Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XV, No. 11
11 Tevet 5761
January 5, 2001
Orach Chaim 362:4-6
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Sotah 16
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Shevuot 12
As the parashah opens, Yehuda addresses Yosef: "If you please,
my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord's ears and let
not your anger flare up at your servant - for you are like
Pharaoh." Rashi comments: "The simple meaning [of 'you are like
Pharaoh'] is, 'You are as important in my eyes as Pharaoh is.'
The deeper meaning is, 'You will suffer from tzara'at because you
have taken Binyamin, just as Pharaoh did when he took my ancestor
Sarah.' Alternatively, 'Just as Pharaoh does not keep his
promises, so you do not'."
R' Zvi Yechezkel Michelsohn z"l (Poland; 1863-1943) suggests
that Yehuda's words and Rashi's comments can be understood as
follows: Until this point, Yosef's brothers addressed the
Egyptian viceroy (Yosef) through an interpreter, as described in
last week's parashah. Yehuda thought that perhaps the problems
that they were experiencing resulted from the translator's not
translating correctly, and he therefore said, "May your servant
speak a word in my lord's ears." He explained (as Rashi writes),
"If I were to say the words, 'For you are like Pharaoh,' your
translator could render that in several different ways. He might
say, 'You are as important in my eyes as Pharaoh is.' Or he
might say, 'You are destined to suffer from tzara'at because you
have taken Binyamin, just as Pharaoh did when he took my ancestor
Sarah.' Alternatively, the translator might interpret: 'Just as
Pharaoh does not keep his promises so you do not'. For this
reason, I must speak to you directly so that your anger will not
flare up at your servant."
R' Michelsohn observes: There is an important lesson here for
those who relate, and those who hear, lashon hara. A small
change in inflection or tone can change a phrase's meaning, even
if the words themselves have not changed. [Thus, even a story
whose words are completely true can be told in a way that makes
it a lie.] (Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei U'geonei Ha'dorot)
"And now: It was not you who sent me here, but G-d; He has
made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household,
and ruler throughout the land of Egypt. Hurry - go up to my
father and say to him, 'So said your son Yosef: "G-d has
made me master of all of Egypt. Come down to me; do not
delay".' " (45:8-9)
"They went up from Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to
Yaakov their father. And they told him saying, 'Yosef is
still alive,' also that he is ruler of all the land of
Egypt; but his heart rejected it, for he could not believe
them. However, when they related to him all the words that
Yosef had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Yosef
had sent to transport him, then the spirit of their father
Yaakov was revived. And Yisrael said, 'Rav, my son Yosef
still lives. I shall go and see him before I die'." (45:25-
These verses present several questions: (1) Why did Yosef state
in detail that Hashem made him "a father to Pharaoh, master of
his entire household, and ruler throughout the land of Egypt"?
(2) Why did he tell his brothers to say to Yaakov only, "G-d has
made me master of all of Egypt"? (3) Why did Yaakov's heart
reject his sons' news? (4) Why did Yaakov's attitude change
after his sons "related to him all the words that Yosef had
spoken to them" and after he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent?
R' Avraham Moshe Shereshevsky z"l (1857-1924; rabbi in
Portland, Maine, where he delivered this dvar Torah in 1894)
explains: when a person rises to power too quickly without
holding lower offices and building a power base, he cannot rule
effectively and is in danger from those who are jealous of him.
Pharaoh understood this and knew that he could not take a slave
(Yosef) out of jail and make him viceroy. Instead, he gave Yosef
a series of positions with increasing responsibilities: first, "a
father to Pharaoh," then, "master of his entire household," and
only later, "ruler throughout the land of Egypt." Yosef told
this to his brothers and mentioned that this gradual ascension
was part of Hashem's kindness ("It was not you who sent me here,
However, Yosef did not want Yaakov to be told that he was
secure in his position. If Yaakov knew, Yosef feared, he would
not hurry to see Yosef. Therefore, Yosef told his brothers to
tell Yaakov only that "G-d has made me master of all of Egypt"
(implying a sudden rise to power), therefore, "Come down to me;
do not delay."
When Yosef's brothers arrived home, they followed his
instructions at first. However, they saw that Yaakov's heart
rejected the news, that he was pained and that he did not want to
believe them (because if Yosef rose to power suddenly then he
would be in danger). Therefore, "they related to him all the
words that Yosef had spoken to them" - that his rise to power was
gradual. Also, Yaakov saw the wagons that Yosef had sent -- the
modest wagon in which Yosef rode when he was "father to Pharaoh,"
the grander wagon in which he rode when he was "master of
[Pharaoh's] entire household," and the very ornate wagon in which
he rode as "ruler throughout the land of Egypt." Only then was
As Yosef predicted, Yaakov decided that since Yosef was secure,
there was no rush to go down to Egypt: "Rav -- for a long time --
my son Yosef still lives. I shall go and see him [at some time]
before I die." Therefore, Hashem appeared to Yaakov and told him
not to fear going down to Egypt.
"And they told him saying, 'Yosef is still alive,' also that
he is ruler of all the land of Egypt." (45:26)
"And Yisrael said, 'How great! My son Yosef still lives'."
