Shmot - Darkest Before the Dawn

'O L-rd, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people. You have done nothing to help Your people.'
G-d said to Moshe, 'Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh. He will be forced to let them go.'
וַיָּשָׁב משֶׁה אֶל ה  וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה לָמָּה זֶּה שְׁלַחְתָּנִי וּמֵאָז בָּאתִי אֶל פַּרְעֹה לְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמֶךָ הֵרַע לָעָם הַזֶּה וְהַצֵּל לֹא הִצַּלְתָּ אֶת עַמֶּךָ וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל משֶׁה עַתָּה תִרְאֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה לְפַרְעֹה כִּי בְיָד חֲזָקָה יְשַׁלְּחֵם וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה יְגָרְשֵׁם מֵאַרְצוֹ
(Shmot 5:22 - 6:1)

Moshe shows his frustration and disappointment after his initial confrontation with Pharaoh. Not only did Pharaoh not give any regard to Moshe's request to let the slaves leave and sacrifice to G-d in the desert, but even worse, Pharaoh then made the work of the Hebrews even harder, by no longer providing straw for bricks, requiring the Hebrews to gather their own straw (Shmot 5:1-7).

In the verses at hand, from the end of the parsha, we see that Moshe questions G-d on two counts: why allow the Jewish people to be mistreated, and why was Moshe sent as the primary representative. In responding, G-d says "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh" as opposed to just 'You will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh'

Why Now
What is the significance of Moshe's questions? Would it not have been enough to just question the treatment of the Jewish People, and why does G-d respond by starting with the word 'Now'? How does Moshe's questions reflect on his level of faith, especially with the injunctions and directives handed down directly from G-d, does this show a weakness in faith?

Rashi notes the exchange that occurs in these verses and comments, "He questions [G-d's] character, unlike Avraham, "G-d said to Avraham, 'Do not be troubled because of the boy and your slave. Do everything that Sarah tells you. It is through Isaac that you will gain posterity.'" (Breisheit 21:12) and after that G-d said "'Take your son, the only one you love - Isaac - and go away to the Moriah area. Bring him as an all-burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will designate to you.'" (Breisheit 22:2). Avraham did not consider questioning G-d's character. Therefore the verse "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh" is coming to describe what Moshe will see done to Pharaoh and that he will not see what will be done to the kings of the 7 nations when Am Yisrael conquers the land of Caanaan."

Rashi illuminates these questions, yet in a cryptic way. He starkly contrasts the unfailing faith of Avraham to the seeming hesitancy of Moshe, but how does the plight of the 7 nations at the hands of Am Yisrael answer the issue of using the word 'Now'?

Moshe's Mission
The Siftei Chachmim expands on Rashi's points, noting that this encounter follows Moshe's earlier assertions to G-d, questioning his own suitability for confronting Pharaoh and for conveying the word of G-d to the Jewish people (Shmot 4:1). 
"If Moshe would not have said 'Why did You send me?' and only said 'why do You mistreat Your people?' this would not have angered G-d.
"Rather, Moshe seemed to make everything dependent on whether his mission was worthwhile or just for nothing and was embarrassed to think his mission was seemingly meaningless. Otherwise he wouldn't have appeared to question the character of G-d."

This clarifies the situation and Rashi by adding that G-d was angry as a result of Moshe's questions. But what was making Him angry and  how did He express his anger. It is almost like the conversation between G-d and Moshe is much longer and more involved and the Torah has only showed the highlights.

The Kli Yakar expands on Moshe's concern about his part in the mission. "At least if his mission was just  meaningless, then  it shouldn't be harmful. But that is exactly what Moshe saw, that out of his own actions the conditions for the Jewish People got worse. And Moshe could have thought to himself 'Maybe I was the cause of all this, since representatives sent to Pharaoh had a heavy mouth and language like me and this what angered Pharaoh even more. This is why Moshe asks 'Why did You send me?' or in other words what was the point of sending me.

The Plight of the 7 Nations
This shows the concerns, doubts and fears of Moshe. The Gemara that Rashi referenced brings in the missing pieces and fills out the dialog.

Sanhedrin 111A
And for this Moses was punished, as he said, 'As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people. You have done nothing to help Your people.'
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘Alas for those who are gone and no more to be found! For how many times did I reveal Myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the name of El Shad-dai, and they did not question my character, nor say to Me, What is Your name?
'I said to Abraham, Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it,’ for I will give it to you: yet when he sought a place to bury Sarah, he did not find one, but had to purchase it for four hundred silver shekels; and still he did not question My character.
'I said to Isaac, Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee: yet his servants sought water to drink, and did not find it without its being disputed, as it is said, And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen saying, The water is our's; still he did not question My character.
'I said to Jacob, The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: yet he sought a place to pitch his tent and did not find one until he purchased it for an hundred kesitah; nevertheless he did not question My character; nor did they say to me, What is Thy name?
'And now you say to Me, You have done nothing to help Your people.
[Therefore] "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh." You will see the war against Pharaoh, but not the war against the thirty one kings.’
And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.

This piece of Gemara clears up the situation, showing that G-d was clearly angered by this absolute lack of faith. The greatness of the patriarchs was their ability to remain faithful even when facing incredible strife and hardship in their lives. The commentators cover this Gemara and we learn here that this is the beginning of Moshe's punishment, not just at the point where he hit the rock. (Bamidbar 20:1-13). At this point Moshe's punishment is not to see the full conquering of Eretz Yisrael, but only to enter and be buried there.

Weren't the Jewish People Suffering
But wasn't Moshe's question valid. Didn't he have a point to question the negative impact his appearance before Pharaoh had on the enslaved Jewish people? This situation was entirely different than with the patriarchs. With the patriarchs, they were each given a promise from G-d, but when they themselves faced hardship, they remained steadfast. However Moshe's concern isn't about G-d keeping His promises to Moshe about Moshe's future, but Moshe's concern is how the Jews have now been affected.

The Kli Yakar addresses this side as well. He explains that "There is a well known phenomena that every day at the moment before dawn, it is the darkest darkness from all the night. And in the winter, just before the sun rises the cold worsens, but is eventually overcome by the rising sun. Since everything in the natural order feels a resistance from the opposite side that wants to nullify it. And likewise when Pharaoh worsened the conditions for the Jews he was acting out a natural force, resisting the end that was growing closer. And when the time of redemption grows close and will nullify all of the activities of Pharaoh. This is why G-d says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh. He will be forced to let them go." Pharaoh was forced to release them, and so we see this miraculous action of Pharaoh intensifying the work for Am Yisrael as he senses the end.

We are not Moshe and do not have direct dialogs with G-d. Yet we can also slip in our faith, and feel like everything we are doing is for nothing, a waste. Sometimes life sends extremely difficult circumstances and challenges and we may question, is it worth it. Yet we must push forward, and remain firm in our faith and our commitment to Torah and Mitvot. For at this moment if may feel the coldest as cold can be, and may seem as dark as ever, but we don't realize that the powerful morning sun is just around the corner, waiting to push away all these troubles.

Vayahi - Tshuva and the End of Days

Yaacov called for his sons. [When they came,] he said, 'Gather in, and I will tell you what will happen in the course of time. Come together and listen, sons of Yaacov; listen to your father Yisrael.'
וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר הֵאָסְפוּ וְאַגִּידָה לָכֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא אֶתְכֶם בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִיםהִקָּבְצוּ וְשִׁמְעוּ בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב וְשִׁמְעוּ אֶל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיכֶם
Breisheit 49:1-2
In this parshah there is an interesting use of language.
The consecutive verses use dual terms for the same thing. First it says 'Gather in' then followed by 'Come together', why not use the same language consistently?

Dual Terms
The Kli Yakar comments on this verse. "Here the term 'Gather in' (האספו) refers to someone who is standing outside and exposed, and is gathered into the house, a place of privacy.

"But the term 'Come together' (הקבצו) describes a people that are scattered around all over and gather together at one spot, even an exposed area where many pass by."

Rashi also comments on this verse, noting the phrase 'I will tell you.'
Rashi says "Yaacov requested to reveal the end and the shechinah departed from him, and he started to say other things.[quoting the Talmud Mesechaet Pesachim 56A]"

Reveal the End
The Talmud states
Yaacov wished to reveal the ketz, the end of days, but the Shechinah (God's presence) left him. He said, 'Perhaps, G-d forbid, there is an inadequacy in my bed (offpsring) like Avraham who fathered Yishmael, or my father Yitzhak who fathered Esau. ' His sons said back to him 'Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One'
Pesachim 56A

The Kli Yakar also notes this in explaining the double language used. "Thus he requested to reveal the end and it is not appropriate to reveal something so secret in public lest someone who is not honest hear this."

The Kli Yakar reads the original verses as:
"Yaacov called for his sons. [When they came,] he said, 'Gather in, and I will tell you what will happen in the course of time - at the end of time. And immediately he felt that 'the end' was closed from him. And so he diverted from the language of  'gather in' and said:
Come together and listen, sons of Yaacov;  to hear things that are not secret and can talk about in public. "

Technically this explains the significance of the change in language. The spirit that moved Yaacov to bring his sons together was no longer with him. But what was the morale significance?

When Yisrael is Worthy
The Kedushat Levi quotes the Zohar on this verse as well. But first, I think it is noteworthy to bring a little background about who the author of the Kedushat Levi was and what he was known for. The author was Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, best known as The Defender of Israel. One story they say about him (Hasidic Masters - Aryeh Kaplan page 71) "According to one anecdote his wife and family were once cruelly offended by the opponents of the Hasidism, and the latter were hailed before leaders of the community. After the matter had been investigated and the culprits were about to be sentenced, the gentle rabbi was found praying in a corner. When people leaned over to hear his words, they discovered that he was praying that G-d might forgive those who had wronged him."

His love for his fellow Jews was boundless, and he would go to incredible lengths to explain the behavior of his fellow Jew (no matter how far from observance) was another form of love of G-d. And, as shown by the story above, when he couldn't find merit in their actions, he took it upon himself to pray on their behalf, even on matters that were directed against him.

"When Yisrael is worthy, then they come together (מתקבצים) and hear an uplifted voice that announces give the dear children of Yaacov, and this is what Yaacov said to them 'Come together and listen, sons of Yaacov; listen...' The explanation of this verse is:  Listen to an uplifted voice that says to you, children of Yaacov my servent.

Doing Tshuva
And the coming together of Israel, brings the hearts of Israel together so they can do tshuva and purify the hearts of Israel.  'Listen to your father Yisrael' means that you should listen and understand the words that I am hinting to you now - the secret of the end of days, the redemption."

So that when we apply the words of the Kedushat Levi to this verse, we come away with that 'come together' is not just a technical differentiation from the previous verse, when Yaacov was ready to reveal the end, but that 'come together' is literally a directive for all of Israel to come together and become close to their fellow Jew. This language not only brings as closer to each other, but ultimately closer to the days of Moshiach.

Vayigash - Judging for Merit

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer to me," and they drew closer. And he said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you."
 וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָהוְעַתָּה | אַל תֵּעָצְבוּ וְאַל יִחַר בְּעֵינֵיכֶם כִּי מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי לְמִחְיָה שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹקים לִפְנֵיכֶם 
Breisheit 45:4-5
Why does the verse where Yoseph finally reveals himself to his brothers emphasize that Yoseph was sold to Egypt, repeating that event twice in consecutive verses? What importance is being emphasized by this point?

Remarkable Turn of Events
The Ohr HaChaim comments on "Now don't worry or feel guilty because you sold me" saying, why use the double language of 'worry' and 'guilty' - can't one of these words suffice? Also these are two opposite ideas where 'worry' focuses on a broken heart, and 'guilt' is connected to haughtiness?

