Category Archives: Parshas Vayeshev

Parshas Vayeshev: The Answer To “Why” Will Soon Be Understood

Parshas Vayeshev

The Answer To “Why” Will Soon Be Understood

“He [Yaakov] sent [Yosef] from the depths of Chevron, and he came to Shechem.” (37:14)

In 1942, in the early morning of erev Rosh Hashana, a large group of Danish Jews gathered in the shul to recite slichos. The chief rabbi announced that instead of saying slichos, they had to go into hiding and arrange passage from Denmark to Sweden. The rabbi had received a secret tip that the Nazis were planning on rounding-up the Danish Jews the night of Rosh Hashana. A few families planned with a Danish fisherman to take them on the six-hour journey to safety. There was always a risk that the Nazis would catch them, but they felt that they had no choice. It was a moonless night and their boat rocked violently from the stormy winds and rain. Finally, they arrived a few hundred feet from the Swedish coast where they dropped anchor. The plan was for the Swedish Coast Guard to notice them and send a boat to rescue them. Suddenly, from the coast, they saw searchlights scanning the water. The Jewish families were hopeful that they would soon be saved. However, the searchlights kept missing their boat. The Jews prayed to Hashem to allow the searchlights to find them. However, the searchlights missed them. They realized that they would have to wait until morning to be saved. In the morning, they realized that something was desperately wrong. Apparently, because of the storm, their boat landed back in Danish and not Swedish waters. The searchlights that were trying to find them were from the Nazis who were looking for escaped Jews. Because the searchlights missed seeing them, they were able to reverse their trip and were saved. (In the Spirit of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

It is interesting that the Chofetz Chaim zt”l, Rabbi Avraham Pam zt”l and Rabbi Yissachor Frand all discuss the same theme in this week’s parsha.  There were some unusual events that transpired in the parsha. In addition, some very smart and very righteous individuals acted in ways that seemed contrary to the proper course of action. Our forefather Yaakov gave his son, Yosef, a multi-colored coat. Didn’t he realize that doing so could cause sibling jealousy? [There are many commentaries that explain the reason why Yaakov did this.] In fact, the Talmud (Shabbos 10B) learns from Yaakov’s actions that we should never give one child preferential treatment over the others. The gift of the fine wool coat that Yaakov gave to Yosef, above and beyond that which he gave to the rest of his sons, caused jealousy. That action started a series of events which led to Yosef being sold as a slave! It almost led to Yosef’s death! As the situation unfolded further, it resulted in the Jewish people descending to Egypt.

Furthermore, since Yosef knew that his brothers hated him, why did he tell them about his two dreams which seemed to indicate that he would rule over them? And, since Yaakov was aware that the other brothers felt negatively towards Yosef, why did he send Yosef to see how they and their sheep were doing?

The answer to how such great people can make such “mistakes” can be found in the words of the pasuk, “He [Yaakov] sent [Yosef] from the depths of Chevron….” (37:14). Rashi asks, that Chevron was situated on a mountain so why does the pasuk say that Yaakov sent Yosef from the valley (deep part) of Chevron? Rashi answers that it was referring to the profound counsel of our forefather Avraham who is buried in Chevron. Hashem caused Yaakov to send Yosef so that Hashem could fulfill what He had told Avraham would happen. His children would be strangers in a strange land. The other “strange” events, the so called “mistakes”, that occurred were also orchestrated by the guiding hand of Hashem.

We see from this the idea of hashgachah peratis, Divine providence. We see how Hashem manipulated events to bring His master plan to fruition. Yosef having been sold as a slave to one of Pharoah’s ministers, led directly to Yosef’s rise to power as a ruler of Egypt. Even when Yosef was in prison, Hashem orchestrated that Pharaoh’s wine steward and baker were put into the prison at the same time as Yosef. That was to set in motion the events which led to Yosef becoming the second in command to Pharoah. Then, when Hashem caused there to be a famine in all the surrounding lands, Yosef was in position to sustain his entire family who eventually joined him in Egypt. All the great people were puppets and Hashem was the Puppeteer. Yaakov and his family lived comfortably in Eretz Yisroel. It was necessary that he and his family be enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. All these events occurred to facilitate the goal of Yaakov and his entire family going to Egypt.

The Rokeach, a Tosafist and Kabbalist, writes that this parsha has a total of 112 psukim and Tehillim chapter 92, Mizmor Shir Leyom HaShabbos, contains 112 words. What is the connection between these two? Rav Mattisyahu Solomon gives a beautiful explanation. We know that the Book of Bereishis is the blueprint of Jewish history. There is the concept of maaseh avos siman labanim, that the actions of our forefathers foreshadow events that will befall the Jewish People. Parshas Vayeshev illustrates that Hashem runs the world, down to the most minute details. Hashem showed Adam HaRishon all the future events that would occur to the Jewish People. After seeing how Hashem would bring His master plan to fruition, Adam HaRishon was moved to say this chapter of Tehillim that includes the words, “O Hashem, how great are your deeds! Your thoughts are very profound.” (92:6)

We have various questions. There are numerous world events that cause us to wonder why Hashem allowed them to happen. All of this will only be properly understood when Hashem brings Moshiach to redeem us.