Why did Yaakov's sons tell him that Yosef was ruler of all the
land of Egypt? Was that important to Yaakov compared to the fact
that his beloved son was alive?
R' Mordechai Kletzky z"l (Boston; early 20th century) explains:
Rashi (Bereishit 37:33) writes that Yaakov had a premonition
after Yosef disappeared that Yosef's morality would be tested (as
it later was in the incident with Potiphar's wife). Also, the
midrash teaches that the tribe of Shimon never produced a king or
a national leader because Zimri, the leader of that tribe, acted
immorally (see Bemidbar ch. 25). Had Yosef sinned, he, too,
would never have become a ruler. Thus, the news that Yosef was
ruler of all the land of Egypt was very good news to Yaakov, for
it meant that Yosef had not failed the test to which he was put.
This is why Yaakov answered, "How great! My son, Yosef still
lives." We read later that Yaakov disassociated himself from the
tribe of Shimon because of Zimri's act (see Bereishit 49:6 and
Rashi). In contrast, Yaakov called Yosef, "My son."
"And Yisrael said, 'How great! My son Yosef 'od' / still
'chai' / lives'." (45:28)
"Then Israel said to Yosef, 'Let me die this time . . .' "
R' Aryeh Laib Zunz Charif z"l (1765-1833; rabbi of Plock,
Poland) writes: The Zohar states that King David would have died
at birth, but Yaakov and Yosef gave him 70 years. Yaakov lived
33 fewer years than his father and Yosef lived 37 fewer years
than his father, a total of 70 years.
The Torah writes that Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years.
Together with the time it took Yaakov to travel to Egypt, Yaakov
had (part of) "chai" / 18 years left when he heard that Yosef was
still alive. For his part, Yosef had (part of) 62 years left.
(Yosef was 39 when his father arrived in Egypt and he died on his
110th birthday, one day into his 111th year.) The sum of 18 and
62 is 80, the gematria of "od" / "still."
Yaakov recognized that he and Yosef had 80 years left between
them. Yaakov wanted to see Yosef, but he also wanted Yosef to
live as long as possible (without taking years from King David).
Therefore, as soon as Yaakov saw Yosef one more time, Yaakov was
ready to die. "Let me die this time, because you are still
alive," he said.
"When that year ended, they came to him in the next year and
said to him, 'We will not conceal anything from my lord . .
.' " (47:18)
What did the Egyptians mean? R' Moshe Shimon Sivitz z"l (1856-
1936; rabbi in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania beginning in 1888)
Rashi (41:55) writes that when the Egyptians came to Yosef for
food, he ordered them to be circumcised. Why? There is no
mitzvah for gentiles to be circumcised!
R' Sivitz explains: Yosef took this drastic measure to find the
black-marketers among the Egyptians, for only those who truly
needed food would submit.
After the first year of the famine, the Egyptians came to Yosef
again to obtain food. They did not know what test Yosef would
impose this time in order to discover which Egyptians really
needed food, and they wanted to convince him that they really
were hungry. They told him, "We will not conceal anything from
my lord" - we are not black-marketers and we have nothing to
(Tzemach Ha'sadeh: Eshkol Amarim p. 63)
Selected Laws of Shemittah
(From Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hil. Shemittah Ve'yovel
[Ed. Note: This year is a shemittah year, and, from time-to-
time, we are presenting excerpts from the laws of shemittah.
As with any halachic issue addressed in Hamaayan, our goal
is to increase awareness of the subject, not to provide
practical halachic guidance. For such advice, consult a
1. One should not take waste out of his yard and place it in
his field during the shemittah, because it looks like he is
fertilizing his field so that it will be suitable for planting.
However, if he took it out and set up a waste-pile, it is
permitted. One should not make a waste-pile of less than 150
se'ah [approx. 2000 liters /500 gallons] of waste, so that it
will be apparent that it is a waste pile.
6. One may not open a new quarry in his field during the
shemittah lest people say that his intent is to remove stones
from his field [to make it suitable for planting]. If he opened
the quarry before the shemittah and already hewed 27 stones from
an area of ground three stones long, three stones wide, and three
stones deep - each stone being at least one amah cubed
[approx. 18-24 inches on a side] - he may mine from it as much as
he would like during the shemittah.
10. If one removes stones from his field because he needs
stones, he may take the upper layers, but he must leave the
lowest layer which is next to the ground.
11. One may not fill a depression with dirt or repair it with
dirt because then he will be preparing the earth [for planting].
However, he may build a chayitz [defined by some as a brick wall
without mortar] on the mouth of the depression. For this
purpose, one may take any stone which he can reach with his
outstretched hand when he is standing at the edge of the
Avi Vogel, on his brother Chanan's aufruf
The Rutstein family, in memory of father and grandfather,
Nachman ben Asher Halevi a"h (Nathan Rutstein)
Sam and Marion Markovitz, in memory of mother,
Rivka bat Yehuda Aryeh a"h
Dr. and Mrs. Robert Klein
on the sheloshim of mother,
Devorah bat Avraham a"h (Dorothy Klein)
Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
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