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.
ונפשו קשורה בנפשו
“His soul is bound up with his soul.” (44:30)
QUESTION: How did their souls become connected?
ANSWER: The word “keshurah” (קשורה) – “bound” – has the numerical value of 611, which is the same numerical value as the word “Torah” (תורה). Yaakov taught Binyamin Torah and through their Torah study, their souls became connected. Torah is the unifying language of the Jews of past, present, and future generations. (Vedebarta Bam)
והקל נשמע בית פרעה לאמר באו אחי יוסף וייטב בעיני פרעה ובעיני עבדיו
“And the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, ‘Yosef’s brothers have come,’ and it was pleasing to Pharaoh and his servants.” (45:19)
Why was Pharaoh and his servants so pleased with the arrival of Yosef’s brothers? The Ohr HaChaim explains that Yosef’s lowly origins had always been a source of embarrassment to them. For all his outstanding administrative talents, the viceroy of Egypt was nonetheless a former slave who had been languishing in a dungeon. With the arrival of Yosef’s aristocratic family, however, it became clear that instead of being a lowly slave, Yosef was an unfortunate victim of circumstances. Pharaoh was pleased. (Torah Anthology)
כל הנפש לבית יעקב הבאה מצרימה שבעים
“The total of Yaakov’s household who came to Egypt was 70 people.” (46:27)
By descending into the Egyptian exile, the Jewish people began the process of elevating and transforming the 70 nations of the world. Yocheved’s birth just before Yaakov’s family entered Egypt brought their number to 70, thus enabling Yaakov to begin the mission of refining the 70 nations.
The process of transforming the world is twofold: first, we must cure the world of its opposition to holiness, and then, we must transform it into holiness. The former is the “masculine,” assertive approach, whereas the latter is the “feminine,” nurturing approach.
Thus, the commandments entrusted to women – ensuring that the family is nourished in accordance with the Torah’s laws, ensuring the safety and spiritual warmth of the home (as exemplified by kindling the Shabbat candles), and sanctifying marital life – are all ways of transforming the mundane aspects of ordinary human life into expressions of holiness. (Likutei Sichot)
ואת יהודה שלח לפניו
“He sent Yehudah ahead of him…” (46:28)
Rashi quotes a Midrash (Tanchumah 11) which explains that Yaakov sent Yehudah ahead of everyone to establish a yeshivah before their arrival. Why was this necessary? Why couldn’t Yehudah go to Egypt together with everyone and upon arrival found a yeshivah?
The Gemara states that it is prohibited to emigrate from Bavel. The reason for this is Bavel was unique in its abundance of yeshivot and widespread Torah study (Ketubot 111a). This implies that one is prohibited from moving from an area with an existing yeshivah to a place that does not have any yeshivah at all.
The Gemara states that wherever the Patriarchs settled they established a yeshivah and studied Torah there (Yoma 28b). It follows then that a yeshivah existed at Yaakov’s place of residence. When Yosef sent the message to his father urging him to move to Egypt, Yaakov was unable to fulfill this request. Therefore, he first sent Yehudah there to establish a yeshivah. Once a yeshivah existed in Egypt, Yaakov was permitted to move to Egypt. (Darchei Shalom)
וישם אותה יוסף לחק עד היום הזה על אדמת מצרים
“So Yosef imposed it as a statute till this day regarding the land of Egypt…” (47:26)
To fully appreciate Yosef HaTzadik’s greatness, one must be aware of the various trials and tribulations that Yosef endured. At a very young age he was taken from his home and abandoned into a society that was the absolute antithesis of his upbringing. He first served in a home where immorality and idol-worship were rampant. Then, he was sentenced to prison, where he spent the next twelve years in the company of derelicts. Would it have been surprising if Yosef had been influenced and changed by the subculture to which he was exposed? Yet, he not only survived physically and spiritually, he flourished in these surroundings. His trust and faith in Hashem remained firm and unshaken, his conversation replete with a constant awareness of Hashem. His moral character remained unblemished, maintaining an unbelievable sensitivity towards his fellowman.
All of this was the result of the exemplary upbringing and education, which Yosef received in his father’s home. After being saturated with Yaakov’s faith in Hashem, and experiencing firsthand the wonderful moral character which was the hallmark of the Patriarchs, Yosef was able to go into the world and withstand the enormous tests that he faced. Today, in our permissible society, a Jew is constantly being tested. It is necessary for parents to instill in their children faith and trust in Hashem, with an outlook on life that is absolute conformance with the Torah. It is only then, that our children will be properly prepared for the tests of life. (Rav Yehudah Zev Segal)