A person may be in a distressing situation, never realizing that this will ultimately bring him great benefit and joy. When the kingship of Hashem will be revealed to the world, we will see, with perfect clarity, how all our trials and tribulations were necessary steps in our rise to greatness. “And in that day, you shall say, O Hashem, I will praise You: Although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You do comfort me.” There will come a time when we will praise Hashem for all our suffering. At that time, we will understand that it was our path to salvation and success (Isaiah 12:1)

(Based on Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 3; Chofetz Chaim on the Torah, Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin, Messages from Rabbi Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith)



Parshas Vayeshev: You CAN Do It if You Try!

Parshas Vayeshev

You CAN Do It if You Try!


“It was at that time that Yehudah went down from his brothers” (Bereishis 38:1)

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l (in Sefer Chofetz Chaim on the Torah, in Parshas Terumah) relates a true, tragic story that has implications for all of us. A Jew was imprisoned in a small town in Russia. His hands and feet were in shackles, and he was about to be sent to Siberia for his crime of counterfeiting. Before being led away, the prisoner asked the policeman if he could speak to the rabbi of the town. The prisoner said that he had something urgent to tell the rabbi. The policeman agreed and sent for the rabbi. When the rabbi came and saw that the prisoner was about to be led away, he felt brokenhearted. The prisoner saw the rabbi and called out, “It’s your fault! You knew that I was counterfeiting. You should have reprimanded me and warned me what the terrible consequence would be if I were caught!”

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l concluded by stressing the grave responsibility that rabbis and leaders have, to correct improper behavior. Their followers will blame the rabbis and leaders for ignoring their sinful behavior. The Chofetz Chaim zt”l continues that the accusations against the leaders will be even greater when the people are punished for their sins in the World to Come. [Of course, the rebukes must be delivered in a manner that will be heard. And the people should honestly listen to those who are trying to guide them in the correct path. They should not embarrass or fight with their leaders.]

In this week’s parsha, Yosef’s brothers determined that Yosef deserved the death penalty. Reuven suggested that instead of actively killing him Yosef, they should throw him into a pit. Reuven left to take care of his father, intending to return to save Yosef. Meanwhile, a caravan of Arabs passed. Yehudah suggested to the brothers that they sell Yosef as a slave, rather than kill him. Yehudah felt that this would at least save Yosef’s life [The brothers were exceedingly righteous. The reader should not get a negative misimpression of them or of Yosef due to this simplified understanding of the story. The commentaries explain everything in depth.] The brothers agreed. When the brothers returned, they gave Yaakov the impression that Yosef had been killed by a wild animal. Rashi (Bereishis 38:1) says that when the brothers saw Yaakov’s inconsolable mourning, they turned to Yehudah and blamed him for Yaakov’s sadness. They removed Yehudah from his position of leadership and complained, “You, said to sell him. Had you said to return him, we would have listened to you”.

Rav Avraham Pam zt”l (Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith) questions the brothers complaint to Yehudah. Would they truly have listened to Yehudah had he said to free Yosef? After all, they felt halachically justified in killing him. Yehudah clearly felt that, had he asked to spare Yosef, the other brothers would not have listened to him. They would have left Yosef in the pit to die. Yehudah felt that a compromise would be accepted. Therefore, he suggested that Yosef be sold, rather than be freed. Clearly, Yehudah underestimated the influence he had over the other brothers. Apparently, had he been insistent in freeing Yosef, they would have listened to him. Since he did not do so, the brothers blamed him for Yaakov’s pain and removed him from his position of leadership.

The story from the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and the dvar Torah from Rabbi Pam zt”l impact not only our leaders, but us as well! We are often in the position to influence others to do good and/or to persuade them to stop sinning. However, we may feel inadequate, that we will be ignored. Yet, that is not always true. Obviously, we must use our common sense to know when to speak up and when to be silent. However, in truth, there are many instances when we can speak up and our voices will be heard.

Then, we will make a difference someone’s life!

A man had a non-observant neighbor. He never thought of inviting him for a Shabbos meal because he thought that his offer would be refused. How wrong he was. The neighbor had remarked to another person that he was just waiting to be invited. His life could have been changed had his religious neighbor confidently reached-out to him.

Who is waiting for you to reach out and change their life?