This week's parashah describes the conflict between Yosef and
his brothers, and Yosef's kidnaping and sale as a slave. The
midrash makes an astounding statement, quoting the verses in
Tehilim (66:5-6), "Go and see the works of G-d; He is awesome in
deed toward mankind. He changed the sea into dry land." Says
the midrash: "Why did Yosef's brothers hate him? So that the sea
would be split into pasim / rows." [The midrash is referring to
the fact that the Red Sea split into twelve parallel channels,
one for each tribe. The midrash calls these channels "pasim,"
making a play on Yosef's "ketonnet pasim" / "striped coat."]
R' Simcha Zissel Broide z"l (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron
Yeshiva in Yerushalayim; died 2000) explains: This midrash sees a
beneficial side to the conflict between Yosef and his brothers.
The Jewish people are referred to by the prophet (Shmuel II 7:23)
as, "one nation." Nevertheless, there is room - indeed, a need -
for different ways of serving Hashem, and thus a need for twelve
tribes to develop in parallel to each other. It was the sale of
Yosef that made this possible.
We read in next week's parashah (42:3): "So Yosef's brothers --
ten of them -- went down to buy grain from Egypt." Rashi writes:
"What is the mention of this number intended to tell us? Is it
not written [in the next verse], `But Binyamin, Yosef's brother
he did not send'? [Thus, we know there were ten!] It means to
suggest that as far as their feeling of brotherhood towards Yosef
was concerned, they were divided into ten, because the love and
hatred that all of them bore him were not alike, whereas in
regard to buying grain they were at one and united." It was
these varying levels of love and hatred towards Yosef that first
distinguished Yaakov's sons from each other and allowed them to
develop into distinctive tribes, explains R' Broide.
And this is no small matter, as the midrash testifies. King
David himself (the author of Tehilim) recognized the significance
of this event and exclaimed about it (in the verse quoted above):
"Go and see the works of G-d; He is awesome in deed toward
mankind." (Sahm Derech, II p.96)
"Yaakov settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in
the land of Canaan." (37:1)
Rashi comments: "After [the Torah] has described to you [in
last week's parashah] the settlements of Esav and his descendants
in a brief manner, since they were not distinguished and
important enough that [this information] should be related in
detail . . . [the Torah] explains clearly and at length the
settlements made by Jacob and his descendants, and all the events
which brought these about, because these are regarded by the
Omnipresent as of sufficient importance to speak of them at
length. Thus, too, [Rashi continues,] you will find that in the
case of the ten generations from Adam to Noach it states `So and
so begat so and so,' but when it reaches Noach it deals with him
at length. Similarly, of the ten generations from Noach to
Avraham it gives but a brief account, but when it comes to
Avraham it speaks of him more fully.
"This may be compared to the case of a jewel that falls into
the sand. A man searches in the sand and sifts it in a sieve
until he finds the jewel. When he has found it he throws away
the pebbles and keeps the jewel."
R' Shmuel Shinover z"l (Polish rabbi; died 1870) observes that
the end of Rashi's comment is reminiscent of a teaching in
chapter 5 of the midrash, Tanna D'vei Eliyahu Rabbah. There we
Fortunate are Yisrael, wherever they live! Although they
are tossed about to the four directions of the wind - from
north to south and from south to north, from east to west
and from west to east - nevertheless, they remain in the
center. [In other words, explains R' Shinover, they are
protected by G-d, just as an object in the center of an
area is safer than an object near the outside. The
midrash continues:] Thus it is written (Amos 9:9), "For
behold, I decree that I will shake out the House of Israel
among all the nations, as [sand] is shaken in a sieve, and
not a pebble falls to the ground." If [says the author of
the midrash] the verse had said, "and a pebble falls to
the ground," I would have been crestfallen; however, since
it says, "and not a pebble falls to the ground,"
[I understand that] just as a pebble in a sieve remains
[safely] in the sieve no matter how much the sieve is
shaken, so Yisrael, wherever they live, even if they are
tossed to the four directions of the wind, are safe.