Yoseph says to his brothers, 'You are worried because of the sale [of me to Egypt]' since they had said [when they came to Egypt to request food] "but we are guilty of our brother's misfortune" (Breisheit 42:21). Now that Yoseph reveals himself, he uses the language "don't worry" to announce to them that their feelings are close to his heart and that he knows they are still worried about what they did to him even to this very day.

The Ohr HaChaim continues by saying the reason for saying "guilty" is to point out that the sale itself brought about a remarkable turn of events.

Still a Brotherhood
The Netivot Shalom notes that the verse states "You sold me" adjacent to "Your brother" in order to show that even at the time of the sale, nevertheless Yoseph was their brother, and that even at this time darkness had still not clouded the eyes of the brotherhood.

And on the next verse "Now don't worry or feel guilty because you sold me," why shouldn't they worry and feel guilty about what they did? Even though things turned out good in the end, nevertheless they committed a horrible act in selling their own brother  - their own flesh and blood - and they should be judged negatively and be expected to repent.

So then why say to them "don't worry"? It is because they don't have to repent at all! Essentially they didn't do anything at all. As it says later "You might have meant to do me harm, but G-d made it come out for good" (Breisheit 50:20). And the Ohr HaChaim says on this verse 'This is like someone who intends to pour his friend a glass filled with poison, but actually pours a glass of wine - he is not guilty of anything! And so the brothers are likewise  free of guilt - both between their fellow man and with heaven.

How Can You Sell Your Brother
And what about the repetition in the verses about the sale of Yoseph to Egypt?

The Netivot Shalom continues noting that the original sale of Yoseph to Egypt is a mystery. How could 11 holy and pure sons of Yaacov (the staff) and without a single blemish to their name, and yet from out of them come the Community of Israel, how could they reach such depths to come to sell their own brother - their flesh and blood?

And that is why the Torah includes these verses here! The Torah comes to clarify what Yoseph was thinking when the sale took place. Yoseph knew the righteousness and holiness of his brothers, so he would be puzzled on how  they can come to carry out such a cruel action?

Judging for Merit
The Netivot Shalom explains that a truly righteous individual does not see even the slightest blemish of evil in his fellow man, and only judges them for merit. Yoseph understood intrinsically that these actions absolutely must have a greater good connected to them, and they can't just be doing this out of a sense of spite or pure evil, heaven forbid. Yoseph thus concludes that for these holy and righteous individuals to do this act, it must be to make something greater.

Ultimate Will
Yet the question still remains, how could the brothers do this? The fact that Yoseph judges them for merit means that this must be the will of G-d that he be sold, and that really the actions of the brothers are out of  force majeure.

The actual purpose of this act was for good, since the actions of the righteous (tzadikim) are always for good.  So actually the very act of his brothers was to sort of send Yoseph on a mission on their behalf, and that they had no choice in this matter, that their very limbs betrayed them and ultimately were carrying out the  will of G-d to have Yoseph sold and brought down to Egypt.

In the end they see that everything was for the best, and for Yoseph, even at the seemingly dark time of the sale, the spirit of brotherhood had not gone dark.

True Tzadik
Here is where we see the greatness and righteousness of Yoseph, that he is a true tzadik. Since typically with people, everything that one finds despicable in his fellow man and then judges them detrimentally, these very characteristics are actually present within, and are his own deficiencies [and the criticism he puts forth is about those characteristics within himself that he dislikes]. A holy and pure Jew will only see goodness in his fellow Jew.

Internal Character Flaws
Ultimately regarding the matter of faith by a Jew, this is tied to his level of purity and dedication to G-d. That if a Jew has doubts in his faith, this creeps out through character flaws. These internal deficiencies can boil one's blood and literally contaminate one's blood, and this contaminated blood then goes up to the brain and into the heart, creating deficiencies in faith.

I want to add my own addition to the words from Netivot Shalom. There is an expression in English that goes 'Makes my blood boil' which can refer to a number of circumstances. Anger, bitterness or jealousy can all make a person's blood boil, and these are all profound character flaws. As Pirkei Avot notes  (Ch 4 Mishna 27):
Jealousy, lust, and honor remove a man from this world.

True Faith
The Netivot Shalom continues. Yoseph was a tzadik to his very base, and his faith was on a very high level. When a Jew's faith is very high, then nothing can influence him negatively. He knows that when a man harms him, the Faithful Jew knows that this pain was not from the man inflicting it. This is like the metaphor of a dog that is hit by a rock. The dog barks at the rock thinking that the rock carried out the attack. As opposed to man, who knows that a rock has no will, and that the rock was actually thrown by someone. Likewise for the Faithful Jew, when harm befalls him, he knows that this is straight from heaven. And when it is decreed by heaven that he should suffer, then it will either be by one way or another, and that every action is a matter of heavenly supervision (השגחת פרטית).

This is what Yoseph was saying to his brothers "I am  Yoseph your brother!" (Breisheit 45:4), that even at the moment of selling him, the sense of brotherhood did not go dark, since he knew that this was all a matter of heavenly supervision, and that the brothers didn't do anything. "He that believes shall not make haste" (Yeshayahu 28:16) since the true believer understands that no man has the power to do anything to him and that everything that happens is from heaven and under divine supervision.

Miketz - Reading Between the Lines

After the brothers unknowingly encounter Yosef in Egypt and return home to Yaacov/Yisrael their father, but without Shimon, they share their experience with Yaacov/Yisrael. The brothers explain to their father that in order to release Shimon they must return to Egypt and bring the youngest of the brothers, Binyamin.
"Yisrael said, 'Why did you do such a terrible thing to me, telling the man that you had another brother?' The brothers replied, 'The man kept asking about us and our family. He asked, Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother? We simply answered his questions.'" 

וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתֶם לִי לְהַגִּיד לָאִישׁ הַעוֹד לָכֶם אָח.וַיֹּאמְרוּ שָׁאוֹל שָׁאַל הָאִישׁ לָנוּ וּלְמוֹלַדְתֵּנוּ לֵאמֹר הַעוֹד אֲבִיכֶם חַי הֲיֵשׁ לָכֶם אָח וַנַּגֶּד לוֹ עַל פִּי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הֲיָדוֹעַ נֵדַע כִּי יֹאמַר הוֹרִידוּ אֶת אֲחִיכֶם
Breisheit 43:6-7

Is that true? Were the brothers 'caught' by Yosef and had no choice but to share the details about the family? Or were they presenting a fabricated story to their father?

Initial Conversation
When looking back at the initial encounter between Yosef and his brothers, the conversation that actually occurred was quite different.
"Yosef recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them. But he behaved like a stranger and spoke harshly to them. 'Where are you from?' he asked.
'From the land of Canaan to buy food,' they said.
Yosef recognized his brothers but they didn't recognize him. He remembered what he had dreamed about them.  'You are spies!' he said to them, 'you have come to see where the land is exposed to attack!'
'No my lord,' they replied, 'We are your servants who have come only to buy food. We are all the sons of the same man.  We are honorable men. We would never think of being spies.'
''No! You have come to see where the land is exposed.'
'We are twelve brothers your servants,' they pleaded, 'We are the sons of one man who is in Canaan. Right now the youngest brother is with our father, and one brother is gone.'"
Breisheit 42:7-13

Strangely enough, there was no cross examination by Yosef of his brothers, quite unlike they had told their father, rather Yosef confronted them with the accusation of being spies. Why accuse the brothers of being spies? Why not put another accusation on the table that would put the brothers on the defensive? And still upon being accused of spying, why did the brothers quickly divulge that another brother was still alive with their father?

Being Spies
Rashi comments on the verse "You have come to see where the land is exposed" (Breisheit 42: 12) by adding the following to the narrative "Behold you entered through the 10 gates of the city, why didn't you come in through one gate?"

The Siftei Chachmim explains Rashi's comment, saying "Yosef would have known that his brothers came to collect food, since it was an obligation for the gate guards to write down both them and their father's name for those came to the city, and then show the list to Yosef. And 10 gate guards came to Yosef, and presenting [the names] Reuven the son of Yaacov, Shimon the son of Yaacov, etc and that is how Yosef would have known that his brothers came in through 10 separate gates."

But the Siftei Chachamim asks, so then why didn't Rashi use this explanation on the earlier verse ('you have come to see where the land is exposed to attack!' 42:9)?
The Siftei Chachamim explains Rashi's decision to use this explanation here saying that this is a better verse since the brothers reply with 'We are twelve brothers your servants' (42:13).

12 Brothers
And what is the point of this response by the brothers, when they are being accused of being spies? Rather we must say that at the beginning of the conversation, Yosef said to them:
'Behold you have entered through 10 city gates!'
And then they responded 'We are twelve brothers your servants,' they pleaded, 'We are the sons of one man who is in Canaan. Right now the youngest brother is with our father, and one brother is gone." 
Breisheit 42:13

It is because of the missing brother that they were motivated to enter through 10 gates, to scatter their forces and increase their own chances of survival. In case they were attacked at a gate, then the brothers wouldn't all be in one spot.

At this point, the Torah continues with Yosef's response to his brothers.
"I still say that you are spies, said Yosef" 
Breisheit 42:14

Rashi comments on this verse saying "I still say - that which I said that all of you are spies, this is the truth and is correct, as related according to the simple meaning of the verse."

The Siftei Chachamim points out the difficulties with Rashi's response here.
What was the issue that motivated Yosef to accuse them of being spies?
Furthermore, how would bringing Binyamin to Egypt disprove this claim?

The Answer
The answer, according to the Siftei Chachamim, comes when Yosef could have said: 'Behold you have entered through 10 city gates!' as Rashi says.
The brothers reply to this with "We are the sons of one man who is in Canaan.'' since it is well known that one man would never send all of his own sons to spy, lest they all be caught and executed.
To which Yosef says to them: All the more so, you are really spies since no man would send all his sons to spy UNLESS he kept one or two sons at home to help him.
And so that was why Yosef repeated his accusation and said again, "I still say that you are spies."
Out of the fear that they might get caught, they didn't want to put themselves at risk, and that is why they went in through 10 gates.

And this is how they ultimately came to point that they had to admit that there was another brother at home with their father, and so if they were to bring the other brother down [to Egypt], then they would remove the suspicion that they are spies. This is why the brothers responded 'We are twelve brothers your servants.'
To account for the 12, we learn that they had shared the detail about the other brother still at home. The commentary continues saying, 'They went in through 10 gates in order to investigate the disappearance of they brother [Yosef].'
And Yosef had responded to them 'it' after they said "and our brother was lost."
Yosef could say to them 'that was many years ago, and only now you are investigating the disappearance. You must be spies. If you are lying about the brother with your father, then you are definitely spies.''

The Actual Conversation
So if we look at the conversation between Yosef and his brothers, now with the added information from the commentaries, it looks like this.

