Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XVI, No. 11
7 Tevet 5762
December 22, 2001
Bava Batra 7:3-4
Orach Chaim 554:15-17
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Metzia 30
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Kilayim 42
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' 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)
"Therefore, tell my father about all my kavod / glory in
Egypt and all that you saw; but you must hurry, and bring my
father down here." (45:13)
R' Chaim Meir Braun z"l (rabbi in Brooklyn in the 1950's) asks:
Generally, the Torah uses the verb "to tell" ("le'hagid") to
connote speaking in strong terms or delivering bad news, while
the verb to "say" ("laimor") is used to describe a gentler
message. If so, why did Yosef instruct his brothers to "tell"
their father of Yosef's glory? Also, why did Yosef use the
expression, "bring my father down here," rather than, "bring my
father to me"?
R' Braun explains: Yosef knew that his father would be
reluctant to leave Eretz Yisrael and move to Egypt. Although G-d
had decreed that Avraham's "offspring [would] be aliens in a land
not their own . . . for four hundred years," Yaakov hoped that
this decree would be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael, which, at that
time, was not their own. But Yosef knew that Yaakov's wish was
not to be fulfilled; his father and his family would have to come
"down here" to Egypt to finish out the 400 years. [This answers
the second question above.] Therefore Yosef said, "Tell my
father" - give him the harsh news.
R' Braun adds: The pshat / simple meaning of "kavod" is
"glory," as we have translated above. However, the root "kvd"
also can mean "heavy," and it can refer to a "heavy heart."
Yosef said, "Tell my father of all my kavod / glory," but tell
him that I have a heavy heart because of it, for I know that G-d
gave me this wealth and power in order to cause my family to join
me in this exile.
"He said, `I am the God -- God of your father. Have no fear
of descending to Egypt, for I shall establish you as a great
nation there. I shall descend with you to Egypt, and I
shall also surely bring you up; and Yosef shall place his
hand on your eyes'." (46:4)
R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l (1903-1993) explains: In these
verses, G-d revealed to Yaakov the secret of the Jewish people's
exile: Only in Egypt would Yaakov's descendants grow into a
"great nation." Do not worry that the teachings of your
grandfather Avraham and the hopes of your father Yitzchak will be
forgotten in Egypt, Hashem told Yaakov. To the contrary, your
great-grandson Moshe will develop in Egypt into the greatest
prophet the world has ever known.
Hashem further told Yaakov: Perhaps you are skeptical about the
future that I foretell. How can a person such as Moshe develop
in Egypt? Do not be skeptical. "Yosef shall place his hand on
your eyes" - Yosef, who left your house as a child and who became
a full-fledged tzaddik in Egypt, is proof that your descendants
can grow into a great nation there.
(Yemei Zikaron p.98)
"[Yosef] appeared before him, fell on his neck, and he wept
on his neck excessively." (46:29)
Rashi comments: Yaakov, however, did not fall upon Yosef's
neck, nor did he kiss him. Our Rabbis say that the reason was
that Yaakov was reciting the Shema.
Numerous commentaries ask: Why was Yaakov reciting the Shema?
If it was the time to recite the Shema, why did Yosef not do so?
If, on the other hand, it was not the time for Shema, why did
Yaakov recite it? R' Moshe Shick z"l ("Maharam Shick"; Hungary;
1805-1879) answers that it was not the time for reciting the
Shema, and Yaakov recited it for a different reason. He
One of the basic lessons of the verse Shema Yisrael is that
"Hashem is Elokeinu." By saying Shema, we acknowledge that there
is only One G-d, despite the fact that we see various
manifestations of Him, sometimes merciful and sometimes strict.
(The Name "Hashem" represents G-d's Attribute of Mercy, while the
Name "Elokim" represents G-d's Attribute of Justice.) Although we
rarely understand how this is so, what we perceive as G-d's
strictness is ultimately for our own good; in the long-run, it is
For twenty-two years, the number of years that Yosef was
missing, Yaakov saw only the strict side of G-d's actions. But
when he saw Yosef's royal entourage, he understood that Yosef's
disappearance was part of Hashem's plan for saving Yaakov and his
family from famine. Ultimately, everything that had happened was
for the best; "Hashem is Elokeinu."
