The Snake, Lashon Hara, Moshiach and Yosef Hatzadik
Ya’akov called for his sons and said, “Gather yourselves and I will tell
you what will happen to you at the End-of-Days.” (Bereishis 49:1)
In Parashas Mikeitz, towards the very end of the parshah, there is a hint to
Moshiach. Actually, it’s encoded in the verse, backwards, that says:
Yosef said to them, “What is this act that you have done? Do you not know
that that someone like me can foretell events?” (Bereishis 44:15)
Here’s how you see it in the Hebrew. If you find the letter Mem in the last
word of the Hebrew verse mentioned above, and then count two letters to the
right, the third letter will be a Shin. Do that again and the third letter
will be a Yud, and after a skip of another two letters to the right, the
third letter will be a Ches, which spells “Moshiach” in reverse.
Not impressed? You shouldn’t be. Such words show up dozens of times in the
Torah encoded one way or another. When it comes to Torah codes, as the
experts will tell you, it is also a matter of “location, location,
location.” It’s not just what is encoded, but also where it is encoded, and
the odds of that happening.
At first glance, there is nothing significant about the place of this code.
The story is special inasmuch as Yosef is masquerading as the Second-in-
Command of Egypt, and hoaxing his brothers by pretending to have found out
about the stolen chalice in Binyomin’s pack through divination. The Hebrew
phrase used here for this is nachaish yenachaish.
What is interesting about these words is their root, which is nachash, or
snake. And, since Yosef’s entire charade was meant to teach the brothers a
lesson, not as revenge, it can be assumed that every aspect of the charade
was carefully planned to teach a specific lesson. What was the lesson here?
One snake that stands out historically is the first one, THE snake,
the one that convinced Chava to eat from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra, the Tree
of Knowledge of Good and Evil, against God’s will. Thanks to his ruse and
advice, Mankind was sent into the longest exile to date, the one that won’t
conclude until Moshiach ends it. Hence, the gematria of Moshiach
(40+300+10+8) and nachash (50+300+8) are equal, 358, since they represent
two opposite sides of the same coin. The snake caused us to go into exile
and Moshiach will bring us out of exile.
This intersection of two closely related concepts, the snake and Moshiach,
greatly increases the odds that the code is not random. But, we can still do
better than this.
In next week’s parshah, Shemos, Moshe Rabbeinu will complain to God that the
Jewish people are not worthy of being redeemed, since Dasan and Aviram were
the ones who spoke loshon hara, derogatory speech, about Moshe Rabbeinu.
They were the ones who reported to Pharaoh that Moshe had killed the
Egyptian, forcing him to flee for his life.
He also complained that they would never believe him if he tried to redeem
them. However, Moshe is bested by God when He points out that Moshe Rabbeinu
himself is guilty of the same crime by speaking that way about the Jewish
people. How does God make His point? With a snake:
However, Moshe complained, “They will not believe me, or listen to
me. They will say ‘God did not appear to you.’ ”
God told him, “What is that in your hand?
He said, “A staff.”
[God] said, “Throw it to the ground,” and he threw it to the ground. It
became a snake, and Moshe ran away from it. (Shemos 4:1-3)
Why a snake? There are a couple of reasons, but Rashi focuses on this
[God] hinted to Moshe that he had spoken derogatorily about the Jewish
people (when he said, “They will not believe me”) and he [thereby] adopted
the trade of the snake. (Rashi)
It was the snake’s loshon hara about God that convinced Chava to ignore His
commandment not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil . . . and
eat. From that point on, loshon hara has been associated with the snake:
Further, said Resh Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, “If the
snake bites before it is charmed, then the charmer has no advantage”
(Koheles 10:11)? At some future time all the animals will assemble and come
to the snake and say: “The lion attacks and devours; the wolf tears and
consumes; but what profit do you have?” But he will answer, “What benefit
has he who uses his tongue?” (Erachin 15b)
In other words, just as the slanderer derives no real pleasure from speaking
loshon hara, but does it anyhow, likewise does the snake, who derives no
physical benefit from biting his victim, bites him nevertheless. Even worse,
Yosef was telling his brothers, he delays Moshiach and the redemption.
Where do we see this? In last week’s parshah, as Rashi explains:
“He sent off his brothers and they went. He told them, ‘Do not become
agitated along the way.’ ” (Bereishis 45:24)
According to the simple meaning of the verse it can be said, because they
were ashamed he was worried lest they quarrel on the way over the matter of
his sale, by disputing with one another, and saying, “Through you he was
sold, because you spoke loshon hara about him and you caused us to hate
Hence, Yosef was telling his brothers that the starting point of all their
trouble was the loshon hara they spoke about him, and that by speaking
loshon hara, they had adopted the trait of the original snake who caused
exile in the first place. It caused him to be put into exile, from which he
did not escape for 22 years, while they too experienced exile of a sort
without him, since as Ya’akov knew, all 12 brothers were necessary for
But, all of this was really just a warning to his brothers. His real concern
was not with the present situation, but with a future situation that would
occur if they did not rectify the problem then at its root. If their
descendants did not learn the power of loshon hara to hold off redemption,
then they too would suffer an even worse fate, and indeed, they did:
The judgment against our fathers in the wilderness was sealed only
because of their loshon hara [about Eretz Yisroel]. (Erachin 15a)
Having said this, the encoded “Moshiach,” even in reverse— loshon hara
reverses the redemption—in a verse that speaks about the nachash, to
brothers who were guilty of the trade of the nachash, a fluke? Impressed
yet? You should be, because the odds are extremely high against randomness.
Regardless, we can complete Ya’akov’s statement about Keitz HaYomim—the End
of Days—even though he did not, like this: Do you want to bring them faster?
Stop speaking loshon hara already.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.