Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XIII, No. 10
30 Kislev 5759
December 19, 1998
Today's Learning:Sponsored by
Yadaim 1:5-2:1The Vogel family
Orach Chaim 32:6-8on the yahrzeit of
Shekalim 5mother and grandmother
Yerushalmi Beitzah 21Miriam bat Yehuda Leib a"h
R' Shneur Kotler z"l writes: When the Greeks issued decrees
against our observance of the Torah, it was not the case that
they were primarily interested in oppressing us and attacking the
Torah was a convenient method of doing so. Rather, the Greeks'
very goal was to divest us of our unique character as a nation of
the Torah; for this reason, they wished to introduce us to Greek
The Greeks also wanted to translate the Torah into Greek as
part of their plan to create a new kind of Jew, the Hellenist.
Hellenists were Jews who took on the appearance and the character
of the Greeks, and they were a greater thorn in our side than
were the Greeks themselves.
R' Kotler continues: Our redemption from the Greeks was
different from our salvation from other oppressors. In this
instance, unlike all other redemptions, it was not necessary to
build a new Bet Hamikdash. It was, however, necessary to purify
the interior of the Temple. What is the significance of this
When G-d commanded the building of the mishkan (the forerunner
of the Temple), He did not say, "I will dwell in it," but rather
(Shmot 25:8), "And I will dwell amongst them." We are the
"Temple"; purifying the interior of the Bet Hamikdash is merely
evidence of the fact that we purified ourselves.
The Torah reading on Chanukah tells of the dedication of the
mishkan by the twelve Princes of the Tribes. Perhaps, suggests
R' Kotler, it was specifically necessary that the mishkan be
dedicated, not by the whole nation, but by individuals who had
already purified their souls. (Noam Siach p.106)
"Pharaoh said to Yosef, 'I dreamed a dream, but no one can
interpret it." (41:15)
R' Nosson Meir Wachtfogel z"l asked: What did Pharaoh mean, "no
one can interpret it"? Rashi writes that Pharaoh's advisers did
offer him several different interpretations!
He answered: The gemara (Berachot 55b) states that the meaning
of a dream depends on the interpretation given to it. Some
dreams are neither good nor bad; rather, their fulfillment
depends on their interpretation. If a person interprets his
dream as a good "prophecy", that good may actually come to him.
On the other hand, if he interprets the dream as bad tidings,
that bad may befall him.
In a Pharaoh's case, his advisers did offer him several
interpretations for his dreams. For example, they suggested that
he would father seven daughters who would then die. However,
Pharaoh did not want to have seven daughters who would die and he
did not like the other interpretations either; therefore, he
insisted that no one was able to interpret his dreams.
R' Nosson explained further: When Hashem causes a person to
dream, He is giving the person raw materials with which the
person can "build" a future. This is why there are prayers by
which a person aks that a "bad" dream turn "good"; one cannot
simply wish a dream away, just as one who has his hands full of
building materials cannot pretend that his hands are empty. The
building materials must be used for something - whether good or
bad - and so must the dream.
The gemara teaches that a person should wait as long as 22
years for a dream to come true. Just as a dream may be compared
to building materials, so it may be compared to a seed, and we
all know that a person who plants seeds must wait for them to
germinate. [Twenty-two is the number of years that Yosef had to
wait after his dreams until his brothers bowed to him.]
(Kovetz Sichot II)
"They said to one another, 'Indeed we are guilty concerning
our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he
pleaded with us and we paid no heed; that is why this
anguish has come upon us.'
"Reuven spoke up to them, saying, 'Did I not speak to you
saying, "Do not sin against the boy," but you would not
The above verses describe the reaction of Yosef's brothers when
the Egyptian viceroy (i.e., Yosef) accused them of being spies.
R' Aharon Kotler z"l observes that Yosef's brothers did not
express regret for condemning Yosef to death or to slavery. They
had believed, and they continued to believe, that Yosef posed a
threat to the developing Jewish nation, and, as such, it was
necessary to "get rid" of him.
However, Yosef's brothers did regret their callousness when
Yosef had pleaded for mercy. They viewed their present troubles
as a punishment for that hardheartedness.
Reuven alone thought that the brothers were wrong about Yosef.
Ironically, it was Reuven who had the most to lose if Yosef
lived, because Yosef (the firstborn of Rachel) was destined to
claim the birthright in place of Reuven (the firstborn of Leah).
Yet, the very dream that so angered Yosef's brothers was
precisely what caused Reuven to love Yosef.
