פ’ וישב – תשע”ה
Volume 6, Issue 9
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
“And Yaakov sat…” (37:1)
Rashi cites the sages who say that Yaakov wanted to live in peace and serenity. But it was not to be, and the troubles of his son Yosef began. The Almighty said, “Is it not sufficient for the righteous that they receive their reward in the world to come? Why do they need to live in serenity in this world?”
The question arises: why is it wrong to want to live in serenity? Yaakov desired serenity not so that he could devote his time to personal pleasures, but rather to be able to engage in spiritual pursuits.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explained that the purpose of this world is for a person to elevate himself by passing the numerous tests that come to him. The goal is spiritual growth from every life situation. Therefore it was considered improper for Yaakov to place his focus on serenity.
This, said Rav Yeruchem, is an attitude we should all internalize. Every occurrence in this world can make you a better person. When you have this awareness your attitude towards everything that happens to you in life will be very positive. Before, during, and after every incident that occurs reflect on your behavior and reactions. Ask yourself, “What type of person am I after this happened? How did I do on this test? Did I pass it in an elevated manner?” (Daas Torah)
בני בלהה ואת בני זלפה נשי אביו
“The sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives…” (37:2)
Until now the Torah calls them “maidservants” (35:25) or “concubines” (35:22). Why are they now called “his father’s wives?” It is because around this time that Leah died. Once both the mistresses of the house had died, Bilhah and Zilpah were considered Jacob’s “wives”.
המלך תמלך עלינו אם משול תמשל בנו
“Shall you indeed reign over us? Shall you indeed dominate us?” (37:8)
The brothers use two phrases in this verse, maloch timloch, reigning over, and mashol timshol, have dominion over. There is a well-known Gemara in Berachos 55b that tells us that dreams are fulfilled according to the interpretations of the interpreter. Therefore, in the case of Yosef, since the brothers interpreted his dreams as foreshadowing both meluchah, kingship, and memshalah, dominion, both of these came true.
Meluchah denotes monarchy, with the consent and approval of the governed, whereas memshalah, dominion, implies absolute rule of domination and dictatorship. Both aspects were actualized. When the brothers came to Egypt and prostrated themselves before Yosef, they felt compelled to do so, thereby fulfilling Yosef’s memshalah aspect of the dream. However, after the death of Yaakov, the brothers came to Yosef and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” (Berashit 50:18) This time they willingly accepted him as their king, in fulfillment of the meluchah aspect of his dream. (Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik)
ויאמר יהודה אל אחיו מה בצע כי נהרג את אחינו וכסינו את דמו
“And Yehudah said to his brothers, what profit is there in killing our brother, and covering his blood.” (37:26)
The Kotzker Rebbe commented on this verse: When you have to cover up your behavior that is a sign that you are doing something wrong.
Whenever you are certain that what you are doing is proper, you are willing to let others know about your actions. Even if they will disapprove, your own certainty gives you the necessary confidence to cope with their disapproval. But if you are uncertain about how proper your behavior really is, you will not want others to know what you are doing. Whenever you feel a need to hide your actions, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing really the right thing to do?” (HaRebbe MaiKotzk)
ויקחו את כתנת יוסף וישחטו שעיר עזים ויטבלו את הכתנת בדם
“They took Josef’s tunic, slaughtered a goatling, and dipped the tunic in the blood.” (37:31)
The Chasam Sofer explains that Jacob was punished – measure for measure. He had deceived his own father, Isaac by replacing the deer meat Isaac was expecting with a young goat slaughtered by him (the taste being similar; see Rashi, Bereishit 27:9). Now, Jacob’s sons deceived him, simulating an attack by a savage animal, by means of a young goat slaughtered by them. That is why “his father”, meaning Isaac, “cried for him” (37:35), aware that he had a part in the cause of Jacob’s pain, he wept for him. (Torah Anthology)
בעוד שלשת ימים ישא פרעה את ראשך מעליך ותלה אותך על עץ ואכל העוף את בשרך מעליך
“In three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift your head from you and he will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh from you.” (40:19)
How did Yosef know how to interpret the butler’s good dream and the baker’s bad dream since the actual contents of both were similar? The Magid of Dubna explains this with a parable:
There was a beautiful painting of a man carrying a breadbasket on his head. A live bird stood on the picture and started to peck away at the bread in the basket, thinking it was real. Two people who were passing by stopped and observed. One said to his friend: “The artist of this painting was truly great. The picture is so natural that the bird doesn’t differentiate and thinks that the bread is real.” His friend replied: “I disagree. The artist is not great, because he only succeeded in making the bread look real but not the person. The proof of this is the fact that the bird is not afraid of the person, which would not be the case were the man in the painting alive.”
When Yosef heard the baker saying that “The birds did eat them out of the basket from upon my head,” Yosef understood that the man in question was not alive and he thus said, “Within three days Pharaoh will lift your head from you…” (Ohel Yaakov)
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