"Yosef recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them. But he behaved like a stranger and spoke harshly to them. 'Where are you from?' he asked.
'From the land of Canaan to buy food,' they said.
Yosef recognized his brothers but they didn't recognize him. He remembered what he had dreamed about them.
'Behold you entered through the 10 gates of the city, why didn't you come in through one gate? You are spies!' he said to them, 'you have come to see where the land is exposed to attack!'
'No my lord,' they replied, 'We are your servants who have come only to buy food. We are all the sons of the same man.  It is well known that one man would never send all of his own sons to spy, lest we all be caught and executed. We are honorable men. We would never think of being spies.'
'All the more so, you really are spies since no man would send all of his sons to spy UNLESS he had kept one or two sons at home to help him. No! You have come to see where the land is exposed!'
'We are twelve brothers your servants,' they pleaded, 'We are the sons of one man who is in Canaan. Right now the youngest brother is with our father, and one brother is gone. We came in through 10 gates in order to investigate the disappearance of our lost brother. '
'That was many years ago, and only now you are investigating the disappearance? You must be spies! And if you are lying about that there is another brother with your father, then you are definitely spies!'"
Breisheit 42:7-13

When the additional narrative fills in between the lines in the Torah, the picture comes together and puts into perspective how the brothers related to their father when they requested to return to Egypt with Binyamin.  They had responded to their father with 'We simply answered his questions.' And that in fact appears to be want happened, as Yosef interrogated them and drove them down a line of questioning, they were left with no choice but to either admit to being spies and face certain severe punishment OR bring Binyamin down to Egypt and exonerate themselves.

Vayeishev - Underestimating the Power of Jealosy

The place of Shechem is mentioned repeatedly early in this Parshah.
"Joseph's brothers left to tend their sheep in Shechem."(Breisheit 37:12)
"Yisrael said to Yoseph, 'I believe your brothers are keeping the sheep in Shechem. I would like you to go to them.'" (Breisheit 37:13)
"[Yisrael] thus sent him from the Hebron valley, and [Yoseph] arrived in Shechem." (Breisheit 37:14)

Why mention the place of Shechem specifically and repeatedly over the span of several pasukim?

On Pasuk Breisheit 37:14, Rashi notes on the words "arrived in Shechem" that this is a place that has a reputation for chaos, that is where the honor of tribes was compromised, Dina was attacked, and the kingdom of David was divided - 'And Rehavam went to Shechem.' (Divre Hayyamim II 10:1, Melachim I 12:1). We know further on in TaNaCh that after the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Yeroboam became the first king of the new northern kingdom of Israel at Shechem (Melachim I 12:25).

So it is clear that Shechem has a 'dark cloud' hovering over it. Yaacov/Yisrael is clearly aware of the dreadful history of Shechem, and of the sensitive relationship of his children toward Yoseph. Yet he sends Yoseph specifically to Shechem. How can he do this?

 The Orach Haim HaKadosh brings some clarity to this issue commenting on pasuk 37:14 saying, "now he is declaring Shlichut Mitzvah [a personal representative on a holy mission] and [Yisrael] said 'and bring me a report' (Breisheit 37:14). This made Yoseph into a personal representative for Yisrael. And even according to the position that Personal Representatives Performing Religious Duties (Shluchei Mitzvah) are impervious from harm only on the departure for their mission (Pesachim 8B), but not on their return, actually this order by Yisrael protected Yoseph also on his return journey. And so Yoseph was now absolutely certain he would safely return home to his father [no matter what]."
Rav was asked: Scholars who reside out of town, can they come in the early morning or after nightfall to the academy? He replied: Let them come, [the risk be] upon myself and my neck. What about returning? I do not know, he answered them. It was stated: R. Eleazar said: Those sent [to perform] a religious duty will not suffer hurt, neither in their going nor in their returning.
Pesachim 8B

However the mission to Shechem quickly went off. Yoseph did not find his brothers in Shechem.

The pasuk follows.
"A stranger found him blundering about in the fields, 'What are you looking for?' asked the stranger." 
(IBID 37:15)

A new twist came to Yoseph's mission. Not only had he diverted from his father's explicit directive to go to Shechem, but now he was alone, seemingly lost, and in the middle of a strange place where a mysterious man finds him, seemingly from out of the blue.

Rashi tells us that this mysterious man is the angel Gavriel.

Who is Gavriel?
  • Berachot 4b Power/Speed of Gavriel's flight 
  • Yoma 77a Punishing Jerusalem,and being whipped for not completing the job 
  • Pesachim 118a Gavriel wanting to save Avraham from Nimrod's furnace, and HaShem's insistence on doing it Himself 
  • Bava Metzia 86b Gavriel was the angel sent to carry out the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah. 
  • Sotah 13b Potiphar acquired Joseph intending to abuse him; the angel Gavriel wounded him in a way which made this impossible
  • Sotah 10b When Tamar was being taken out to be killed, Samael came and tried to remove the items which identified Yehudah as the father; Gavriel came and brought them back  
  • Sotah 12b Batyah's maidservants protested against her rescue of Moshe, because she was violating her father's decree. The angel Gavriel struck them dead 
  • Yoma 21a and Shabbat 118a Gavriel is the angel of fire and he was involved in the work of fire with the Menorah of fire
  • Yoma 76b Gavriel defending the Jews, with Daniel and Michael 
  • Pesachim 118a Gavriel saving Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah from the furnace 
  • Pesachim 118a-b Arguing with Yorkemu over who would save Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah from the furnace 
  • Megillah 12b Gavriel creating a tail for Vashti 
  • Megillah 15b-16a Intervention of Gavriel with Achashverosh's reader of the Chronicles 
  • Sanhedrin 19b, Shabbat 56b Gavriel emerges as an angel concerned with justice. He protects the wrongfully accused from unjust punishment, punishes the truly guilty, and seeks to ensure just reward for those who deserve it.
  • Pesachim 118b Gd having Gavriel punish Rome in the time of the Messiah, because with all of their wealth, they sought to destroy the Jews

The Kli Yakar elucidates further on the connection between the angel Gavriel and Yoseph, saying that the angel was on a mission to protect Yoseph and wanted to warn him about his brother's dangerous intentions. Yet as the Orach Haim HaKadosh adds 'How can an angel come to cancel the very machinations of Hashem to take Yoseph to Egypt by known and amazing ways? Rather he knows that his words do not cancel anything but add to the merit of Yoseph [that despite the danger and the warning, Yoseph still pursues brotherhood].