A sieve is a very appropriate metaphor for our wanderings
throughout our exiles, writes R' Shinover. A sieve is used to
separate two substances that are mixed together, typically, a
desired substance and an impurity that has mixed with the desired
substance. Our exiles likewise are meant to be a purifying
process; as we are tossed about from one exile to another, our
suffering causes those impurities to be shed from us. But do not
worry that we, ourselves, will be crushed in the process - the
author of the midrash, the prophet Eliyahu, promises that we will
be safe in the center of the sieve.
R' Akiva Yosef Schlesinger z"l (Hungary and Yerushalayim; one
of the founders of Petach Tikva; 1835-1922) offers a different
interpretation of the above midrash: "Fortunate are Yisrael,
wherever they live! Although they are tossed about to the four
directions of the wind - from north to south and from south to
north, from east to west and from west to east - nevertheless,
they remain in the center." The "center of the world" is Zion.
No matter where in the diaspora the Jewish people find
themselves, that place can attain some of the sanctity of the
"center" (i.e., Zion and Eretz Yisrael) if Torah is studied
there and mitzvot are performed there. Thus the prophet says
(Malachi 11:1), "Everywhere is brought up in smoke [as an
offering] and brought for My Name's sake."
Nevertheless, the "pebble," the remnant of Israel, will never
fall to the ground, it will never be lost. Eventually, we are
promised, we will return to the real "center" - Zion, the source
of all holiness.
(Tosfot Ben Yechiel)
"`Behold! -- we were binding sheaves in the middle of the
field, when, behold! -- my sheaf arose and it remained
standing; then behold! -- your sheaves gathered around and
bowed down to my sheaf.'
"His brothers said to him, `Would you then reign over us?'"
Commentaries explain that Yosef erred in thinking that he would
rule over his brothers forever, as he said, "My sheaf arose and
it remained standing." Thus the brothers retorted: "Would you
then reign over us? Our tradition is that Yehuda (ancestor of
King David), not you, will be the progenitor of royalty."
R' Shimshon David Pinkus z"l (rabbi of Ofakim, Israel; died
2000) asks: Was Yosef's dream wrong? Surely, as a prophecy, it
had to be true! He explains:
When ten tribes split from the Kingdom of Yehuda after King
Shlomo died, their first king was Yerovam, a descendant of Yosef.
The prophet told Yerovam (Melachim I 11:38), "It shall be if you
obey all that I will command you and walk in My ways, and you do
that which is upright in My eyes . . . I shall build an enduring
dynasty for you, just as I built for David, and I shall give
Israel to you." These verses seem to state clearly that a
descendant of Yosef would have an enduring rule. How can this
be? Commentaries explain that Yerovam was meant to found a
dynasty of prime ministers, not kings. These prime ministers
would be subservient to a king, who would be from the tribe of
Yehuda, but they would rule their other brethren. Had Yerovam
remained righteous, Yosef's dream ("it remained standing") would
have been fulfilled through him.
In the end, though, Yosef's dream did not come true. Why?
Because man has free will. Yosef was shown what was meant to be,
but he could not be shown how the story would end, for that would
have negated Yerovam's ability to exercise his free will.
R' Dr. Dov (Bernard) Revel z"l
[Several weeks ago, we presented the life of R' Dr. Dov
Revel from his birth until 1915, when he was appointed
President and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak
Elchanan in New York. We now conclude his biography.]
In his new position, for which he refused a salary, R' Revel
headed both the religious and secular departments of the Yeshiva.
He taught the highest Talmud class and also lectured on Yoreh
Deah and Choshen Mishpat (i.e., the sections of Shulchan Aruch
covered in a semichah / ordination program). As R' Revel himself
explained, his goal at the Yeshiva was to create a bridge over
which the Torah could be brought from Europe to America and,
without compromise, be made meaningful to contemporary American
life. (Indicative of the challenge he faced was the congregation
that chose a Jewish Theological Seminary graduate over a Yeshiva-
graduate merely because the latter was so "unpolished" as to wear
his hat indoors when women were present.)
