By Rabbi Daniel Travis
Reuven heard and determined to save [Yosef] from their hands. “Don’t
spill blood...You can throw him into this pit in the desert and you won’t
have to lay a hand on him.” His plan was to rescue [Yosef] and bring him
back to his father. (Bereshith 37:21-22)
Reuven tried to convince his brothers that he hated Yosef just as they
did, and, like them, wanted him killed. He recommended that they put Yosef
in a place where he would die without their intervention, rather than
being the ones to shed his blood. His real intentions, however, were to
return later to remove Yosef from the pit, in order to save his life.1 In doing so, Reuven showed astute
persuasion skills, for he felt that were he to state outright that he did
not agree that Yosef should be killed, his brothers would reject his
opinion out of hand. He thus asked his brothers not to “spill blood,” but
he did not try to convince them that Yosef should not die. He pretended to
go along with their plan so that they would be more likely to agree to
Often people find themselves in situations in which peer pressure seems
to “force” them to do something that runs counter to their personal
standards, something they would not otherwise do. At times it is
preferable to pretend to go along with the crowd in order to influence the
others to improve.
For example, there are those who do not wish to become drunk on Purim, yet
others try to convince them to drink more. If someone is asked on Purim if
he is drunk, he is permitted to respond in the affirmative even if he is
not drunk at all.3 Although there is a
mitzvah to get drunk on Purim, this does not mean that one may throw off
the yoke of the rest of the mitzvoth.4
A Torah scholar must be especially careful to remain in control, so that
the revelry of Purim does not get out of hand and the holiday does not
become a day of chaos and pandemonium. For this reason, someone who is
sober may say that he is drunk, in order to maintain the spirit of the day
without forfeiting his clarity of thought.
1 Ramban on Bereshith 37:21-22.
2 Rabbeinu Bachyeh.
3 Maharasha, Bava Metzia 23b.
4 Rav Moshe Sternbach, Moadim U’Zemanim 6,109.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org