Specifically, Yosef dreamed that eleven stars - his eleven
brothers - bowed down to him. Most of his brothers resented
this, but to Reuven, the dream was good news. Previously, Reuven
had been distanced by Yaakov because of a sin (see Bereishit
35:22 and Rashi), but the fact that Yosef saw eleven stars in his
dream meant that Yosef, at least, did count Reuven among the
Why did Reuven reach a different conclusion about Yosef than
did his other brothers? R' Kotler explains that this happened
because they started their analyses from different points. The
brothers (other than Reuven) saw themselves as Yosef's equals.
They were humble people, but they took pride in their ability to
serve Hashem (see Divrei Hayamim II 17:6). Therefore, when it
appeared to them that Yosef possessed the trait of haughtiness,
when it appeared that he considered himself a better servant of
Hashem than they were, it offended them.
Reuven, however, did not consider himself his brothers' equal,
for he knew he had sinned. Since he considered himself less
worthy than Yosef (and the other brothers), he was not offended
by Yosef's dreams. To the contrary, he was able to see good in
the dreams (as explained above).
We, too, can learn a lesson from this, i.e., that there are two
ways of looking at events. Often, the conclusions one reaches
are determined by where one starts. In particular, recognizing
that another person may be greater than oneself can influence an
entire chain of events.
(Mishnat Rabbi Aharon I, p.235)
R' Nosson Meir Wachtfogel z"l
This week marks the shloshim since the passing of R' Nosson
Meir Wachtfogel, the mashgiach ruchani/dean of students of Beth
Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey (commonly known as the
R' Nosson (as he was known) was born on 9 Adar 5670/1910 in
Kuhl, Lithuania. His father, R' Moshe Yom Tov was a student of
the Slabodka Yeshiva and was one of the 14 original students of
the yeshiva in Slutsk. (Another of these students was R' Aharon
Kotler, later rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha.)
R' Nosson himself began his education in the yeshiva in Kelm.
When he was fifteen, he came to the United States - his father
had accepted a rabbinic post in Montreal - and enrolled in
Yeshivat Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan (forerunner of the Talmudic
division of Yeshiva University). After two years there, he
returned to Lithuania to study at the Mir Yeshiva. He also
studied under R' Shimon Shkop, who gave him semichah/rabbinic
ordination, and in Kamenetz, under R' Baruch Ber Lebowitz. It is
said that before R' Nosson left Kamenetz, R' Lebowitz asked to
see the semichah/rabbinic ordination that R' Nosson had received
from R' Shkop. Upon reviewing the diploma, R' Lebowitz
determined that it was not effusive enough in its praise of R'
Nosson, and he (R' Lebowitz) replaced it with a new diploma. As
for R' Nosson, his humility caused him never to look at the
diploma from R' Lebowitz.
As a Canadian citizen, R' Nosson was able to escape Europe when
World War II broke out. Soon after, he married and settled in
New York. It is said that one night thereafter, R' Nosson
dreamed that the students of the Kelm yeshiva were running down a
road as he struggled to keep up with them. Suddenly, the
students entered a building and slammed the door shut, only to
open it again and hand R' Nosson the remains of the "Alter of
Kelm" (the yeshiva's founder, who had died in 1898). Later, R'
Nosson learned that on that very day the Nazis had destroyed
Kelm, and he took this as an omen that it was his task to
preserve the legacy of that yeshiva.
Beginning in 1941, R' Nosson joined with R' Aharon Kotler to
develop the Lakewood Yeshiva into one of the largest and most
influential yeshivot in the world. As mashgiach, R' Nosson's
role was to care for the spirit of the yeshiva,including
delivering lessons in mussar (character development). R' Nosson
also was the force behind the establishment of branches of the
Lakewood Yeshiva in many cities, and the founding of community
kollelim where young married men learned and are available to
teach the local baalei batim/laymen.
R' Nosson was known for his yearning for mashiach. Like the
Chafetz Chaim, R' Nosson kept a suit ready to wear when greeting
After R' Aharon Kotler's passing in 1962, R' Nosson continued
to lead the yeshiva with the former's son, R' Shneur (died 1981),
and grandson, R' Malkiel. In his last years, R' Nosson brought R'
Mattisyahu Solomon from Gateshead, England as his own successor.
R' Nosson passed away on 2 Kislev, the yahrzeit of R' Aharon
Kotler. He left several children, including R' Elya Ber
Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of the Yeshiva Zichron Moshe in South
Fallsburg, New York. (Sources:Yated Ne'eman 8 Kislev 5759; R'
Julius Hyatt shlita, a high school chavruta/study partner of R'
Nosson; R' Pinchos Idstein shlita, a graduate of Lakewood)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
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