R' Revel's first project after becoming familiar with the
Yeshiva was to organize a state-accredited high school. The
Talmudical Academy, as it was called, opened for the 1916-17
school year, and was accredited by the Board of Regents of New
York State in 1919. Its program of advanced religious studies in
the morning and a complete secular curriculum in the afternoon is
now familiar as the model for Jewish days schools, but at the
time it was revolutionary. (Of the high school's first six
graduates, two became rabbis, two entered business, one became a
lawyer, and one a physician.)
At the Yeshiva level, R' Revel attempted to prepare the
students for the challenges of the American rabbinate by
introducing to the curriculum subjects that were not studied in
typical European yeshivot. These included Tanach / Bible, Hebrew
language, pedagogy, and Jewish history. Later, R' Revel acceded
to the demands of the student body and added a course in
homiletics (i.e., preparing sermons). This latter course was
taught by Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, the spiritual
leader of New York's Sephardic community.
On 21 Adar II 5679 / March 23, 1919, the Yeshiva ordained the
first five graduates whose entire education had been under the
new program, including the Yeshiva's first American-born
graduate. (Previously, the Yeshiva's graduates had obtained most
of their education in European yeshivot.) The ordination
ceremony was held in the week of Parashat Shemini, in which two
of the sons of Aharon die, and referring to that parashah, R'
Revel said to the five new rabbis:
May I remind you of what we read in the portion of this
week, of the children of Aharon, the high priest, who,
soon after their consecration to priesthood, were consumed
by a heavenly fire for bringing "near before the Lord a
strange fire that the Lord has not commanded them." My
friends, who are entering now the priesthood of Israel,
beware of "strange fires" which the Lord has not
commanded. Remember that our holy Torah is perfect and
complete. It needs neither additions nor embellishments,
from other cults and cultures. The "strange fires" are
very alluring at times, but they are indeed destructive.
R' Revel also aided in the dissemination of Torah knowledge in
the United States by encouraging and guiding the publication of
the bimonthly Torah journal, Yagdil Torah. R' Revel contributed
many articles to the journal and encouraged other Yeshiva faculty
members to do the same. Most of R' Revel's articles dealt with
the esoteric areas of Taharot / ritual purity and Kodshim / the
sacrificial service. (R' Revel left behind other writings as
well, including halachic responsa.)
From 1920 to 1923, R' Revel left the Yeshiva for long periods
to return to Tulsa, Oklahoma and his in-laws' troubled oil
business. At first, he attempted to run the Yeshiva from a
distance, but eventually he resigned. However, in May 1923, he
returned to the Yeshiva.
For years, R' Revel was troubled by the fact that graduates of
the Talmudical Academy had to choose between continuing their
yeshiva studies or attending college. Accordingly, in December
1923, he announced a five-million dollar campaign to start
Yeshiva College, a four-year liberal arts college. That college,
which later changed its name to Yeshiva University, opened on
September 25, 1928.
Among R' Revel's proudest accomplishments was bringing
distinguished European scholars to America to join the faculty.
These included: R' Shlomo Polachek, R' Moshe Soloveitchik, and R'
Chaim Heller. In 1929, R' Shimon Shkop came to America to raise
funds for his own yeshiva in Grodno, and accepted R' Revel's
invitation to serve as rosh yeshiva. (At the request of the
Chafetz Chaim, R' Shkop returned to Europe after six months.)
Most of the distinguished European and Palestinian rabbis and
roshei yeshiva who visited the United States in the 1920's and
30's also delivered guest lectures at the Yeshiva.
R' Revel died on December 2, 1940 / 2 Kislev 5700, at age 55.
His last words to his wife were: "It was my privilege to serve G-
d, the Torah, and the children of the Torah." (Source: Bernard
Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy by R' Aharon