The following discussion takes place between Yoseph and the mystery man, considered to be the angel Gavriel. (Breisheit 37:16-17)
"I'm looking for my brothers," replied Yoseph, "Perhaps you can tell me where they are tending sheep?"
"They already left this area," said the man, "I heard them planning to go to Dotan."

Yoseph knows that his brothers are not in Shechem by now, for he did not find them in Shechem. Why does the mystery man add the seemingly extra statement 'They already left this area,' instead of just saying ,'They are in Dotan.'

Rashi explains the words 'left this area' as meaning that the brothers had removed themselves from the brotherhood. And the Siftei Chachamim elaborates on Rashi's statement, saying.

"What is the meaning of Rashi's answer to this issue, all Yoseph asked is where his brother's are [and not where they are not] and the angel answered Yoseph with 'left this area'. Yoseph knew on his own that they had left this area since he did not find them on his own. And so Rashi answered 'removed themselves from the brotherhood,' - meaning that the brothers want to kill you [Yoseph] and you shouldn't go there. How do we explain Rashi's answer?  The word 'this' (זה) in Gematria is 12, so the coded meaning of the expression is 'left the 12' in other words they don't want there to be 12, they want to kill Yoseph and be left with 11 - essentially 'left this area' [where this serves two meanings] which supports Rashi's explanation. So the pasuk can be read as 'I'm looking for my brothers,' and 'They already left the brotherhood.'

Going Forward
Yoseph, filled with the conviction that he is protected and is serving as a personal representative of his father (Shaliach Mitzvah) continues the search for his brothers. This despite the earlier pasuk, preceding his departure, (Breisheit 37:11) "His brother's became very jealous of him [Yoseph] but his father suspended judgment."

So what drove Yoseph forward, despite the noted jealousy of his brothers, the coded warning by an angel, and even the divergence he took from his father's directive to look for his brothers in Shechem.

The Kli Yakar brings a Midrash to clarify this matter.
"Regarding the issue of 'blundering about in the fields' Yoseph considered the field related to Cain and Abel.
Cain brought some of his crops as an offering to G-d. Abel also offered some of the firstborn of his flock, from the fattest ones. G-d paid heed to Abel and his offering, but to Cain He paid no heed. (Breisheit 4: 3-4)
Cain said [something] to his brother Abel. Then they happened to be in a field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. (Breisheit 4:8)

The Midrash continues:
Yoseph was concerned about the matter of Abel and Cain where out of jealousy one brother could rise up and kill the other. And Yoseph was of the opinion that it made sense that Cain could kill Abel because the pasuk says 'they happened to be in a field,' meaning they were arguing about a field [matters of property]. So there was a reason [a motivation] for this action. [Yoseph said to himself:] But with my brothers why would they kill me for no reason?   Jealousy for a colorful coat does not resemble jealousy for property!
This is what Yoseph was thinking and so he was seen as 'blundering about in the field' since it was a field that was mentioned in the case of Cain and Abel.

This was Yoseph's mistake. He didn't realize that the essential nature of jealousy overwhelms, for even a minor matter of jealousy can drive a man to rise up and kill his fellow man.

This power of jealousy is further substantiated in Pirkei Avot :
Jealousy, lust, and honor remove a man from this world. (Ch 4 Mishna 27)

Yoseph's unbending belief in the essential goodness of his brothers propelled him forward, hurtling him  towards mortal danger and his ultimate destiny. But at the heart, he underestimated the true power of jealousy and what actions it can bring a man to carry out.

Vayetzei - Protection from Sin

In the opening scenes of the parshah, when Yaacov sees the angels going up and down the ladder, he suddenly saw G-d.

"G-d said, 'I am G-d, L-rd of Avraham your father, and L-rd of Yitzhak. I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying, the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil. I will not turn aside from you until I have fully kept this promise to you.'"

Here Yaacov received not only a vision directly from G-d, but blessings and promises that will ensure his legacy on earth. It would seem that 'he is set.'

Yet, just a few pasukim later, upon waking he has the following reaction.

"Yaacov made a vow. 'If G-d will be with me,' he said, 'if He will protect me on this journey that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return in peace to my father's house, then I will dedicate myself totally to G-d'"

On the surface, it seems like an odd reaction considering the verses that preceded this statement shortly before.
1. Why is Yaacov questioning if G-d will be with him, when G-d Himself said directly that He would be with him?
2. Why is Yaacov looking to get material benefit, from food and clothing?
3. And really, why is Yaacov presenting a deal to G-d, stating his terms for dedicating himself to G-d, where is faith, and the promise shortly before?

The Kli Yakar addresses these issues.
"Heaven forbid that one should say that Yaacov was in doubt about the direct promises from G-d. Since as we saw, G-d already said 'I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go.'
Rather the explanation of this issue is that Yaacov did not request any bodily protection that was not already promised him. However he was requesting protection for his soul against potential sin.
Supporting this position, we see the words from G-d's promise 'I will protect you wherever you go' - where the word ANOCHI is superfluous. G-d had said to him 'and bring you back to this soil' - where the return to the land was dependent on G-d's divine supervision, while Yaacov's statement was 'and if I return in peace to my father's house' - making his return dependent on Yaacov's, himself, behavior. G-d said 'to this soil', while Yaacov stated 'to my father's house.' There were talking about 2 different journeys.

From all these differences, we can see that Yaacov's request was only to be protected from sin. Protection from sin, or that is, from the act of sinning, this is dependent on the personal choices of man, yet to be protected from confronting sin, itself, requires divine intervention. So we saw that G-d's statement to Yaacov referred to providing physical protection in the statement 'I will protect you wherever you go.' The pasuk uses the term 'wherever' (BKOL) since all roads are dangerous and many paths exist, so there really isn't just one path to go on. So Yaacov said 'protect me on this journey that I am taking.' And G-d directs Yaacov to the special path that Yaacov should specifically go on, and that is the Path of G-d and Torah and Mitzvot.  Since Yaacov earlier stated 'G-d is in this place,' and from out of there comes Torah. 