Realizing this, Yaakov recited the Shema. Yosef, however, had
already learned this lesson when he was freed from jail and
appointed viceroy. He had no reason to recite the Shema at this
(Maharam Shick Al Ha'Torah)
R' Asher Zelig Schwartz z"l (Romania; 1920's) offers another
answer to the above question:
In verse 28, immediately preceding Yaakov's reunion with Yosef,
we read, "[Yaakov] sent Yehuda ahead of him to Yosef, to prepare
ahead of him in Goshen." (Rashi explains that Yaakov sent Yehuda
to establish a yeshiva for the arriving immigrants.) In verse
30, immediately preceding Yaakov's reunion with Yosef, we read,
"Then Yisrael said to Yosef, `Now I can die, after my having seen
your face'." The connection between verses 28 (establishing a
yeshiva), 29 (reciting the Shema), and 30 (being willing to die)
is as follows:
The gemara states: "If someone meets the yetzer hara and cannot
prevail against it, he should drag it to the bet midrash [where
he should study Torah]. If he thus defeats the yetzer hara,
good! If not, he should recite the Shema. If he thus defeats
the yetzer hara, good! If not, he should imagine the day of
death." Says R' Schwartz: Yaakov was afraid that seeing Yosef in
all his glory would make him (Yaakov) feel pride, or would bring
out some other improper feeling. Yaakov therefore took all of
the steps suggested by the gemara: he established a bet midrash,
he recited the Shema, and he imagined the day of death.
R' Schwartz adds: If imagining the day of death is an effective
means of conquering the yetzer hara, why is it only the fall-back
strategy? Why does the gemara suggest first learning Torah and
reciting Shema? The answer is that we are expected to serve
Hashem with joy, something to which the third strategy does not
R' Isser Yehuda Unterman z"l
In 1923, R' Unterman was chosen to be rabbi of Liverpool,
England. He immediately learned fluent English, an unusual
achievement for an Eastern European rabbi of that generation, and
quickly became acclimated to his position. He reached out
successfully to the youth of his community, another rare
accomplishment, and he united all of Liverpool's congregations
under an umbrella organization that represented the interests of
the community at large. Also, he strengthened the local yeshiva
by bringing new students from Germany and elsewhere, and he
established a Talmud Torah in Liverpool.
During the German air raids of World War II, when large numbers
of city residents sought the safety of the countryside, R'
Unterman refused to abandon his post. He did, however, pay
regular visits to his congregants who were dispersed among
various villages and to Jews who were interned in camps for
foreign nationals, and he also established a home for refugee
children in one of the small towns outside Liverpool. On top of
all these activities, he earned a name as one of the foremost
poskim / halachic authorities in England.
In 1946, R' Unterman was elected rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo,
succeeding R' Avigdor Moshe Amiel. (Like his successor, R' Amiel
was a student of R' Shimon Shkop.) In Tel Aviv, as in Liverpool,
R' Unterman worked to strengthen Torah institutions and public
services, including batei din / rabbinical courts. He also
established a kollel by the name of "Shevet Yehuda." And, R'
Unterman served as a member of Israel's Chief Rabbinate Council,
so that his influence was felt outside of Tel Aviv as well.
In 1959, R' Unterman was elected Israel's Ashkenazic Chief
Rabbi, succeeding R' Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog. As Chief
Rabbi, R' Unterman took full advantage of his new position to
advocate for various issues, especially for understanding between
Israel's religious and non-religious populations. He also wrote
many teshuvot / responsa addressing contemporary halachic
problems such as conversion, illegitimacy, heart transplants, the
definition of death, abortion, Shabbat observance and shemittah.
(Many of these responsa are printed in R' Unterman's work, Shevet
R' Unterman died in Yerushalayim on 24 Shevat 5736 / 1976.
The Rutstein family, in memory of father and grandfather,
Nachman ben Asher Halevi a"h (Nathan Rutstein)
Copyright © 2001 by Shlomo Katz
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