Showing posts from December, 2015

Shmos: the cause of oppression

After Moshe chastises the two Israelites that the Midrash identifies as the dyamic duo of trouble, Dathan and Aviram, by asking why would one hit his fellow, he gets a response that he finds disconcerting and declares, "Achen nodah hadavar [so the matter is known]" The simple meaning is that the two know about his killing the Egyptian who beat the Israelite. But there is also a deeper meaning that Rashi quotes, "umidrasho noda li hadavar shehayiti tema alav, ma cheto Yisrael mikol shivim umos, lihiyros nirdim beavodas perach, aval roeh ani shehem reuyim lekach." According to the Midrash what is known is the matter that had puzzled Moshe, what was the sin of Yisrael that made it the most culpable among the 70 nations to be punished in backbreaking work. But now [from the behavior of Dathan and Aviram] he sees that they did deserve it.

My grandfather asks the following: Didn't Moshe know that the enslavement was decreed upon them at Brith beyn habetharim? Also wa…

Did Yosef forgive his brothers?

That's a bit of a trick question. In the shiur that Michal Horowitz gave today, she mentioned that Rav Moshe Feinstein said that Yosef never explicitly forgave his brothers, never saying so outright, and that kept the debt hanging over klal Yisrael that was collected in the form of the asara harugey malchus.  She said it to make the point that one should be sure to clearly say that they forgive so that there will not be a price to pay for the person or the person's descendants.

During the shiur someone asked if the brothers actually asked forgiveness. She said she wasn't certain that they did. It's true that they did not do so directly; however, in Vayechi, this week's parsha they do so indirectly after their father's death when they tell him that Yaakov said he should forgive them: "Ana sa na pesha achicha vechatatham ki raa gamlucha veata sa na lepesha avdey Elokey avicha. [Please forgive the transgrssion of your brothers and their sin, for they treatedf…

The 10th of Teves

While the world may still be celebrating the holiday season, the holiday of Chanukah came to an end at the beginning of last week. This week is another significant date in the Jewish calendar, but it is a sad rather than a joyous occasion. On Tuesday, it is the 10th of Teves [sometimes spelled Tevet].
On this date, 2449 years ago, Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon, laid siege on  Jerusalem.. That is what marked the beginning of the loss of the first Temple, which occurred nearly 3 years later on the 9th of Av. Like, the 9th of Av, the 17th of Tammuz, and Tzom Gedalia, thisfast is, therefore, concerned with the loss of the Temple and Jewish sovereignty.
Some sources describe this as one of the "low" fasts, though that gives a false impression. The fast of Teves has very high priority in Jewish tradition. It shares the distinction of Yom Kippur of being observed as fast even if it falls out on the Sabbath. Practically speaking, it never falls out that way because of the calendar…

Yaakov's relief

After Yaakov is reunited with Yosef, he exclaims, "amuta hapa'am" that he will die this time (46:30). Rashi quotes the midrashic interpretation that before he had seen him, Yaakov was certain that he would suffer two deaths: one in this world and one in the next, for the shechina  had departed from him. Thinking that Yosef had died, he though that it was required (and that the loss of one of his children signified Yaakov's own loss of his share in the next world). However, now that he saw Yosef alive, he knew he would only die in this world.

My grandfather raises a question on Yaakov's assumption that he would lose his share in the next world. After all,  he has credit for so many good deeds.  He suggests that the loss of even just a small part of his portion in the next world would be tantamount to death, as is the connotation of "mitchayev benafsho" that Chazal speak of.

Yaakov thought that Yosef would not have died if his father were free of sin and,…

Pharaoh's praise of Yosef

After Yosef interprets Pharaoh's dream and advises him what to do, the king exclaims on Yosef's having ruach Elokim and possessing unusal understanding and wisdom The two terms navon vechacham refer to different forms of intelligence. According to the Ramban navon refers to yosef's understanding of how to manage the inahbitants of Egyts with respect to allocating bread according to the household numbers, to supply them with sufficient amounts to sustain them and to sell the surplus to other land in order to acquire wealth for Pharaoh. The term chachamrefers to his wisdom in knowing how to kee the crops from rotting, whtat to mix with each type in order to preserve it.

My grandfather adds that Yosef was unusal in that he not only had the spiritual connection to G-d but that he also was street smart about managing daily life in earthly matters. Pharaoh recognized this combined ability in Yosef's identifying the solution to the problem when giving the interpretation of th…

8 great things about Chanukah

Chanukah begins Sunday night.
Those who really know me may be surprised at the title on this post because I have expressioned aversion for numbers in titles as a gimmick to grab attention. However, 8 is not only a number associated with Chanukah but a sign of what the holiday is about. The number 8 represents the level that rises above nature -- represented by the number 7 to correspond to the days of the week. (See ) It was a miracle that the Jews won over a foe that vastly outnumbered them, and it was a miracle that they found the oil which allowed them to light the menorah in a state of purity -- to set the tone for the start as aiming for the highest possible level rather than settling for the bedieved [expedient, though far from ideal, course of action].
But the title promises a list, and here it is:
1. Like Purim, the holiday of Chanukah owes quite a bit to a female heroine. Yehudith, who was as brave as she was beaut…

Reuven's motivation

In the event that culminated in the sale of Yosef, his brothers first determine that he should be executed.. Reuven is the one who thwarts that plan by suggesting that he be thrown into a pit. The text attests to his intention to save his brother's life and to return him to their father in 37:22. Rashi explains that those words, lema'an hitzil oto miyadam lehashivo el aviv are the expresion of ruach hakodesh that reveals what he really intended when he made that suggestion. His thinking was that as the bechor, and the biggest of the brothers, he would bear the brunt of the blame.

My grandfather points out that the source for this is Midrash Rabbah 84: 15 in which Rav Nechamya offers that explanation for Reuven's concern. The supercommentary on Rashi, Sifsei Chachamim, quotes the Maharshal's question on this: Why bring up that reason? Why not just say that Reuven was righteous and didn't want to spill blood?

The answer can be found in the revelation of the Reuven…