To walk in the path of Torah is dependent on the choices that a man makes, and so that is why the word 'ANOCHI' is added where G-d says 'I will protect you wherever you go', to emphasize that divine protection is required protect man in his encounters with sinful influences, and thus Yaacov referred to this when he said 'protect me' and let me return 'complete' from the sin and so made his return dependent on his own choices and actions.

Regarding physical protection, G-d said 'I will protect you wherever you go' since Eretz Yisrael is called the 'eyes of G-d' and when a man has physical protection in Eretz Yisrael,  so he needs  protection when going out of Eretz Yisrael. Since G-d promised to Yaacov 'and bring you back to this soil,' so he was ensured physical protection upon returning to Eretz Yisrael.

Yet regarding the issue of protection from sin, like not learning from the ways of Lavan. And not just Lavan alone, but also the Canaanites that sit in Eretz Yisrael are a nation that do things that should not be learned from. And also to be concerned about learning from the Emory. And so that is why Yaacov made his personal request 'and if I return in peace to my father's house' - not that he should be physically protected until reaching his father's house, but that Yaacov should be protected from the influence of sin throughout his journey (to not learn from Lavan, not be influenced by Canaanites, and Emory).

Finally the issue of Yaacov's request for food and clothing. He was not looking to benefit materially, and we see this by the specific statement 'if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear' - where Yaacov specifically asks for bread to eat, and clothes to wear. He wants to emphasize that he is only asking for his basic sustenance needs to be satisfied, and that he should not be driven by stress of poverty to come to sin. Morever, had Yaacov been interested in material gain, he would have asked valuable goods like gold and pearls.

So we see that this encounter is far from doubt on the side of Yaacov, and not at all a form of 'striking a deal' for his faith. What we see here is a dialog. G-d offers provide physical protection and guidance, while Yaacov accepts this implicitly and instead turns the discussion to the fate of his soul, asking for different ways to protect him from influences the sinful world that surrounds him.

It goes without saying that in today's world, the dialog that Yaacov conducts at the outset of his great journey, serves as a guide for our daily struggle. Every day, we leave the safety of the homes we have built up and enter the world, bombarded by media selling us all kinds of foreign values and tempting us to sinful ways. Just as our great forefather understood the weakness of man and looked to G-d for guidance and protection, so also do, even more so, need to implore G-d to direct down the right path, steering us clear of sin.

Chayei Sarah - Making An Effort for a Mitzvah

In the Parshah Chayei Sarah, The Kedushat Levi comments on the pasuk: "The servant ran toward her. 'If you would, let me sip a little water from your jug,' he said." (Breisheit 24:17). The author is stirred to comment on this episode, based on the servant, Eliezer's, actions. What attracted caught his eye in the young girl, Rivka, that excited him to specifically run toward. her?

First we should take a step back and look at what instigated Eliezer to run. Take a look at the previous pasuk:  "The girl was extremely good-looking, [and] she was a virgin untouched by any man. The girl went down, filled her jug, and then came up again." (Breisheit 24:16).

From a simple observation of this pasuk, besides the emphasis of her attractiveness and appearance, there doesn't seem to be an indication of something that would drive Eliezer to run straight toward Rivka. The Kedushat Levi addresses the question of Eliezer's behavior by noting the commentary of Rashi. Rashi elucidates the situation by bringing the midrashic text from Breisheit Rabbah on pasusk 24:17: "[he ran] since he saw the water rise to her."

The Kedushat Levi expands on this by noting the commentary of the Ramban on this pasuk: "according to Rashi, since he saw the water rise to her. And in Breisheit Rabbah (60,5) 'filled her jug, and came up again,' all of the women go down and fill up from the well, and this is because they saw the water immediately rise up, and Hakodesh Baruch Hu said to her that this is a good sign for sons.
It appears that it was precise in the language used: 'filled her jug, and came up again,' rather than saying 'and she drew water and it was filled.' A miracle occurred in the first instance (pasuk 24:16) and after when she brought water for the camels (pasuk 24:19 When he had finished drinking she said, let me draw water for your camels, so they can drink their fill.') it is written 'ותשאב' meaning 'and she drew the water'.
And thus further on (in pasuk 24:45 I had not yet finished speaking to myself when Rivka suddenly came out carrying her jug on her shoulder. When she went down to the well and drew water. I said to her, 'Please give me a drink'), he uses the language of 'drew water' for they (Rivka's family) may not believe him.

So we see from the Ramban's clarification of the issue that a miracle occurred when Rivka went to get water from the well. It was such an impressive miracle that not only did he come running to her, assured by the heavenly sign he saw, but also concealed the details of these events when repeating the events to her family out of concern for how his miraculous observations would be taken.

The motivation for Eliezer's actions is the undeniable miracle he witnessed, reassuring him without doubt that he had found the woman for which he had been purposed with finding.

The essence of the Kedushat Levi's question goes further and deeper than accounting for why Eliezer ran to Rivka. The Kedushat Levi asks on the language of the pasukim themselves. Why when in pasuk 24:16 does it say that she 'filled her jug' while in pasuk 24:19 does it say 'let me draw water for your camels'? What changed? What is the difference in circumstance from when she initially went to the well, to when she went back to get water for the camels.

Kedushat Levi notes that Chazal, in b'seiata dshmayah, say in Mesechet Psachim (114:Bet): Mitzvot need intent (kavanah).

Let's look at the discussion in Psachim. "They brought before him, he dips in the hazeret before he comes to parperet ha-pat. They brought before him matzah and hazeret and haroset and two cooked dishes, even though the haroset is not an obligation. Rabbi Eliezer bar Zadok says, It is an obligation. And in the Temple they would bring before him the body of the korban pesah."

