This week, our Parshat HaShevua is being sponsored by Dr. Edo and Atara Lavi of Ramat Beit Shemesh to comemmorate Edo’s Bar Mitzvah parsha — Vayeishev. To Mishpochat Lavi, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or comemmorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Our parsha relates how Yosef, born to Rachel, was Yaakov’s favored son — his “Ben Z’kunim” (son of old age) to whom he bestowed a multi-colored coat which sources indicate could have been the coat of Eisev which was worn by Yaakov in receiving the B’rachot from Yitzchak. Yosef’s favored son status aroused jealousy amongst his brothers. Yosef’s tale-
bearing about his brothers, as well as his dream-telling aroused anger and hatred of him in the brothers.
They saw Yosef’s pronouncement of his dreams, his tale-telling — often without knowing all of the facts, as fostering their perception that he sought to rule over them, that he sought their subserviance to him. His brothers also envied their Father’s preference for him. They viewed Yosef in the light of the family history — their great grandfather’s Avraham’s reluctance to separate from his other son Yishmael and their grandfather Yitzchak’s apparent favoritism for his son Eisev, that “master of kibud Av,” who nonetheless was wicked and not connected with Shemayim.
Yosef’s brothers, while acting inappropriately out of jealousy, perceived Yosef as a threat to the future nation that was to grow from them as the offspring of Yaakov.
This author recalls once hearing a vort, but cannot attribute it’s source: indicating that the commentators explain the basis for the brothers’ hatred for Yosef as having been guided by their perception of his being another Eisev, or Yishmael in their midst. With this perception and mindset, the brothers felt that they were acting L’Shem Shemayim against Yosef . Indeed, “The Midrash Says” by, Rabbi Moshe Weissman notes on our parsha (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev, page 350):
They felt justified in their hatred of Yosef because they saw in him a pretender to the throne. His slander and dreams seemed to point at his ambition to expel them from their father’s house and establish himself as Yaakov’s lone successor. Hadn’t Avraham pushed away Yishmael and named only Yitzchak as his successor? Hadn’t Yitzchak acknowledged Yaakov’s birthright over the actual first-born, Eisev? It seemed to them that Yosaif by his conduct was attempting to win the position of Yaakov’s only successor. hence they considered thoughts and plans against him a mitzvah. They were unaware that they were actually distorting the truth as a result of their envy.
With this background in place, we can then reflect upon the brothers’ plot to kill Yosef, and Reuven’s action urging his brothers to throw Yosef into a pit rather than to murder him. Our parsha records (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev,
Perek 37, posukim 21-22)
“Reuven… rescued him from their hand; he said, ‘We will not strike him mortally!’ And Reuven said to them: ‘Do not shed blood! Throw him into this pit in the wilderness, but send no hand against him!’ — in order to rescue him from their hand, to return him to his father.
Back in Philadelphia, in the “old country”, R’ Moshe Ungar would always say, in his drosh on Parshat Vayeishev, that had Reuven put Yosef on his shoulders and carried him triumphantly back to Yaakov, his action could have heralded Moshiach.
But Reuven left the company of his brothers at that point. This author has yet to see a definitive, unequivocal explanation of why Reuven left, but some say that he went to serve his father, while “The Midrash Says”, (page 354) indicates:
Reuven left the company. He never partook in meals since he was constantly fasting and praying for having committed the sin of disarranging his father’s couch.
Our parsha records (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev, Perek 37, posukim 29-30) that after Yosef was sold:
“Reuven returned to the pit — and behold! Yosef was not in the pit! So he rent his garments. He returned
to his brothers and he said, ‘The boy is gone! And I — where can I go?'”
So why didn’t Reuven, knowing his current standing with his father, seize this opportunity and simply put Yosef on his shoulders and carry him back to Yaakov?
Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her Sefer “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev, pages 129 – 134) writes:
In the performance of mitzvot, passion and growth play an important role. It makes a difference whether a mitzvah is done with full conviction or halfheartedly. And every mitzvah has an effect on our essential being. If these [passion and growth] were not important components of mitzvah performance, Hashem could have just created an army of robot clones to perform his commanded tasks…. However, He created man, each person having unique emotions and fervor. It is up to us to utilize these qualities in doing His will.
Rebbetzin Smiles then relates emotions and fervor in performance of mitzvot to the plot of the brothers to kill Yosef, and
to Reuven’s intervention, including a midrash citing from Yalkut Shimoni:
Just as the brothers are about to execute their plan, Reuven steps in, convincing them to throw Yosef into a pit rather than kill him. While clearly a mitzvah, this act, according to the midrash, was less than perfect.
On Reuven’s action, the midrash comments, “Rabbi Yitachak said: The Torah teaches us that when a person does a mitzvah, he should do so with a complete and happy heart. Had Reuven known that Torah would record that he attempted to save Yosef from his brothers, he would have put him on his shoulders and run home with him.”
The midrash continues in the same vein about the actions of Aaron [would have met Moshe, the redeemer, with drums and dancing] and Boaz [in Megillah, re: that “he gave Ruth some parched grain to eat, he would have given her a royal banquet.”].
The midrash concludes, “In days gone by a person would do a mitzvah and the prophet would record it. But now, when a person does a mitzvah and people mock him, who records it? Eliyahu and Moshiach write it down and HaKadosh Baruch Hu signs it in affirmation.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Rus 604)
Having our actions written up in the Torah must grant us something far greater than fame.
Rebbetzin Smiles continues by citing Rabbi Zev Leff (“Outlooks and Insights, page 153) regarding “a complete heart”:
…Throughout Torah we find that completion and wholeness trump size and quantity…. Example of this in halacha is… when given the choice between making a hamotzi blessing over a small, but whole roll or on a larger, but incomplete portion of bread, one should make the berachah on the roll. This serves as a model for the concept that in our service of Hashem the closer to perfection and wholeness an action is, the more valuable.
This idea runs counter to the values of Western culture and the world at large. We think that bigger is better; the grander things are, the greater their value. But Torah does not share this view. When it comes to pure avodah (service), we are not looking for grandeur; we are looking for that… kernel of perfection. That is why a person who accomplishes much in this world but does not use his full potential is not considered as successful as one of lesser talent who invests all of himself in what he does.
We are obligated to to emulate HaKadosh Baruch Hu, writes Rabbi Leff and that means emulating wholeness.
Or as R’ Moshe Ungar would put it, back in Philadelphia, when before the Heavenly Court, you’ll be asked; “Were You the Best ‘Your Name’ that You could be?”
So, in the name of performance of mitzvot wholeheartedly, this author again cites and links to last year’s Parshat Ki Tavo and the impact of one’s intent in performing mitzvot in emulation of Hashem.
In that Parshat HaShevua, this author spoke at length about learning, i.e. Mishne, in a vacuum, at warp speed, without benefit of all available sources, only in order that the entirety be completed within a defined period. And so, in the name of time-expediency, regarding intent, i.e. one’s Terumot offering to the Kohen, the inadvertance of one’s errant 1/60th portion, normally viewed as grudging, where the individual’s normal offering is 1/40th or 150th, is deemed valid, i.e. “It works.”
And what about the Shaliach Tzibbor who mumble-jumbles, mispronounces, cuts short or misses words of Chazarat Hashatz (repetition of Shemonah Esrei) such that what is heard becomes indistiguishable, either in his rush to get it done, or because his lyrical chazzanut means more to him ( the Shaliach Tzibbor) than proper pronunciation of the tefillot? And what about the 30 to 45 second Aleinu?? Is that what Hashem really wants from us? Does Hashem care more for mumble-jumbled up lyrical chazzanut where the kehillah can’t make out the words, or a no-kavanah 30 to 45 second Aleinu where, more often than not, the second paragraph is blown off in the name of “te’irka b’tzibbor”? Are these examples of performing mitzvot with full, complete heart?
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and
be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat