Illuminations #54, Kislev 5776, Parshat Vayeishev

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Illuminations #54, Kislev 5776, Parshat Vayeishev

Torah Gems

A young boy starting to learn Torah begins by learning Chumash. As he progresses, he moves on to mishnayos and ultimately Talmud. It would seem that Chumash is the easiest of the three to learn. However, the Rabbis say the converse is true. In actuality, Chumash is the most complex and difficult sefer to master.

A case in point would be this week’s Torah portion. In an apparent act of jealousy, Yosef’s brothers plot to kill him and ultimately sell him into slavery. It behooves us to think that there was no rationale behind their decision, but how are we to understand how these giants of spirit would stoop to a seemingly senseless act of murder?

Avraham Avinu was told by Hashem that he would father a nation. Although Avraham had both Yitzchak and Yishmael, time would tell that Yismael would play no role in building the legacy of Klal Yisrael, as only Yitzchak was considered the spiritual heir of Avraham. The same scenario repeated itself a generation later when Eisav was weeded out in deference to Yaakov.

The Shvatim knew that Klal Yisrael was to be comprised of 12 tribes, but they feared that just as Yishmael and Eisav had vanished, they too might be stripped of their rightful role as progenitors of the nation in deference to Yosef, whose enormous spiritual strength allowed him single-handedly to birth all 12 tribes. R’ Ahron Kotler explains that based on this rationale, the brothers determined that from a halachik perspective Yosef was considered a rodef – a person who is threatening to kill. They therefore concluded that it was their obligation to kill him, as per the Talmudic dictum, ‘if one comes to kill you, you shall strike him first.’

It is remarkable to note that in retrospect, the brothers were correct. Yosef did harbor the potential to birth all 12 tribes and presented a significant threat to his brothers. The Talmud writes in Sotah, that if not for a certain incident in Mitzrayim, Yosef would’ve had 12 shevatim. In addition, Yosef’s 2 sons, Efraimand Menashe, were each respectively considered their own shevet, providing further evidence to Yosef’s ability to father multiple shevatim.


Parsha Pearls

Having heard that the brothers intended to kill Yosef,Reuven used his influence as the oldest sibling to convince them to throw Yosef into a pit rather then kill him outright.

The medrash comments on this Pasuk that had Reuven known that the Torah would testify on him that he saved Yosef, he would have picked up Yosef on his shoulders and carried him home.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevits finds this medrash puzzling. Surely Reuven on his incredibly high level didn’t crave publicity, so why would he do things differently simply because the Torah would publicize his actions?

Rav Chaim Shmuelevits explains that now that the Torah itself wrote what Reuven did, it became a part of the Torah, and for all generations anyone who would read these words: “And Reuven heard and he saved him from their hands,” would fullfill a mitzvah of learning Torah. Had Reuven only known that his actions would become a part of the Torah he wold have realized the enormous ramifications of his actions and would have done things differently.

Glimpses of Greatness

There is a well-known organization in Lakewood called Chaveirim which provides a free service to frum motorists who are stuck on the side of the road, such as with a flat tire, being locked out of the car, or running out of gas. Just a few weeks ago, Chaveirim received a phone call very close to Shabbos from a person who got a flat tire. The volunteer, who answered the phone, patiently explained to the caller that as it was already late in the day there wouldn’t be time to fix the tire, and offered to drive him to his destination for Shabbos. The caller was persistent and explained that this wasn’t any regular vehicle, his vehicle was a Hatzalah van which had to be ready to respond to an emergency. Realizing the urgency of the situation, the Chaveirim volunteer got out his equipment and changed the tire. That very same Shabbos the volunteer’s mother went into cardiac arrest and was transported to the hospital by the very same Hatzalah van that her son had fixed just a short while earlier.

Halacha Weekly

Q. At What Ages Should One Educate Children in Which Mitzvot?
A. A child from the age of 3 should be educated to wear a tallit kattan (tzitzit).  Different customs exist regarding wearing tefillin before the age of Bar Mitzva. Ashkenazim begin 2-3 months before the boy actually turns 13 years of age, but some Sepharadim begin 1-2 years before his turning 13 as long as the child can take care of his tefillin properly.
Children under the age of 3 do not have to wait the appropriate time in between eating meat and dairy meals. However, one should try to clean their mouth out in between eating meat and milk. After the age of 3, they should be slowly educated to wait in between consumption of meat and milk until they are able to reach the appropriate 6 hours in between.
Children under the age of 13 (for boys) and 12 (for girls) are exempt from fasting on all fast days; 17th of Tammuz, 9th of Av, Fast of Gedalia, Fast of Esther. They are not obligated to fast for even a few hours. Even on Yom Kippur, it is not necessary for a boy under the age of 9 to fast at all. However, children that are 9-11 years of age may be allowed to fast for a few hours. According to Sepharadim, boys from the age of 12 and girls from the age of 11 are obligated to fast as long as there is no health danger for them to do so. Ashkenazim do not require children of that age to fast until they reach the age of 13 (for boys) and 12 (for girls).


In loving memory of Eliezer ben Rachel Varon, A”H