses this mehalech to explain why sometimes Ephraim is mentioned first and sometimes Menashe is mentioned first).

The Netziv explains further that the feet represent the gashmiyus since the feet is what are used to move and take part in this world. Menashe had to be strong in the gashmiyus arena. Therefore, he had to stand on the right. Hands represent ruchniyus. Hands are always doing mitzvos and good deeds. Ephraim had to be strong in ruchniyus therefore Yaakov's right hand had to be placed on Ephraim.

With this Netziv, I believe we can now have a better understanding of the Targum Yonason ben Uziel. When we say "kain yechanes l'torah" we are referring to Ephraim who represents the Torah and inyanei ruchniyus. When we say "u'maasim tovim" we are referring to Menashe who represents the olam hagashmi and are interaction with this world on a physical level. We are blessing the child that he should be zocheh to be strong in both areas. However, we mention Torah/Ephraim first because ultimately that is the ikkar and the Torah is the detremining factor of how we should partake of the gashmiyus in this world.


1) I would like to add something my brother in law pointed out. He actually remembered what I had said 6 years ago (why he remembered it is an interesting story). Apparently, 6 years ago I ended the vort by saying the reason we give the child the beracha of Ephraim and Menashe is because we don't know how he will grow up-will he be an Ephraim or a Menashe.

2) The baby's name is Chaim Refael named after my sister on law's maternal grandfather.
It looks like there is one more CM in this world, which in my humble opinion is a good thing.

Monday, January 09, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

K'balo Kach Palto II: Aggravation

I had a whole post written up on what contemporary poskim say on the subject and somehow it got lost. I am not in the mood to rewrite it now. I guess you will have to wait for a different time to see what they say.

However here are some mareh mekomos to keep you busy.

a)Article by Rav Schachter: Mesorah Journal volume 7 5752 p.74 os 2
b)Piskei Teshuvos vol 5 Siman 551 os 13 and 24.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

VaYigash II:Avraham's Eishel

Chazal mention that the resason Yaakov went to Be'er Sheva before heading down to Mitzrayim was in order to take the eishel of Avraham with him. This eishel was then brought out of Mitzrayim and used to build the mishkan.
When I metioned this to my son, I told him that the gemara in Sota (10a) has a machlokes what exactly this eishel was. One opinion is that Avraham planted an orchard for people to eat from. Another opinion is that it was a hotel where guests could stay. My son then asked me an obvious question. If the eishel was a hotel, how did Yaakov "chop" it down and take it to Mitzrayim? If you say it was an orchard so then it makes sense. Yaakov uprooted the trees and replanted them in Mitzrayim and when they left Mitzrayim the trees were cut down and made into wooden beams for the mishkan. But if the eishel wasa hotel, what exactly happened? Did Yaakov take the hotel apart and store the wood somewhere for the next couple hundred years?
I have no answer. The only answer I can think of is that the opinion that holds the eishel was a hotel does not hold that Yaakov brought it down to Mitzrayim.
Any other answers?

Friday, January 06, 2006

K'Balo Kach Palto

We have a klal in kashrus called "k'balo kach palto". This means that the same way a utensil absorbs tarfus, that is the same way you need to take it out. L'mashel, if a pot became traif by cooking something over fire, then you need to kasher it with fire, a process called libun. If it only became traif because you boiled tarfus in it, then using boiled water, a process called ha'galah would suffice.
The Rema in Orach Chaim 552:1 says that ha'galah has to be done with water that is boiled (roschin)(which is 212 F/100 C). The question is what happens if something became traif by boiling tarfus at a temperature less than the boiling point. Do we say k'balo kach palto and you only need to do ha'galah at the lower temperature or do we say all ha'galah must be done at the boiling point. To put it in terms of lomdus, yesh lachkor, is the din ha'galah a din of k'balo kach palto and therefore a lower temperature suffices or is it a din in roschin, boiling water and kol z'man the water is not boiled ha'gala doesn't work?
This chakirah is brought down from Rav Soloveitchik zt"l in in Shiurei HaRav on Basar B'Chalav/Ta'aroves. The Rav says a nafka mina would be a pressure cooker which gets to a higher degree than boiling point. If you say ha'gala is a din in k'balo kach palto, then you would need to kasher the pressure cooker at a temperature higher than boiling point. However, if it is a din in roschin, that the water just has to be boiled, you only need to kasher the pressure cooker at 212 F/100 C.
Bli neder, next week I will mention what the contemporary halacha seforim bring down from today's poskim. Stay tuned...

Vayigash I: Who's In Charge?

After Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, he tells them that the whole situation was part of HKBH's master plan. Yosef says "V'ata lo atem sh'lachtem osi haina ki Elokim vaYisimani l'av l'pharoah u'l'adon l'kol baiso u'mosheil b'chol eretz Mitzrayim". Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht asks why in the first half of the possuk does Yosef say " l'av l'pharoah u'l'adon" (with a lamed) while in the end of the possuk he just says "u'mosheil" without a lamed? Rav Goldvicht zt"l brings an interesting answer from Rav Yehoshua M'Belz zt"l. Rav Yehoshua M'Belz answers that we constantly see throughout these last few parshiyos that Yosef always attributed everything he acheived to HKBH. This was Yosef's intention in the first half of the possuk. When Yosef said "VaYisimani l'av l'pharoah u'l'adon", he meant to tell them that HKBH had made him in charge and he, Yosef had nothing to do with it. However, Yosef wanted to stress another point. Not only was everything ha had accomplished due to Hashem's guiding hand, but even more than that, HKBH himself was really running the show. When Yosef said "u'mosheil b'chol eretz Mitzrayim", he was not referring to himself but rather to HKBH. The real mosheil, the real ruler was Hashem.
With this Rav Yehoshua M'Belz says we can understand why Yaakov did not originally believe the brothers that Yosef was alive. When the brothers told Yaakov what Yosef said they originally misquoted him. The brothers said "Od Yosef chai v'chi hu mosheil b'kol eretz Mitzrayim". The implication of this statement is that Yosef felt he was the ruler and he was in charge. Yaakov had always known, based on the dreams, that Yosef had the potential to achieve the status of a melech. However, Yaakov knew that it had to be a malchus l'shen shamayim. Consequently, when Yaakov heard Yosef's words that didn't reference HKBH, he felt that this was not the kiyum of the dreams. It was only afterwards when the brothers repeated to Yaakov exactly what Yosef had said ("Vayidabru eilav kol divrei Yosef") and Yaakov heard how Yosef understood that HKBH was in charge, did Yaakov realize that it was truely Yosef.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Parshas Miketz III: Yehuda's Cheshbon

At the end of the parsha, Yosef wants to imprison Binyamin and let the other brothers go free. Yehuda steps up and says that Yosef should imprison everyone including Binyamin. Only when Yosef refuses and says that he will only take Binyamin, does Yehuda change his position and prepare for battle (vayigash elav Yehuda). The meforshim all explain that originally Yehuda thought they were being punished for having sold Yosef. If that is the case then there is nothing to do but except their fate. However, when he saw that only Binyamin was going to be punished, he realized that it had nothing to do with mechiras Yosef, and therefore he prepared for battle.
The question that remains is that if Yehuda originally thought that they were being punished for selling Yosef, then why did he agree to let Binyamin be taken as a slave as well? Binyamin was not involved in the mechira so why should he be punished.
L'chora you could answer based on a Sefer HaIkkarim. The Sefer HaIkkarim discusses why a tzaddik woud be punished in this world. One possibility he mentions is that when there is a gezairah on the tzibbur, then even the individual tzaddikim are not spared. It could be that this was Yehuda's cheshbon as well. Granted Binyamin was innocent but once HKBH made a gezairah on the 10 brothers, so even Binyamin had to be punished.
I subsequently saw this idea in the Netziv, The Emek Davar (44:16) says that Yehuda could not be moser nefesh to save Binyamin, because once this was ratzon hashem there was no hope.

Parshas Miketz II: And What Did Yaakov Suspect?

Did Yaakov suspect that the brotehrs might have harmed Yosef or did he believe them when they claimed that Yosef was killed by a wild animal?

The Seforno in Parshas Miketz explains that Yaakov was hesitant to send Binyamin down to Mitzrayim because he was afraid that the brothers would get rid of Binyamin just like they got rid of Yosef. Clearly, the Seforno understands that Yaakov was not totally convinced of the brothers' innocence. My esteemed friend Rav Eliyahu Ferrell also pointed out to me that the Ohr HaChaim comments in the beginning of Parshas VaYeshev that Yaakov was aware of the sinah the brothers had for Yosef. According to this Ohr HaChaim it is not so surprising thatYaakov suspected the brothers and did not fully trust them.

Parshas Miketz I: What Did Binyamin Know?

The pashtus is that Binyamin did not know what happened to Yosef. After all, he wasn’t there when Yosef was sold and moreover, the brothers had taken a shevuah that they wouldn’t tell anyone. Yet we find that the gemara in Sotah 36B (and quoted by Rashi in Parshas Miketz) says that Binyamin named his 10 sons in "honor" of Yosef. Two of his sons were named for the fact that Yosef was sold in captivity and living in a strange land. This would imply that Binyamin did know that Yosef was sold. How did Binyamin know? I checked the Artscroll (es chatai ani mazkir hayom) and in the footnotes it brings down from the Maskil L’Dovid and Tanchuma Yashan that Binyamin knew thru ruach hakodesh that Yosef was sold.