The Talmud continues with the following discussion.
"Resh Lakish said: This proves that mitzvot require intention, [for] since he does not eat it the stage when hazaret are compulsory, he eats it with [the blessing,] ‘boray pri ha-adamah,’ and perhaps he did not intend [to fulfil the obligation of] hazaret; therefore he must dip it again with the express intent of [eating] hazeret. For if you should think [that] mitzvot do not require intention, then why two dippings: surely he has [already] dipped it once?"

The sugya continues to examine whether intention is required. But for the Kedushat Levi, the outcome of this discussion is not pertinent to the pasukim in Chayei Sarah.

The Kedushat Levi explains: Mitzvot need intention. And the main issue with mitzvot is the thought put in when performing the mitzvah in satisfying the will of the creator. And so with this mind, in the first instance (pasuk 24:16) when Rivka's intention was to draw water for herself, the water (miraculously) rose up to her so as not to trouble her since her own intention was only to draw water for her own needs. However in the second instance (pasuk 24:19) when her intention was to perform an act of loving kindness (gmilut chesed) to give water to the camels of Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, the water did not rise (by itself) to her.

The Kedushat Levi concludes with: When a person does a mitzvah it is more important to carry out the action, so that the action itself, is done with intention of doing the mitzvah. In other words, when doing mitzvot it is meritorious to put forth effort and invest in doing mitzvot, not to rely on miracles.

Psachim 114B
But whence [does this food]? Perhaps after a mitzvot do not require intention, and as to what you argue, why two dippings, [the answer is,] that there may be a distinction for [the sake of] the children. And should you say, if so, we should be informed about other vegetables: If we were informed about other vegetables I would say: Only where other vegetables [are eaten first] do we require two dippings, but lettuce alone6 does not require two dippings: hence he informs us that even lettuce [alone] requires two dippings, so that there may be a distinction [shown] therewith for the children. Moreover, it was taught: If he ate them [the bitter herbs] while demai, he has discharged [his duty]; if he ate them without intention, he has discharged [his duty]; if he ate them, in half quantities, he has discharged [his duty], providing that he does not wait between one eating and the next more than is required for the eating of half [a loaf]? -it is [dependent on] Tannaim. For it was taught, R. Jose said: Though he has [already] dipped the lettuce [hazereth], it is a religious requirement to bring lettuce and haroseth and two dishes before him. Yet still, whence [does this food]: perhaps R. Jose holds [that] mitzvot do not require intention and the reason that we require two dippings is that there may be a distinction [shown] for the children?- If so, what is the ‘mitzvah?’

The Importance of the Dimensions of Noah's Ark

In Parshat Noach, when Noach receives the commandment to build an ark, he is given exact dimensions for the measurements of the ark. Why and what is the significance of the stated sizes?
This is how you shall construct it: The ark's length shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 
Bresheit 6:15
The commentary Kli Yakar remarks on this situation giving two explanations.

  1. The size of the ark is specified in order to show the miracle that took place with the building of the ark since the animals that went into the ark, like elephants, were much largely than the stated dimensions would accommodate.
  2. The second reason relates to the amounts for the stated dimensions: 300 cubits and 30 cubits. These are multiples of 15. What is the significance of 15?

When looking at the words for Man and Woman, they are איש and אשה where the two letters that are not common between the two words are י and ה whose combined numerical value is 15. These two letters are also two of the four letters that comprise G-d's sacred name. The people of the generation of the flood exhibited a degenerate level of behavior, where literally nothing was sacred. There was no sanctity to marriage, and women were freely taken upon whim.

When you remove these uncommon letters from these two words, you are left with the word אש which is Fire. So when the generation of the flood removed sacredness, and essentially G-d, from their midst, they really lit the fire that set in motion The Flood.

The Kli Yakar continues by showing the significance of the number 15. First from Parshat Noach, 15 comes up in several places:

  • the dimensions of the ark: 300 (15x20), 30(15x2)
  • the days at sear for the ark: 150 (15x10) Bresheit 7:24
  • the waters had surged upward 15 cubits (Bresheit 7:20)

The Kli Yakar brings in other relevant areas. King Hezekiah was afflicted with a deadly illness (leprosy) as punishment for remaining unmarried; Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Semachot, (47a). Later when he repented and became more religious, he was rewarded with 15 years added to his lifetime.
King David wrote 15 'Shirei haMaalot' - psalms of ascent, specifically in recognition of the disregard of G-d by the generation of the flood.

The Talmud teaches that there was a semicircular flight of 15 stairs in the temple at Jerusalem leading from the women's district up to men's vestibule.

The presence throughout this Parshah of 15, essentially the presence of G-d, and its unique importance in Jewish history and tradition, shows that the choice of exact size for the dimensions of the ark relate an important concept. The Torah constantly works on the principle of Measure for Measure (Midah Kneged Midah), just as the generation of the flood distanced themselves from the inherent nature of G-d, this same essence of G-d was woven into Noach and his experience.

We learn that in the ideal family life, there are three parties to creation - the mother, the father and G-d. It is G-d that plays a central, and so symbolized by the presence of his name in the words for man and woman. When G-d is removed from this scenario, all that remains is Fire.

It is important to realize the opposite.  The generation of the flood ran rampant, devoid of basic morality, tossing any sacredness and sanctity aside, and removing the essence of G-d from their realm, bringing about the greatest destruction upon the world, leaving devastation everywhere.
So also, when we do the opposite, and bring G-d into our lives, and make G-d and inherent part of our family relations, thus we enable great source of creation in the world. The ever-growing presence of G-d in our lives serves to not only nurture our faith but also to enhance the world to the opposite lengths that the flood brought destruction.

Breisheit - Two Depictions of the Creation of Man

In this weeks parshah, the depiction of the creation of man is described in two different accounts. In the first instance, man is created on the sixth day - where man and woman are created together and then given the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.
Later in another account of the creation of man, G-d picks up dust and breathes into it, giving life to a single man. Then G-d sees that it is not good for man to be alone, and an extended narrative describes the creation of man's first companion - woman.